Why Do Dogs Lay on Your Feet?

You are sitting in your favorite chair on a Saturday night and your dog has perched himself right by your feet. I bet this is a scenario that is often seen in your household. Dogs love to lay at the feet of their owners. Why is this a sleeping habit in dogs? Is there any particular reason why a dog will lay at a persons feet? Does this have anything to do with instincts? No matter what the reason is, it is a cozy feeling to have your pup so close to you as you wind down for the night. Some nights I wouldnt have it any other way.

Train your dog to sit a bit farther away by throwing a treat a little ways from you and when he goes to get it teach him to lie in that area.

Many dogs lie on their owner’s feet, and as a curious dog owner, you may have wondered at one time or another why your dog rejects his plush doggie bed and chooses to curl up on your feet instead.

Not to mention when Rover ends up drifting into dreamland, with his tail wagging and paws moving as if chasing imaginary balls. Of course, because dogs cant speak the same language as us, we cant just ask them why our feet are their perfect spot to sleep, but at least there are some educated guesses we can make.

Given the 15,000-year history of humans living domesticated dogs, its ingrained in both our beloved pooches and us that there is a bond that develops. According to a recent study, dogs were found to undergo the same secure base effect observed in children when they bond with their parents. Now, sometimes they might become overly dependent on you to the extent that they become “Velcro dogs ” and may suffer from separation anxiety, even if youre in the next room.

Much like needing to know their owner’s whereabouts or to achieve a sense of safety, some dogs may cuddle up on feet as a way to ensure that you are safe from all the things that go bump in the night. Some breeds are more prone to having a guarding or protecting instinct, and therefore, they may be more inclined to hunker down near their owner to keep them under surveillance. If their personal space gets invaded, they may react by growling, barking or even lunging in hopes of sending the intruder away.

Another possibility is that dogs who sleep on their owner’s feet may want to make sure theres an escape route. One study years ago revealed that with couples, men tend to sit facing the door to ensure they can see what danger is coming. Remember this has the potential to get out of hand so contact a behavioral specialist if your dog starts getting too clingy to the point of suffering when you must leave the room or head outside.

They dislike their personal space (and therefore yours) being invaded so dont be surprised if they get a little territorial with strangers or unfamiliar dogs approaching. The Importance of the Secure Base Effect for Domestic Dogs Evidence from a Manipulative Problem-Solving Task Lisa Horn, Ludwig Huber, Friederike Range Published: May 29, 2013 It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional.

By the way, I do purposefully sit facing the door when we’re in a restaurant or place of business, but that is a product of my training. Our dogs do not accompany us to restaurants, but I want to see everyone that enters and I guess that’s a threat assessment.

If you have a dog, you may experience times where they just dont want to leave your side. Maybe they sit at your feet, paw at you and maybe they talk to you. Those adorable moments when they are laying at your feet are just another one of their many cute behaviors, right? While we enjoy those cozy nights with our pets right at our side, we tend to forget that there are instinctual reasons behind most of the things they do.

In this article well go over eight reasons behind this behavior, and give you a glimpse into what your pet is thinking when they cuddle at your feet! This act basically tells you that they respect you as their leader of the pack, and want to lay at your feet as a sign of that.

While our spoiled canines are no wild dogs, they do seek a safe place to rest their heads. Simply being able to lay at your feet and feel your touch can bring them the comfort they need to fall asleep. Since you are such an incredible pack leader to your pup, they will often feel the need to mark their territory, and keep away other canines.

Not every person who enters our space is dangerous, so if your pup becomes too territorial with you, it may be time to speak with a trainer about ways to stop this behavior. Sitting on you or your feet gives them a leg up, and is essentially a passive way for them to assert their dominance on you or other pets in the room. If you find your doggo sitting at your feet at a time when you are feeling low, that may just be their way of giving you a big hug.

Studies have shown that dogs tend to display a secure base effect, which is similar to what is found in parent-child bonding. If your pups is one of the ones who shows any type of aggression, or you simply dont want your dog under your feet at every moment of the day, then there are a few ways to stop this behavior. Unless this act is accompanied by any undesirable actions, it is a perfectly normal way for our dogs to show us that they care.

It’s a common scene: You’re sitting at your desk, working, while your dog lays on your feet underneath. Or, you’re reading in bed and feel your pup curl up against your legs at the end of the mattress. It’s no surprise that dogs adore being near us (and vice versa). Yet, is it healthy and “normal” for them physically lie on their human’s feet all the time? Could this behavior be a sign of something negative? Whatever the reason, cuddling with your dog is never a bad thing, especially on cold winter nights.

The desire to lie on your feet not only stems from an instinct to be close with loved ones, but to seek protection from pack leaders. Similarly, if your dog is tense as they lays at your feet but in a hostile or aggressive way, it’s advisable to take positive steps to correct this behavior as well.

Taking long walks, going running or hiking, exploring new places, hitting the agility course, trying new exercises or tricks, or meeting other people or dogs might allow them to develop a stronger sense of self, as well as feel more relaxed in the world.

