Why Dogs Hate Having Their Paws Touched?

Dogs are animals that seek human touch. They are always craving light scratches behind their ears, and they still roll over to get belly rubs from you.

But generally, most dogs hate having their paws touched, and they will often throw a fit. This is a big problem considering you are required to handle those paws and give them a nail trim.

Below are some of the reasons why dogs have had their legs touched:

Your dog is protective

If you notice that your dog becomes a little grumpy when you touch his paws, it’s because you do it abruptly out of nowhere.

All canines are naturally protective of their legs. They use their claws to fight off any enemies in the wild, and this apprehension is transfer to most modern dogs.

By touching their legs out of nowhere, you startle them thus creating a negative and frightened association with the action

Dog paws are packed with a lot of nerve endings

Your dog’s feet may seem very hard compared to human feet. Considering dog feet are designed to withstand rugged terrain.

Dog paw pads are loaded with a lot of nerve endings that help them feel what is under their feet. The paw pads are packed with very sensitive nerve endings called Pacinian

Corpuscles are sensory receptors to detect minimal mechanical and vibratory pressure.

The front paws are the most sensitive as they loaded with nerve endings that send a warning to the brain upon sensing pressure. This is why they hate having their paws touched.

Some dogs negatively associate paw touching

Dogs already hate their paws being touched, and this can get much worse when they mentally associate this with a negative touch.

All it takes is someone handling the dog roughly during a pedicure. One of the biggest problems is that dogs have thick black nails which can be very difficult to cut through.

If you make a mistake and cut the nail too short, it can lead to pain and bleeding.

Unfortunately, dogs tend to remember the pain and associate them with specific procedures easily.

Dog paws are essential for survival

Dogs are aware that their feet play a large part in their survival. This instinct helps dogs adopt to preserve and protect their paws. In the wild, if the dog’s paws are wounded, they are not able to move around, hunt, or escape any predators.

A dog with an injured foot will, therefore, be very vulnerable in the wild. On top of the movement, a dog’s feet are used for hunting, scratching its body, digging, and removing debris from the eyes.

Your dog might be ticklish

If you touch your dog’s paws gently and lightly, this might lead to a sensation that will be perceived as ticklish on the rough pads of the paws. You will notice your dog twitching, and they will move away in annoyance.

Problems with their claws, bones, or joints

When a dog is walking on a rough surface, their claws will naturally wear down. But if you notice that your dog only walks on grass wherever you take him for a walk, or he doesn’t walk much, there might be some problems with their claws.

The claws might have grown overly long, or they are twisted, and pressing them on to a hard surface might be painful. Ensure you keep your dog’s nails in good condition. Speak to your vet if you notice the claws are twisted or curled or growing strangely as this might be causing pain.

Problems affecting the dog’s joints or bones might cause reluctance in paws being handled. Ensure to see a vet about this.

Tips on how to get your dog to collaborate with Paw handling

  1. Ensure that you start handling those paws at a young age by creating positive memories around it. Make it a routine to touch and rub your dog’s hands and in between the toes then giving the dog tasty treats.
  2. Always be careful, especially if your dog is defensive if he growls or become aggressive consult a dog behavior specialist. Always make sure you are using positive-based and king behavior modification.
  3. Make the dog familiar with the nail trimmer always leave it around don’t just bring it out when you are giving him a nail trim.
  4. Hide the nail trimmer behind your back then show it to your dog, when he sniffs it give him a treat. Repeat this several times till he has a positive association.
  5. Always start slow, reward, and positively praise your dog every time you trim a nail. Try doing one or two nails per day and make it fun.
  6. Some dogs do better with Dremel nail-grinding tools. Your task will be to ensure they get used to the sound and feel on their nails.
  7. If all these tips do not work with your dog, you can consider taking him to a professional. You can also find fast-paced long walks on concrete to help your dog naturally trim their nails. If you have a puppy, consider asking your vet if exercising on a hard surface might damage your dog’s growth plates.


For dogs, having their paws touched is an uncomfortable occurrence. Their instincts, together with a localized sensitivity and the potential for negative associations, can quickly turn a routine pedicure into a feared activity.

Ensure you start slowly to build trust with your dog. Have him sit with you and naturally pet him. Start with lightly touching his shoulder, then move slowly and massage his leg down to his ankle. Ensure that you just massage that part and do not go past that.

Take another leg and don’t touch the paws and be very casual about it.

Feel what he likes and make him very comfortable then slowly move to his feet. Keep doing things that are relaxing to him and keep touching his feet slowly afterward reward him with a treat. Slowly he will positively associate paw-touching with this, and he will stop resisting.

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