As a dog owner, you’ve probably noticed that dogs hate having specific parts of their body touched.
Very often, this includes the paws.
So, why is this?
Why Don’t Dogs Like Having Their Paws Touched?
Dogs may hate having their paws touched because their feet have sensitive nerve endings that send touch signals to the brain.
Also, they are a significant body part that dogs instinctively protect.
Additionally, dogs could resist touching their paws due to health problems.
This article will explain why some dogs don’t like their paws being touched.
We will also review tips for helping your dog be less sensitive to paw-touching.
Reasons Why Dogs Hate Having Their Paws Touched
Although some dogs don’t mind having their paws touched, many dogs won’t stand for it.
Not every dog is the same, and their reason for resisting when you try to touch their paws can differ.
Here are some of the potential reasons why dogs might hate having their paws touched:
- Nerve endings make dog paws sensitive.
- Dog paws have a survival function.
- A negative association between paw touching and grooming.
- A health issue is affecting the dog’s paw.
Let’s look at each of them in more detail.
1. Nerve Endings Make Dog Paws Sensitive
Sometimes people will react when their feet are touched because the body is more sensitive to touch at the extremities, or in other words, we’re ticklish.
This happens because our feet have numerous nerve endings that send touch signals to the nervous system.
The same is true for dogs.
Dogs have thick and resilient paws with special structures for movement on different surfaces and weather conditions.
However, their paws are lined with nerve endings, connective tissues, ligaments, and tendons that send signals to the brain when the feet sense some form of pressure or touch.
It appears that the sensitive nature of a dog’s paws also creates knismesis, the ticklish effect that can cause a feeling of discomfort and itch, and it may even be irritating on the skin.
This uncomfortable feeling probably makes your dog jerk when its paw is touched, especially if it isn’t used to this kind of touch or comes from a stranger (such as a groomer or a vet).
NOTE – You might also like to read this post if your dog’s feet smell like Fritos corn chips (it’s more common than you might think).
2. Dog Paws Have a Survival Function
A dog’s paw has several functions, including providing a firm and stable step when walking on different surfaces, self-grooming, and holding a tasty bone.
Dog paws are also made to withstand extreme weather conditions.
For example, a study found that dogs walk on snow without freezing because their paws have a network of veins and arteries that create a natural heat exchanger.
As a result, a dog’s foot pad doesn’t lose heat when exposed to cold because the heat in the foot is recirculated back to the body.
It’s thought that dogs have an instinctive tendency to protect their paws from harm because a bad paw would make survival difficult.
As descendants of the wolf, a healthy paw would mean the ability to chase prey for food or run from predators.
Dogs are not aware of the intentions that humans have when they reach out to touch their paws.
As such, instinctual protection of a primary survival body part is triggered any time someone tries to touch a dog’s paw.
NOTE – You might like to read this post asking: why do dogs like human feet so much?
3. Negative Association Between Paw Touching and Grooming
Nail trimming is one of the grooming roles dog owners have, and it requires you (or the professional groomer) to touch your dog’s paw.
While it’s necessary for grooming, most dogs don’t enjoy nail trimming.
Furthermore, dogs enjoy nail trimming even less if they’ve been previously hurt in the process.
One commonly unpleasant nail trimming experience for dogs is when you “cut to the quick.”
The “quick” is the sensitive area under the nail that should not be touched when trimming your dog’s nails.
The general rule is that you only cut until the point where the nail begins to bend to the ground.
If your dog has had an unpleasant nail trimming experience in the past, the pet may associate trimming nails with pain, showing a form of resistance or aggression when you try to touch their paws.
NOTE – You may enjoy reading this post looking at the question – why do dogs put their head on your feet?
4. A Health Issue Is Affecting the Dog’s Paw
We’ve already underlined that a dog’s paw is naturally sensitive because of the nerve endings.
Also, if your dog has health issues affecting the paw, the pet’s paws could become even more sensitive, making the dog show extra resistance to touch.
Several health issues can affect your dog’s paw and cause the canine to resist touch. These include:
- Paw injuries: Like insect bites, cuts, lacerations, thorn pricks, broken toenails, bruises, or burns.
- Mats: Hair mats between toes can pull on the skin and cause pain or even broken skin.
- Pododermatitis: An inflammation of the paw that could arise from allergies, infections, immune-related diseases, hormonal disorders, or cancer.
- Bacterial infections: These can lead to redness on the pads, scabs, chipped skin, and even hair loss.
- Yeast: If left unattended, yeast can cause other infections and itchiness on the dog’s paws.
- Parasites: Parasites such as ticks and mites could be staying between the toes.
- Pemphigus foliaceus: An autoimmune condition that can cause crusty skin or blisters on the paw pads.
These health issues should be prevented with grooming and general dog care and treated promptly when noticed.
NOTE – If you are in financial difficulty and are worried about vet bills, this website has helpful resources for charities to help you pay your bills.
(If you don’t live in the US, you can use Google to find similar help in your country).
Tips for Making Your Dog Enjoy Paw Touching
To help your dog become comfortable with having its paws touched, some care and training is required from the dog owner.
Here are a few tips:
- Gradually accustom your dog to paw touching when they’re still a puppy. This will make the pet consider it part of normal dog-human interaction and not show much resistance as adult dogs.
- Make nail trimming a pleasant experience. Try giving treats when your dog lets you touch its paw, avoid accidental cuts and use quality nail clippers that don’t need you to exert too much pressure on the dog’s foot.
- Ensure your dog’s paws are in good health. Regularly groom their paws and treat any issues that could make your pet’s paws extra sensitive.
- Above all, please don’t force the dog to have its paws touched. If a dog shows resistance, let them be!
NOTE – Before we wrap up this post, this video has some excellent advice to help you desensitize your dog to having its paws touched.
Just click the image to start the video:
Final Thoughts On Why Dogs Don’t Like Their Paws Touched
Your dog’s paws are full of sensitive nerves.
This makes touching your dog’s paws an equally sensitive feel.
However, sensitivity to paw touching could result from paw health problems.
Ensure your dog’s feet are always healthy, and take them to the vet if they have serious issues.
To make paw touching more pleasant and eliminate the resistance your dog may show when touching their feet, gradually accustom them to paw touching as a puppy.
Ok, we are at the end of this post looking at the question: why don’t dogs like their paws touched?
Thanks for taking the time to visit The Factual Doggo.
NOTE – You may also want to read this post looking at 11 sounds dogs hate.
Tim is a proud, vetted, and experienced dog foster carer for a charity helping dog owners escape domestic abuse.
He has years of experience training and caring for dogs, both his own and other people’s.
He is an expert in canine behavior and is highly skilled in dealing with all dogs but specializes in the difficult ones that other people may struggle with.
When he isn’t fostering dogs, he is making friends with other people’s pups!