No matter where you sit, you have probably noticed that your dog is not far behind you lazing about at your feet. If you are one of the many dog owners whose pooch has this habit, you may have wondered why he does it. So just why do dogs lay on your feet?
In this article I’ll cover some common reasons your dog may sit at your feet. I’ll also discuss ways you can get him to stop this behavior if it’s a habit you’re not very comfortable with.
Reasons Your Dog Lays on Your Feet
His Way of Showing Affection
You’re your dog’s favorite human. Whenever he sees, hears, or smells you, all he thinks about is how much he loves you. This is a fact as studies have shown this repeatedly.
Most dogs are fine with sitting on the floor at your feet instead of sitting with you on the couch. Some also enjoy being at their humans’ feet so they can quickly stand and follow their favorite person as soon as they move.
Our canines are pack animals and still keep this behavior even after years of domestication. One of such remnant behavior of their ancestral DNA is the sitting behavior.
Before domestication, dogs traveled in packs to protect themselves and increase their chances of survival. Canines are also known to huddle together even during their resting period.
Naturally, the pack leader takes the most comfortable spot and the others lay close together to keep warm. So, in your home, the dog sees you as the pack leader. It is the same reason puppies lay at the tail of their mothers. This is a learned behavior and another reason they keep this distance is to avoid being crushed if their mother rolls over during sleep.
You’re Their Social Partner
To our dogs, we’re their families. And unless your dog is an extremely independent breed or just loves being alone, he will do all he can to be around you.
This child-like bond isn't new. Canines have been living near humans for thousands of years and so they will always choose us, even if there are other animals in the home. It’s almost like the bond shared by an infant and the mother.
Like infants, our canines have learned to depend on us for security, care and may even suffer from separation anxiety when they have to be away from us for some time. They just love being with their humans! And yes, even if it means sleeping closely to them or sharing their sleeping areas.
Aside from being loyal and affectionate companions, our dogs will try their best to keep us safe from perceived threats. They will do all they can to keep you from experiencing harm including putting themselves between you and the threat.
Thankfully, there is usually no real danger present when they lay at your feet, but you can be sure that it won’t stop them from trying to protect you when they think you need it.
Our canines are smart and they understand from repetition that if they sit or lie long enough at your feet, they will likely get your attention.
If for example you talk to your dog whenever he comes to sit at your feet, he learns that you give him attention in the form of praise, belly or ears rubs, or even treats. With positive reinforcement/experiences such as these, it’s only normal that your dog continues to sit at your feet whenever he can.
To Know Your Whereabouts
Like human children, our canines have a strong need for reassurance. This is part of the reason they like to sleep at our feet.
For canines, being in their owners’ presence makes them feel secure, hence they normally resist separation as much as they can. In times of distress also, your dog will seek your presence for comfort.
Does your dog usually sit at your feet when you go to a dog park or any other place with dogs? This may be his way of marking and securing his territory.
This behavior simply tells the other dogs that you’re his leader/he belongs to you so every other dog should keep away. From your canine's point of view; he belongs to you as much as you belong to him.
How Do I Stop My Dog From Sitting at My Feet?
If you’re researching this behavior, you probably just want to understand why your dog does it. If you however, want to stop your dog from laying on your feet, there are simple things you can do and I’ll discuss them in this section.
However, remember that the behavior is harmless. If you enjoy it, you can seize the opportunity to bond with your dog and reciprocate his affection. But if you don’t like the behavior or just need him away from your feet sometimes, then it’s also fine.
Making It Stop
Dogs will usually repeat a behavior if we have reinforced it in this past. This is probably one reason your dog repeatedly lays at your feet. You’ve already made it known to him through your actions and words that it is alright to do it, even though unknowingly.
What you can do is to stop showing him affection when he sits by you. Be conscious of the behavior when he comes around and resist the urge to pet, praise, or reward him for it.
However, you should also never yell or kick your dog whenever he does this. Like you already know, the behavior is harmless, and responding aggressively to it can be damaging in many ways to your dog.
Instead of yelling, kicking, or pushing him to leave, simply encourage him to use his bed. If you haven’t already, create an environment that encourages him use his designated space and profusely praise him whenever he uses it.
If you feel he was particularly deserving of it, you can give him a back rub and also offer him some treats. These help to reinforce the “correct” behavior and he’ll be less likely to repeat the undesirable ones e.g. sitting at your feet.
Canine Sleeping Positions
Understanding the different canine sleeping positions will help you know a lot about your canine’s personality and how he’s feeling at a particular time. Like our other pets, our canines cannot communicate the way most of us wish they could. Understanding the unspoken behavior means that you need to be able to read his body language to grasp the things he’s unable to say whenever he’s at your feet.
On Their Back
In this position, your dog lies on his back with his legs raised. While it's amusing to watch, it is one of the most submissive positions. It means that he is comfortable enough to leave their entire body exposed around you. This shows the feeling of calmness, comfort, and safety they feel being with you.
Curled up in a Ball
A common sleeping position for canines, this is how you will see you dog lay most often. In this position, your pooch’s arms are tucked under their body and their tail is curled up towards their face. The position may indicate that they are cold, uneasy about something and therefore want to feel protected.
Dogs in this position are usually tired and would not want to be bothered even though they’re at your feet. It can also show that they’re feeling warmer than normal and have to be in that position to cool off. You may notice this behavior more on hot days.
In this sleeping position, canines’ legs are neatly tucked under their body, but not into a ball. While in this position, canines are usually not in a deep and comfortable sleep because their muscles are not fully relaxed.
In this position, your dog rests his head and belly flat on the floor. His legs are spread out to appear like he’s flying. Young and energetic dogs commonly sleep in this position because of how easy it is to wake up and resume play.
Why Do Dogs Sit on Your Feet: Conclusion
Most of us enjoy having our dogs sit at our feet. And so do our dogs; they love being near us. While the behavior is usually harmless, if you think your dog’s attachment could be because of fear, separation anxiety, or even dominance, you should try to correct this behavior with specific boundary lessons at home or have a professional help you to do it.
Finally, even if you’re comfortable with your dog laying on your feet and he shows no behavioral issues, you should still familiarize yourself with his specific sleeping position. This would help you detect problems or discomfort if any whenever he sleeps at your feet.