If you're a newly-made dog parent, you're probably in for quite a few surprises. One of these is the ‘polite paws’ behavior that a variety of dog breeds exhibit, something that takes many dog owners by surprise when they first stumble upon it!

What Are Polite Paws?

Polite paws are a common phenomenon in dogs of various breeds, though it is slightly more frequent in more giant breeds than in smaller ones. When dogs cross their paws, they rotate their elbows in a way that helps them minimize the burden on the upper parts of their limbs. When they do this, it almost seems like they're practicing politeness because this posture appears quite ladylike (or gentlemanly) when you take a closer look; hence the name polite paws!

Mama is our Boxer-pit mix, she is an amazing dog.  We were all playing in the backyard and I was testing out the camera on the Pixel 2 XL and caught this image.

Why Do Dogs Cross Their Paws?

When your canine crosses its paws, it has most certainly not picked up the posture from an etiquette class! Instead, your dog's ability and choice to cross its paws, both front and hind, stems from a mixture of physical, behavioral, and psychological factors. If you've seen your dog cross its paws on different occasions, or at random, then this could be because of the following reasons:

1. They're Communicating Something

Dogs use their body to communicate rather creatively! From wagging their tail to drooling, they try different behaviors to portray what they feel or want to show. With their paws, too, your dogs may be trying to show and tell something that they think is important for you to know. Animal behaviorists are still researching the various cues that crossed paws may hint at, but if you respond to your dog's posture and ask them if everything's alright, then they may give you further clues!

2. They're Adjusting Weight Support

As you read above, the crossed paws or polite paws posture helps minimize the burden on your dog's upper body. When dogs usually sit or lie down, they tend to shift to a half-propped stance, where the dog's shoulders and elbows support the weight of its upper body. This posture can be tiring in some instances, especially when the dog has had an already tiresome day. Therefore, your dog may switch to a crossed-paws posture, where it can roll its elbows outward and completely slouch down. This way, the dog gets its entire body leaned against the surface it's lying on, so no body part is burdened at the expense of another.

3. They're Tired

When a dog feels dog-tired, it may want to find the most comfortable position to rest in for as long as they like. As it turns out, the polite paws posture is one of the most comfortable positions to lie in when the dog feels tired, mainly because it doesn't require frequent weight-shifting or any other movement whatsoever!

My dad’s puppy dog.

4. They're Content

Crossed paws may sometimes also be a result of contentment. When your dog feels fully relaxed, and there is nothing that could ruin the moment, your dog may go ahead and cross paws to relax even further. This transfer of weight to the floor beneath them may help them better enjoy their sense of contentment and relaxation.

5. They Feel Secure

When your dog feels like something is about to happen, or something in the environment isn't safe, they may keep up their alert posture, where their upper body doesn't lie down. This helps the dog get up quickly when something happens. However, when your dog feels like there's nothing to worry about, it may express its comfort and confidence by lapsing into a fully relaxed, polite-paws posture.

6. They've Learned it From You

Dogs are pretty adaptive in the human environment. While they may not speak or eat as you do, they may still pick behavioral cues from their owners. If you have a habit of crossing your arms or legs, your dog may learn the same behavior over time.

Like baby’s feet but better. I’m one of those people who lets my dog sleep in my bed. It’s always cute to wake up to this creature in my bed. In this photo, I’m capturing those morning moments with my best girl, Ruby, who likes to stretch out and roll around in bed sometimes longer than me myself! It makes me feel happy and at peace to know she’s comfortable while protecting part of her pack.

While we can't ask dogs why they do this, we can at least admire at how cute this posture is. So for now, enjoy your dog sitting this way. Know that they are very comfortable and feel safe enough to enjoy this position.