Dogs can certainly have some unique traits and odd little quirks. Some dogs like to chase their tails, and others bark at their own shadows!
But what does it mean when your dog grabs your leg? Primarily, dogs use this behavior as a form of energy release. But keep reading, and we’ll discuss some of the more specific reasons why your dog grabs or hugs your legs.
Table of contents
- Why does my dog grab my leg with his paws?
- Dog breeds that use their paws a lot
- How to stop your dog from grabbing your leg
Why Does My Dog Grab My Leg With His Paws?
Your dog wrapping their leg around your leg can indicate different things, such as affection, dominance, anxiety, or simply seeking attention.
It can be a sign of affection or a way for your dog to feel secure, especially if they are a clingy breed. On the other hand, it can also be a display of dominance and an attempt to assert their position as the pack leader.
If your dog has anxiety, they may wrap their leg around your leg as a comforting behavior. Additionally, they may do it to seek your attention or to get you to play with them.
Observing your dog’s body language and behavior can help you determine the reason why your dog hugs your leg.
Sign of affection
One of the first possible reasons is simply that your dog loves you and wants to show you! Your dog is happy to be around you and has discovered that grabbing onto your leg is one of the best ways to get as close as physically possible to you.
Sure, it may not be the most convenient thing to have your dog clinging to your leg when you’re trying to get things done around the house. But it really could just be your dog’s way of telling you that it’s time to spend some quality time together.
A dog that grabs onto your leg could be trying to get your attention. Your dog may want you to play or show them affection. If this works for you and your dog, then this can be your dog’s signal to you that it is time for attention!
But for some, having their dog grab or hug their leg could also be a bit of a nuisance. If this is the case, it will be important to work on finding a more appropriate way for your dog to communicate a desire for extra attention.
The behavior has been rewarded before
Similarly, it could be that your dog has begun to associate the behavior of grabbing you by the leg with a reward or a positive feeling.
Maybe the first few times your dog did this behavior, you smiled, laughed, and gave him a pat on the head. Now, your dog has learned to associate that behavior with a positive reaction or feeling and wants to keep replicating it.
Your dog is insecure, anxious, or afraid
Another possibility is that your dog finds it comforting to be close to you or even grab onto you. If your dog is feeling anxious, or scared, they often look to you for some support and comfort. In other words, it is a self-soothing and self-comforting behavior.
Of course, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing if it actually works and helps your dog. However, it can become debilitating when dogs develop an unhealthy level of attachment to their owner.
This often presents as separation anxiety, where your dog truly does not want to be away from you and becomes anxious or stressed when you are out of the house or even when you are not in the same room.
As mentioned earlier, when a dog grabs onto their person’s leg, it is often a way of releasing energy. Whether that is nervous energy, happy energy, or overly excited energy depends on the dog or the situation.
Whatever the case may be, think of the act of your dog grabbing your leg as your cue. Your dog needs to get some energy out. This is a great time for a quick game of fetch, a short walk, or preparing a puzzle toy for your dog to solve.
Dominance is the primary reason for a dog grabbing your leg. This behavior, known as dominance aggression, occurs when a dog seeks to assert their leadership role over other pets and family members.
This behavior is more prevalent in households with multiple dogs where one dog perceives themselves as higher in the pack hierarchy.
It is important to note that dominance does not equate to physical superiority, but rather a higher rank in the pack order.
Sexual hormones (Humping)
Your dog grabbing onto your leg could be because your dog is experiencing an influx of hormones and built-up energy. Your dog is likely seeking a way to find a release.
In these cases, it can often be a precursor to humping. This is most often seen in younger dogs who haven’t been spayed or neutered yet and are experiencing an increase in hormones as they are getting older or going through puberty, so to speak.
Older dogs can hump on different objects or someone’s arm to vent their energy, or masturbate. However, it may often just be more of a learned habit that they have developed simply because it feels good to them.
Dog Breeds That Use Their Paws a Lot
Now that you know why your dog may hug or grab your leg, you might be wondering if all dog breeds like to grab their owner’s legs.
No, not all dog breeds have a tendency to grab their owner’s legs. It varies from dog to dog and can depend on factors such as breed, personality, and training.
The following breeds are known to be particularly paw-oriented and may be more prone to grab your legs.
