Why does my dog keep lifting his front leg? A Comprehensive Guide

Sometimes, a dog lifts a paw in anticipation

Why does my dog keep lifting his front leg?

Paw lifts also can be an expression of anticipation, as shown above. In this context, you see that Diamond has high hopes that the turkey is for him. Ears and eyes alert, head and sniffer up and ready, tail out, and a paw lifted combine to signal anticipation.

Why does my dog keep lifting his front leg?

Dogs also may tuck a paw to convey fear. Typically, when a dog tucks a paw while lying down, it’s a sign of relaxation, but not always as shown in the above. Diamond is hiding under the table, not wanting to interact. Notice that his left front paw is tucked and he is indirectly staring at the boy. Diamond also has pulled his body in and away from the boy, becoming small and tight — these are all signs that he is scared and could bite. If the boy doesn’t retreat or the parents don’t step in to translate these “stay away” signals, he could be in serious danger.

Here are a few examples of situations where a dog may offer a paw lift:

  • This was an observation of a dog that had not been socialized much with people. She was not comfortable approaching and was quite fearful. She would create space; her body was low and hunched over, her tail curled under, and her mouth was closed. Tension was seen in her face muscles and her eyes were quite wide. Her head was turned away and her ears were scanning and listening for sound, alternating between being back and then to the side. Along with the body language, she lifted her paw a few times while standing in this tense pose. The paw lift, along with all the other body language, paints a picture of a dog that is fearful and feeling very uncertain in this situation.
  • One dog is approached by another dog. The approaching dog walks into the other dog’s space, standing quite close, with a stiff square body, head held high and ears slightly forward; his whole body seems stiff when moving, and he gives a bit of direct eye contact. This approach is a bit too direct and it seems to unsettle the other dog; it is difficult to walk away as she tries to keep her eye on the dog that has approached and taken space so quickly. She does a slight head turn and a paw lift. She is showing she is uncomfortable with this interaction.
  • A person is asking a dog to sit. This is taking a while and the dog does not seem to be responding. The person tries to lure the dog into a sitting position, moving his hand closer to the dog’s head. The dog takes a step back and does a paw lift. The dog may feel a bit of pressure and be uncomfortable with the person’s hand moving into her space along with this unknown request to sit.
  • A dog is sitting and observing his guardian, who might be preparing something. As the dog watches with wide eyes and ears forward, he does a paw lift. This dog may be anticipating something and showing a bit of discourse in trying to figure something out.
  • There is a loud, sudden noise. The dog freezes, his eyes widen, his ears go up and are alert, and he does a paw lift. The sudden noise was unsettling; he shows his discomfort by doing a paw lift whilst he tries to figure out what the sound was.
  • These are just a few examples; there may be many more. Start observing to see if you can notice any paw lifts in different contexts. As discussed below, interpretations such as the above examples should not be attempted without careful observation and consideration of all aspects of the situation.

    When I mention stress, this does not necessarily imply negative emotion. I mean stress in the physiological sense. So certain body language signals can mean the dog is feeling some sort of emotional discourse. This discourse could range from positive to negative emotion. Both excitement and fear could have similar effects on the body, with various hormones being released and activating the sympathetic nervous system. The dog may be feeling uncomfortable/fearful or it could also be excited about something. When analyzing stress in body language, it is worth noting the frequency and intensity of the various body language signals.

    Possible Causes Of Front Leg Lameness In Dogs

    There are two types of lameness (or limping) in dogs: gradual and sudden. Gradual pain or injury can be tricky and discrete. Dogs are masters of hiding pain, so a sudden lameness may actually have been developing for a while. One example is arthritis, which may start off gradually but left untreated or undiagnosed can lead to “sudden” symptoms.

    Gradual pain may seem harmless but any sort of symptoms should be reported to your dog’s veterinarian. I recall my first Cocker Spaniel, Brandy Noel, and how she progressed from a grade 1 patellar luxation to a grade 2. She eventually required surgery to repair the shifted kneecap, but the onset and development from grade 1 to grade 2 were gradual.

    Sudden lameness will appear as a result of injury or:

  • Skin infection
  • Paw injury
  • Painful growth, abscess, or lump
  • Cut or wound to part of the leg
  • Burn (i.e., dogs who walk on hot pavement)
  • Joint pain
  • Break or fracture
  • Nerve, ligament, or tendon damage
  • Elbow injury or elbow dysplasia
  • Cancer
  • Lyme disease
  • Soft tissue injury to a muscle (strain or sprain)
  • Back issues
  • Arthritis
  • We’ll explore a few of these a little further down.

    Why does my dog keep lifting his front leg?

    Why Do Dogs Lift Their FRONT PAW?