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Sleeping dog with paws crossed

If you spend enough time around dogs, you may notice them crossing their paws from time to time. There are many potential reasons for this—and we don’t know exactly why. Figuring out why animals do things is often challenging. After all, we can’t exactly ask them.

However, there are a few different theories as to why dogs cross their paws. Here are some of our favorites: divider-dog

The 6 Likely Reasons Why Do Dogs Cross Their Paws

1. Comfort

Some dogs may simply find it comfortable to sit with their paws crossed. It allows the canine to distribute their weight evenly and relieve pressure, especially off of their elbows and other joints. If the floor is cold (or hot), it may also help them put some distance between themselves and the floor.

You’ll probably notice that some dogs cross their legs all the time while others don’t at all. It’s a matter of preferences, for the most part.

Cute dog sleepin on couch
Image Credit: DenisDoukhan, Pixabay

2. Communication

Dogs may also cross their paws as a way to communicate with humans and other dogs. Dogs may cross their paws to make themselves look smaller, which can be a sign of submission.

However, canine communication isn’t well understood. It was once thought that dominance and submission played a big role, but this no longer seems to be the case. Therefore, dogs could be communicating something that we just don’t understand.


3. Imitation

Studies have shown that dogs learn partially by imitating other dogs (and even people, to some extent).1 Therefore, it could be that dogs learned to cross their paws by watching others. They may not do it for any particular reason other than it’s how they learned to lay down.

It’s similar to human children picking up traits and habits from their parents.

dog paws closeup shot
Image Credit: LUM3N, Pixabay

4. Balance

Dogs may cross their paws naturally as a part of their posture. Dogs with narrow or longer legs tend to do this the most, suggesting that it may be caused by the way they’re built. It may be more natural for them to cross their paws due to their narrow, long bodies.

Similarly, dogs on uneven or unstable surfaces may cross their paws to help keep them balanced. It moves the center of their balance, which may help them remain balanced in certain situations. You may notice that your dog only crosses their paws in particular places, such as when laying outside. In this case, it may simply be the easiest way for them to maintain balance or comfort in that area.


5. Breed Body Structure

Some breeds seem more prone to crossing their paws than others. While there aren’t any studies done on this, some owners do indicate that Labradors, Border Collies, and Poodles seem to cross their paws more often than others.

Therefore, crossing paws may be related to how their bodies are built or some innate trait in these breeds. You’ll notice that all of these breeds are larger, so it may be that it helps them remain balanced or comfortable.

Sleeping beagle dog paw pads
Image Credit: Ekaterina Bashtovaia, Shutterstock

6. Pain

With that said, crossing paws can sometimes be a sign of pain or discomfort. The dog may be nursing their paw or ankle by propping it up on the other. They may be unable to balance with it while laying down due to an injury. Chronic conditions that affect their joints, muscles, or nerves are often to blame, especially if the dog is older.

If your dog suddenly starts crossing his paws, it could be a sign that something isn’t quite right with their paw. You may want to seek veterinary attention, especially if your dog is showing other signs of illness, too. divider-dog paw

Final Thoughts

Dogs may cross their paws for a range of different reasons. In most cases, it’s a matter of comfort and body posture. Dogs with long, narrow bodies tend to cross their legs more, likely because they have more flexible legs. Larger breeds seem to do it most commonly, as well.

Generally, there isn’t anything to worry about if your dog is exhibiting this behavior.  However, rarely, it may also indicate pain. The dog may not want to put weight on one paw, prompting them to place it on top of the other paw. Other times, they may cover their injured paw with the healthy one in an attempt to keep it safe.


Featured Image Credit: Djordje Novakov, Shutterstock

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