- Bernese Mountain Dog
- Labrador Retriever
- Golden Retriever
- Bichon Frise
- Standard Schnauzer
- Welsh Corgi
- Shetland Sheepdog
These breeds may use their paws in different ways, such as grabbing their owners’ leg or pawing at them for attention, digging, and carrying objects.
It is important to understand your dog’s behavior and provide them with appropriate stimulation and training to promote positive and healthy habits.
How to Stop Your Dog from Grabbing Your Leg
There are a number of steps you can take to stop your dog from grabbing your leg, such as training, distraction, neutering, etc.
Let’s take a closer look at each.
Train your dog to lie down
Teach your dog the command “Down” by physically bending over and using your hand to push him off your leg and say no.
When your dog is off your leg, you’ll want to redirect the behavior. Start by saying “good” to praise the dog for getting away from your leg. Then quickly follow with the “sit” command, and have your dog sit and reward them with a treat.
Distract your dog
One of the easiest ways to stop your pup from displaying this behavior is to provide some distraction.
As mentioned, when a dog is pestering you and constantly grabbing onto your leg or jumping on you, it is usually a sign that your dog has too much energy or needs some attention.
When this is the case, the best thing to do is to find an activity for your dog to do, like grabbing its favorite chew toy or filling a Kong toy up with some dog-safe peanut butter.
Another option would be to hide some treats inside a puzzle toy and encourage your dog to find the treats, or even just take your dog outside for a quick walk or a quick game of fetch.
These are just a few ideas, but the options are truly endless. Even just throwing a toy away from you for your dog to chase can help them end the feedback loop in their head, telling them that they need to grab onto your leg.
Neuter/spay your dog
In the cases when a dog grabbing your leg is a sign of sexual excitement or overstimulation, it may be time to consider neutering or spaying your dog.
It is especially important to do this in a timely manner so there is a decreased risk that the behavior or the act of grabbing onto your leg or humping you becomes an actual habit rather than just a behavior.
This is especially true for young dogs as they start to reach sexual maturity. In recent years there has been some discussion that there may be some benefits to delaying neutering or spaying until a dog is older.
Talk with your veterinarian and make an informed decision about what is best and most realistic for you and your dog.
If you do decide to wait to spay and neuter, be prepared to spend a significantly greater amount of time on training and correcting behaviors.
Increased training will be necessary to ensure the dog knows that the behavior isn’t acceptable to you or to other people or dogs.
Ignore the behavior
As mentioned earlier, your dog may be grabbing onto your leg because he has learned that this gets him the attention he is seeking. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to ignore the behavior and don’t reward it in any way.
For example, if your dog starts to grab onto your leg, gently push the dog off your leg, say no, and leave the room.
Where before you may have interacted with your dog more, now your dog is forced to deal with the consequences of bad behavior, or in other words, temporarily losing a friend and someone to play with.
Another option might be to simply turn your back on your dog instead of leaving the room altogether.
Movement can sometimes be stimulating and rewarding for dogs. As a result, if you try to walk away from a dog that’s grabbing your leg, it may only become more excited and persist in its behavior.
If this is the case, your dog will likely try to keep grabbing onto your leg or clinging to you, or pawing at you, but don’t react.
Wait until your dog has let go, and only then should you acknowledge your dog. It is important to teach your dog that you are in charge and that grabbing your leg is not an appropriate way of getting your attention.
Always avoid punishment
Dogs are sensitive creatures, and punishment is never a real solution to any training difficulties or behavioral problems.
If a dog is already nervous or anxious and is grabbing your leg for support, punishment will only increase its anxiety and make it far worse.
Instead, doing things like providing a distraction, ignoring the behavior, and rewarding better, more appropriate behaviors is the best course of action. A simple, calm “No” should be sufficient in letting a dog know that a behavior is unwanted.
Consult your veterinarian
Consider getting help from a certified dog trainer or behaviorist if you cannot understand why your dog grabs your legs. This way, you will be able to get expert advice based on your dog’s individual needs.
In conclusion, there is not always a clear-cut answer to why some dogs like to grab our legs, but there are quite a few possible reasons or theories.
Things like increasing hormones, needing attention, being scared, or being overly energetic are all just a few possible reasons, but every dog is different.
The most important thing is to be patient and to only reward good behavior and do your best not to reward or react to unwanted behaviors like leg grabbing.
In time, it’s possible that your dog may just give you a little nudge with his nose instead of grabbing onto your entire leg to tell you it is time for attention!