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When dogs hate having their paws touched, owners are often baffled by the behavior. 

We perceive dogs as animals who seek human touch.

 Many dogs crave scratches behind their ears and willingly roll over asking for belly rubs. 

Some dogs go on to push their bodies against peoples' hands just to persuade them to pet them. 

But touch those doggy paws and you'll get the evil eye. What gives? Let's discover more about what may be going on. 


  1.  Understanding paw sensitivity in dogs
  2. Dog feet are loaded with nerve endings
  3. Feet in dogs are essential for survival
  4. The unbalance effect of lifted paws
  5. The making of dog paw handing anxiety
  6. Solutions for dogs who hate having their paws touched
Does your dog have paw handling fear?

Does your dog have paw handling fear?

 1. So Why Does My Dog Hate Having His Paws Touched? 

If you own a "paw-phobic" dog, rest assured you are not alone.  Many dog owners struggle with dogs who hate having their paws touched making those nail trims dreaded events.

 So why do dogs hate having their paws touched? And most of all, what can be done about it? 

A better understanding of dogs and a closer insight to the ways they use of their feet, reveals some interesting findings. 

2. Loaded with Nerve Endings 

Dog feet may seem very tough compared to our feet, considering that we are  destined to wear footwear for most our lives, while dog feet are purposely designed to withstand rugged use. 

However, appearances are deceiving.

Sure, those doggy paw pads are like thick leather and meant to allow dogs to walk comfortably on surfaces humans can only dream of, but they are also loaded with lots of nerve endings.

This is not surprising considering that dogs need to feel what's under their feet. 

For those dog nerds out there, it may be interesting learning that a dog's paw pads are lined up with super sensitive sensory receptors known as "pacinian corpuscles."

 Pacinian corpuscles allow dogs to detect minimal mechanical and vibratory pressure. 

On top of having sensitive paw pads, the top of a dog's paws are also highly sensitive and loaded with nerve endings that fire off sending a warning to the brain upon sensing pressure. 

With so much going on at a sensory level, it's therefore not surprising why dogs seem to have a universal dislike to having their paws handled!

Many dogs hate having their paws touched.

Many dogs hate having their paws touched.

3. Essential for a Dog's Survival 

Dog feet play an essential role for a dog's survival and it's as if dogs are aware of this, but at an instinctive, adaptive level. 

This instinct therefore helps dogs preserve a body part that they so highly depend on to carry out so many functions.

For instance, dogs use their feet for locomotion. In the wild, loss of functionality would translate into the inability to hunt and escape hungry predators. 

A dog with an injured foot would therefore become very vulnerable. 

On top of locomotion, dog feet are used for a variety of tasks such as digging, scratching an itchy spot and removing debris from the eyes. 

Dogs use their feet also for communication. In the article: why do dogs kick dirt after pooping, we have seen how dogs put their legs and feet to good use after eliminating. 

While a common sight, many dog owners are not aware of the fact that dogs kick dirt because they have special glands in their feet that secrete pheromones.

 Just a few backward scratches into dirt releases those chemicals which are ready to be detected by other dogs who happen to visit the area.

With all this wealth of purposes, it's quite understandable why dog feet are important and why dogs may be particularly nervous when their owners (or veterinarians or groomers) happen to start touching them.

4. Feeling a Lack of Balance

Some dogs don't really hate having their feet handled, but once you get ahold of them, they'll pull them away. What's the rush?

Once again, let's get into our dogs' mindset and appreciate things from their perspective!

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Unlike us, our dog's front paws are used for walking, so when we lift any of our dog's paws, this will somewhat unbalance them.

It comes natural for them to therefore want to go back to a balanced state, so they'll instinctively pull their paws away. 

5. A Matter of Negative Associations

Dogs may be naturally inclined to being leery about having their paws handled, but things can get much, much worse when their natural suspicions are confirmed by negative associations. 

All it takes is to handle those paws a bit roughly or injure the dog while trimming nails, and things may start really deteriorating.

One main issue is the fact that dogs have very thick nails that are difficult to cut through. 

To make things even more challenging, many dogs have black nails which makes visualizing the "quick" quite difficult. 

The "quick" is simply the soft cuticle rich in blood vessels and nerves that's found under the nail and that can lead to bleeding and pain when the nail is cut too short.

 Nicking this area is quite easy and unfortunately dogs tend to easily store bad memories revolving around painful procedures.

By now, it's shouldn't therefore come as a surprise why dogs hate having their paws touched. 

Their instincts, coupled with the localized sensitivity, and the potential for negative associations, can easily turn a routine pedicure into a dreaded activity. 

It's not surprising therefore understanding why groomers and vets charge a premium for nail services, with nail trims often costing more than a regular human manicure (especially in those instances where sedation is needed!).

Learning to accept having paws handled requires a level of trust. 

Learning to accept having paws handled requires a level of trust. 

6. Solutions For Dogs Who Hate Paw Handling

Now that you are aware of why dogs hate having their feet handled, you may be interested in knowing what you can do to make handling those feet less uncomfortable. 

This is important considering that a day may come when you may need to inspect your dog's feet for thorns, cuts or burrs and you will need your dog to be collaborative. Following are several tips.

Exclude Problems 

If your dog is normally fine having his paws touched, but now he's acting defensive, consider that there may be something wrong.

Perhaps there is a cut, a blister, an interdigital cyst or pyoderma or some foreign object embedded. 

When in doubt, it's best to have your dog see the vet for proper diagnosis and treatment. 

Start Early 

Prevention is worth a pound of cure! Start paw-handling exercises with puppies from a young age by creating positive associations. 

Make it a habit of touching/rubbing each paw (don't forget in between the toes!) and delivering tasty treats.

Make Safety Top Priority  

Use caution with defensive dogs. 

If your dog has ever growled or shown any signs of aggression, please consult with a dog behavior professional, using kind, positive-based behavior modification.

Make the Nail Trimmer a Friend

Make the nail trimmer your dog's best friend. Let your dog get used to seeing the nail trimmer around. Don't just get it out when your dog needs a nail trim. 

Keep the trimmer behind your back and then show it to your dog. Every time he sees it or sniffs it, give a treat. Then put it behind your back again and repeat several times.

Go slow. Don't make those nail trims a tedious job during which your dog is wincing every time a nail is trimmed. Try doing just one or two nails a day and make it a fun, rewarding and upbeat activity! 

Create positive associations with nail trims. Every time you clip a nail, praise and give a high-value treat. 

Try Different Tools 

Some dogs do better with Dremel nail-grinding tools, but require getting used to its sound and feel on the nails. 

A Trick of the Trade

For a good reason, veterinarians and groomers often place dogs on a table often made of stainless steel.

When dogs are placed on a tall and cold surface, they'll focus more on gaining stability than what's going on with their feet. 

At home, you can try placing your dog on a washing machine or dyer.

A Little Shortcut

For desperate cases, consider that long, fast-paced daily walks on concrete can help naturally trim a dog's nails.

 Ask your vet if your dog is a developing puppy as exercising on hard surfaces can cause damage to the dog's growth plates. 

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