There are several reasons why your dog may raise a paw while in the standing position. Regardless of reason, understand that when a dog strikes this 3-legged pose while standing, it is a very deliberate gesture. If it is a new habit, your dog may simply be avoiding putting weight on his paw because of pain. If it’s something he’s always done, the answer may lie in his working heritage. It’s also quite possible that you’ve unwittingly taught this tripod stance to your dog!
Dogs with a strong instinct for scenting or tracking, especially pointers, vizlas and retriever breeds, have a habit of standing with their front paw raised when they catch a scent. As soon as a dog catches the scent, he stops dead. Often he catches the scent while stalking in long grass, so his front paw is raised when he freezes. This is called the hold steady. As well as meaning the dog doesn’t disturb the birds by moving any closer, it is also a clear signal to the hunter that the game is in the direction in which the dog looks.
If a dog has an injured paw, for example if there is debris between the paw pads or a burn on the pad, he will be reluctant to put his weight down on that particular paw. Naturally, it’s difficult for a dog to walk on three legs, so he may bear with the pain while walking and raise the paw when standing still to get some relief. If he limps when walking, this is a clue that his habit of raising the paw is linked to pain.
Hip dysplasia is a degenerative condition whereby the hip joint erodes. Once sufficiently advanced, the dog's mobility is impeded and he'll find it very difficult to walk and stand without discomfort. One way a dog suffering from this condition will relieve the discomfort is by refusing to put weight on the affected legs. A dog’s hips are above his back legs, so if your dog is continually raising one of his rear feet when standing, take him to the vet to be checked for hip dysplasia.
Your dog may be raising his paw for no reason at all, other than out of habit. If you once accidentally stepped on his paw, and as is common, lavished him with love and hugs by way of an apology, Lucky may have figured out that pretending to be hurt is a good way of getting attention. Similarly, if he did once have a paw injury and every time he limped, you or a family member went over to check his paw, he may have gotten used to the attention and is now repeating the behavior.
By Simon Foden
About the Author
Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.