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4 Reasons Why Dogs Curl Their Front Paw Under When Lying Down

By Aviram K.
Published in Training & Behavior
February 21, 2022
4 min read
4 Reasons Why Dogs Curl Their Front Paw Under When Lying Down
✏️ This article has been reviewed in accordance with our editorial policy.
🏥 The information in this article is not a substitute for professional help.

How do you like to relax? Maybe your idea of unwinding involves oversized pajamas, kicking back with some takeout and reality tv. No one’s judging here!

You have your go-to chill-out routine, but have you noticed your dog has certain ways of getting cozy too?

Whether it’s cuddling up in their favorite corner or favoring a certain time of day to snooze, your pup has their own unique preferences.

As you watch your dog settle into their special spot, you notice something: they always seem to curl their front paw under when they lie down.

You think, “Hey, whatever floats their boat.” But secretly, you wonder…why do they do that?

Generally, dogs curl both paws under while lying down because they feel cold or cozy. Curling the paws under the body helps them retain more body heat. In more serious cases, your dog may be paw-knuckling, which can signify serious health problems.

In this article, I will explain why dogs curl their front paws when lying down. I will also delve into whether it’s safe for dogs to curl their front paws under.

Always wondered about your pup’s paw-curling quirk?

Join me as I uncover the possible reasons behind their mysterious paw-positioning.

Here we go!

Table of Contents
Why Do Dogs Curl Their Front Paws When Lying Down?
Is It Safe for Dogs to Curl Their Front Paws Under?
One Position, Drastically Different Meanings

Why Do Dogs Curl Their Front Paws When Lying Down?


The reason your dog curls their paws under when lying down can be hard to pinpoint. This one action can have very different meanings behind it!

It is definitely important to get to the bottom of the “why” behind the curling. The reasons can range from them just being comfortable this way all the way to harmful diseases.

Let’s look into some of the reasons your pup may curl their front paw under:

They Are Cold

Your dog may be curling their front paws under for practical reasons: they could be trying to get and stay warm!

If you think your pup could be cold, other clues can help you determine if this is the case.

Try asking yourself the following questions:

  • Is it a colder season, or do you prefer to keep your home on the cooler side?
  • Does your pup sleep on cold wood or tile floors?
  • Is your dog’s bedding thick enough?
  • Does your dog sleep outside, exposed to wind and chilly temperatures?

If any of these signs ring true, try making modifications to ensure your pup is warm enough. You may want to try letting them sleep inside or raising the thermostat up a few notches. It may help to add thicker padding to their bedding, have them sleep on the carpet…or perhaps under the covers with you!

After making these changes, are they still curling their front paws under when they lie down? If not, problem solved!

They Feel Cozy

This reason behind your pup’s paw curling is quite sweet and harmless: they feel comfortable this way!

As a human, you can probably appreciate that delicious feeling of being under covers, curled all the way up. Snug like a bug in a rug.

Sometimes it just feels good to draw your extremities as close to your body as possible and savor the feeling. Your pup may simply love this sensation as well!

There is nothing more to see here if this is all it is. If your dog is just a certified snuggle bug, there is no need to correct this innocent preference.

They May Be Anxious

Your dog may be curling their front paws because they are dealing with anxiety. In this case, your pup may be tensing and tightening up their body out of the discomfort they feel.

If this is a newer development, maybe ask yourself if anything has changed in your home. Dogs are very sensitive and can pick up on difficulties in the family. Events that could provoke your pup’s anxiety include a move, death in the family, or a change in routine.

If you sense your dog could be anxious but can’t put your finger on why it may help to take them to the vet. Your vet will be able to ask the right questions to narrow down what could be bothering them. They will also figure out a treatment to help your dog feel better.

Your Dog May Be Paw Knuckling

This is the most serious reason why your dog could be curling their front paw under.

Paw knuckling is when your pup curls their paws downward due to an injury, disease, or discomfort in their paw.

If your pup is knuckling, they are likely hurting. They may be experiencing any of the following conditions:

  • Degenerative myelopathy
  • Cervical disc disease or other spinal issues
  • Arthritis
  • & Neurological abnormalities

Is It Safe for Dogs to Curl Their Front Paws Under?


If your dog is curling their front paws under, the reason could be totally innocent.

The most probable reason is feeling cold or cozy, which is nothing to worry about - especially if your dog has been curling their paws under all their lives.

But they could also be doing this because they’re anxious or even suffering from a health condition.

Since the reasons your pup could be laying this way are so varied, I absolutely recommend taking them to the vet. Especially if making adjustments at home isn’t helping.

If it turns out your pup is knuckling, rest assured there are many treatment options for this. Your dog may need to undergo canine rehabilitation.

This can include underwater treadmill walking, hydrotherapy, and other special exercises. Your pup may also need to wear a bootie splint or anti-knuckling socks to support and protect their feet.

A dog curling their front paws under could truly be nothing. But it may also be a symptom of something that needs prompt attention and care.

It’s always better to be safe than sorry and have them evaluated by their vet.

One Position, Drastically Different Meanings


Some things in life can look a certain way on the surface…until you take a closer look. Salt can look just like sugar, but your omelet will taste way different depending on which one you add!

Such is the case when your dog is curling their front paw under. This could be harmless. Your pup could just want to feel nestled up, be a bit chilly, or anxious. Or they could be in a world of pain and be suffering from a health problem.

It can be tricky to narrow down exactly what’s up.

But no need to fret; your pup-parent intuition will steer you in the right direction. Your instincts can guide you to make adjustments and tell you when to seek professional help.

Whether your dog’s paw-curling is a cute habit or something more serious, trust that they are safe in your loving hands!

Dog Behaviors
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