Have you ever seen your dog cross their paws? Now truthfully, how many times have you snapped a picture of your dog with crossed paws thinking how darn cute your pooch is? At some point during your paparazzo hunt, you’ve probably wondered why dogs do this!
So, why do dogs cross their paws? There are several reasons why dogs cross their feet. Crossing paws can take away pressure from a dog’s elbows making it easier to lie down comfortably. Crossed paws can also be a sign of submission or happiness, or your dog might just imitate the way you are sitting with your legs crossed.
Though there is little actual research into why dogs cross their paws, knowing what we know about dogs, it’s easy to make an educated guess! Read on to find out more about this oddly cute behavior.
5 Amusing Reasons Why Your Dog Crosses Their Paws
Did you know that this cute behavior is nicknamed polite paws? Yes, you’ve read that right! Doggy parents started calling it polite paws because their dogs’ legs look so elegantly crossed, like of a lady or a gentleman.
Here are some potential reasons behind this adorable behavior:
1. Your Dog is Trying to Tell You Something
Since dogs can’t speak, they have to rely on body language to communicate with their owners and other animals (source). Bearing that in mind, it only makes sense that your dog’s crossed paws could mean something you never thought of.
Closely observe every aspect of your dog’s body to get a better idea of what they are trying to say.
2. A Sign of Happiness
Many canine behavioral specialists agree that crossed paws are a sign of happiness. Besides making your dog appear relaxed and in a sleepy state, crossed legs put them in an unfavorable position.
By having its legs crossed, or entangled, your pooch can’t get up and move as fast as normally. While dogs living indoors don’t have to worry about any predators they still remain alert, watchful, and aware of their environment.
That extra second could mean a world of difference if your pooch came face to face with a predator and had to run for their life.
By crossing its legs in front of you, your pooch is telling you that they feel safe and happy for having you to watch their back.
3. It’s A Breed Thing
As it turns out some dog breeds, including Border Collies, Poodles, and Labradors are more likely to cross their paws than other dogs. While this may have to do with their build and body type, it can also come down to intelligence as the Border Collie and the Poodle are the two most intelligent dog breeds in the world (source).
In a recent study, scientists have proven that some dogs may try to imitate their owners even when they weren’t offered a reward for doing so. So, the next time you catch your dog with its legs crossed, pause a second and check whether you are sitting with your legs crossed too.
4. It’s A Learned Behavior
Using positive reinforcement training methods and doling out treats aren’t the only ways you can train your dog tricks and new commands. If every time your dog crossed their paws you showered them with attention, cuddles, and exclamations of “good doggy” you may have, very well, trained them a brand new trick – polite paws!
5. Sign of Submission
Tucking the tail between the legs, lying belly up, and avoiding direct eye contact are generally viewed as signs of submissive behavior in dogs (source). But lying down with crossed legs can also be considered a sign of submission.
Having said that, it’s important to take note of your dog’s environment and body language to know for sure whether they’ve crossed their legs in submission or because of something else.
How to Teach a Dog to Cross Their Paws?
If polite paws seem like a cool trick to teach to your dog, you’re in luck! You can easily train your doggo to cross their legs on cue using these steps:
- Step 1: Take your dog’s paw in your hand gently, and put it over the other paw saying “cross”.
- Step 2: If your dog keeps their paw in this position praise and give them a treat as a reward.
- Step 3: Repetition is very important when training your dog, but don’t overdo it! Keep the training short and sweet and always end a session on a positive note.
- Step 4: After a few short repetitions increase the amount of time your dog’s paw has to remain crossed. Wait a few more seconds each time before giving your dog a treat and praise.
- Step 5: If your dog naturally lies with their paws crossed, you can just say “cross”, praise and give a reward every time you catch your dog lying with crossed legs. With time, your dog will learn to do the trick on command and cross their legs whenever you say “cross”.
- Step 6: You can take the training to an advanced level and teach your dog how to cross their left or right leg on cue.
- Step 7: Start training by saying “cross right” and point out to their right paw with a gentle tap. If your dog doesn’t get it right away, don’t give them a reward and point to the right paw again. Praise and give rewards only when your dog lifts and crosses their right paw on cue.
- Step 8: Once your dog masters crossing the right leg on cue, you can start training them to cross the left paw, using the “cross left” command.
As you can see, there are many reasons why dogs cross their paws. Some do it when they are happy, while others cross their feet to feel more comfortable. And sometimes, your pooch may cross their paws to imitate you!
Having said that, some dog breeds, including Bulldogs and Dachshunds are less likely to cross their legs due to their stocky build and short legs. But even if your pooch can’t cross their paws they have an array of other body cues to communicate with you!