If your dog has been putting its paw on your shoulder you might be wondering why and what you can do about it. This post will show you a number of possible reasons why it has been doing it and what would make them more likely.

So, why does my dog put his paw on my shoulder? Possible reasons why your dog puts its paw on your shoulder are that it wants something from you, it is anxious, it has learned that it gets rewards for doing it, wanting attention or trying to get you to do something.

Since there are a number of possible causes, it would help to consider what would make each of them more likely. Once you have a good idea of the cause, it should become easier to get your dog to stop doing it.

Why your dog puts its paw on your shoulder

Below are a number of possible reasons why your dog has been doing it and what would make them more likely to be the main reason.

It wants something from you

It might be the case that it does it because it wants something, such as food, from you. This would be more likely if it does it more when you have things such as food, treats or toys. It would also be more likely if it does it more at around the same time that you would normally feed or exercise your dog.

It is anxious

The reason why it does it might be that it is anxious and touching you because it makes it feel safer. This would be more likely if it does it more at certain times when it might be anxious such as when there are noises outside. If it tends to do it at around the same time that you leave home, it could be a sign that it has some separation anxiety.

It has learned that it gets rewards

The cause could be that it has learned that it gets rewards for doing it. If you tend to give it things such as toys, treats or extra attention, when it puts its paw on your shoulder, it will likely do it more in order to get more rewards.

Instead, it would help to reward your dog when it behaves the way you want it to and to avoid rewarding it when it does not.

Dominance

Many people would argue that it might be doing it due to being dominant. However, the alpha/beta dynamic has been disproven in studies showing that wolves take turns in taking the lead.

With that being said, it could be doing it due to bullying behavior which would be more likely if your dog tries to get you to move and if it shows signs of aggression when doing it. In this case, it would help to avoid encouraging the behavior and to get it to learn to behave the way you want it to with training programs such as NLIF (“Nothing in Life is Free) dog training.

Boredom

The cause could be that your dog is bored and it wants you to give it exercise. This would be more likely if your dog tends to do it more at around the same time that you would normally give it exercise and if it does it more when it has not gotten exercise in a long time. It would help to ensure that it is getting the recommended amount of daily exercise for its age and breed.

It wants attention

The cause could be that it is trying to get extra attention from you. This would be more likely if your dog tends to do it more at around the same time that you would normally give it attention and if you tend to give your dog extra attention when it does it.

If you do not want your dog to put its paw on your shoulder, it would help to avoid giving it extra attention when it does it and to give it attention when it is behaving the way you want it to.

It is trying to alert you to something

The cause might also be that it is trying to alert you to something. This would be more likely if it shoes unusual body language when it does it and if it does not put its paw on your shoulder very often.

Previous training

The cause could be that it was trained to do it in the past. This would be more likely if your dog has always done it, if you adopted your dog as an adult or if other people have trained it in the past.

Things to consider

Below are some things to consider when figuring out the main reason why your dog has been doing it.

What else happened when your dog first started putting its paw on your shoulder

If your dog did not always put its paw on your shoulder, it would help to consider what else happened when it first started doing it. If it started doing it suddenly, it could be due to things such as learning that it gets rewards for doing it, a change in its daily routine or if you suddenly stopped giving it attention when you normally would.

What is different when it tends to do it

It would also help to consider if there is anything different in the timing of when it tends to do it. For example, if it tends to do it more when you are about to leave home, it could be a sign that it has some separation anxiety.

What to do about your dog putting its paw on your shoulder

If you want to get your dog to stop putting its paw on your shoulder, below are some options you have.

Avoid encouraging the behavior

As mentioned above, it might be the case that it learned that putting its paw on your shoulder results in it getting rewards. Instead, it would help to try to get its paw off your shoulder, when it does it, then to ignore it and wait for it to calm down before giving it any rewards.

Positive reinforcement training

Positive reinforcement training is where you get your dog to do things that you want by rewarding it for doing them or showing signs of doing them.

To use positive reinforcement training to get it to stop putting its paws on your shoulders you would:

  • Stand up and prevent it from being able to put its paws on your shoulders when it starts doing it, leaving the room if necessary.
  • Wait a few moments and then go back to giving it attention and then turning away again if it starts putting its paws on your shoulders again
  • Repeat the above until it learns that putting its paws on your shoulders causes it to lose your attention
  • Reward it with a treat when it does particularly well

Give it a daily routine to get used to

Dogs generally like having a daily routine to get used to. It could be the case that uncertainty about things such as when it will get fed or exercised has been causing your dog to put its paw on your shoulder. It would help to try to feed and exercise your dog at similar times each day so that it knows when to expect food and exercise.

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I created and currently manage Pet Dog Owner, the website you can go to when you have questions about your dog's behavior. It is my hope that you find Pet Dog Owner to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your dog. You can read more about me and my website here.