Introduction

You are sitting in your favorite chair on a Saturday night and your dog has perched himself right by your feet. I bet this is a scenario that is often seen in your household. Dogs love to lay at the feet of their owners. Why is this a sleeping habit in dogs? Is there any particular reason why a dog will lay at a person’s feet? Does this have anything to do with instincts? No matter what the reason is, it is a cozy feeling to have your pup so close to you as you wind down for the night. Some nights I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Root of the Behavior

The main root cause of this behavior in dogs is in their ‘pack’ instincts.These behaviors can still be exhibited in domesticated dogs. Dogs who grew up in the wild live in packs and sleep closely together in order to protect themselves and leader, as well as, to stay warm. These instincts also draw on the fact that the leader has the more ideal sleeping spot, hence why they lay at your feet or sleep at the foot of your bed. You are perceived as the leader of the pack.Also, in puppies, the instinct is to sleep by the tail of the mother or a couple feet away from her in order to not to be crushed by the mother should she get up or roll over while sleeping. This was a protective instinct learned. And as you can tell in puppies, they sleep closely together, in this case more for warmth while they are so little.If you look at this behavior a little more closely you can see there are other reasons for this behavior. Some dogs look for cooler places to sleep, like the floor by your feet. Sleeping by your feet can also be a sign they need reassurance or are fearful of something. This is also a sign of a submissive dog. Your dog may feel the need to protect you or guard you. If you dog has separation anxiety, he may also lay at your feet when you are home to reassure himself you are nearby. Dogs may also lay or sit on your feet as a sign of marking their territory to other dogs. There are many causes to this behavior. As stated above, the main reason your dog shows this behavior is due to naturally instincts related to ‘pack’ behavior. You should not let this behavior bother you too much. Like the saying goes, “You should let sleeping dogs lie.”

Encouraging the Behavior

While sleeping or laying at your feet is not really consider bad behavior or a bad habit, it can be a nuisance if your dog is always underfoot, so to speak. If you are okay with this type of behavior, let it be. Dog cuddles are always the best anyway. However if lying on or at your feet is not desirable behavior for your dog to have, there are a few training tips to encourage more appropriate behavior. Don’t pet your dog when he lays on your feet. That will only encourage the behavior to continue. Don’t give your dog any attention when he acts this way. Train your dog to sit a bit farther away by throwing a treat a little ways from you and when he goes to get it teach him to lie in that area. Give positive reinforcement and praise when he does lie down farther away from you. Retrain your dog the word ‘lie’ or ‘lie down.’ Show him the exact spot you want him to lie at. Reward him for accurately following directions with a treat and praise. When training your dog consistency is key. Don’t give in so easily to him. Before you know it, he will have learned to lie farther away from you.

Other Solutions and Considerations

Your dog may be laying on your feet if he is cold or even possibly scared of something, such as lightning or another animal. If either one of these are the case, show your dog support with lots of love and reassurance. If he is cold you might want to give him a warm dog bed to lie in. Your dog looks to you for love, support and to meet his physical needs. By meeting his needs you are reassuring him of his position in your life. There is no need reprimand him for this type of behavior.

Keeping Tabs on You

By now, we’ve established that dogs, like humans, are social creatures by nature. They are curious and eager to interact with other dogs and people around them. They like to make new friends and stick by their humans.There’s a reason they are called “man’s best friend,” after all. And that can be part of the reason your fur baby may be choosing to use your feet as their preferred sleeping spot.Given the 15,000-year history of humans living domesticated dogs, it’s ingrained in both our beloved pooches and us that there is a bond that develops. We’re their social group, their family.How often do you hear people literally calling their dogs their children? There’s some truth to that analogy. According to a recent study, dogs were found to undergo the same “secure base effect” observed in children when they bond with their parents. It’s therefore very likely that your dog sees you as a parent, providing shelter, care and food. Dogs, therefore, come to depend on you, and in return, they want to be close to you.Now, sometimes they might become overly dependent on you to the extent that they become “Velcro dogs” and may suffer from separation anxiety, even if you’re in the next room. But that can be addressed with a behavioral specialist if necessary.The point is, your dog views you much in the same vein as a small child views its parents. Therefore, they can’t help but want to be close to you.

A Protective Role

Much like needing to know their owner’s whereabouts or to achieve a sense of safety, some dogs may cuddle up on feet as a way to ensure that you are safe from all the things that go bump in the night.As we already discussed, dogs are social creatures and they become attached to their humans. Some breeds are more prone to having a guarding or protecting instinct, and therefore, they may be more inclined to hunker down near their owner to keep them under surveillance.If you have a dog who is overly protective of you, then maybe you’ve noticed they often press up against you while you’re walking or standing. In other situations where there are unfamiliar pups or people, they may not leave your side or even lay down across your feet to guard you. If their personal space gets invaded, they may react by growling, barking or even lunging in hopes of sending the intruder away.

Planning an Escape

Another possibility is that dogs who sleep on their owner’s feet may want to make sure there’s an escape route. After all, as with humans, dogs want to be able to keep an eye on the door.One study years ago revealed that with couples, men tend to sit facing the door to ensure they can see what danger is coming. Similarly, dogs will sleep on their owner’s feet facing the door. The better to defend against the dangers that might be coming.If your furniture is laid out in such a way that your feet are facing the door and you want to see if the room’s orientation affects where your dog chooses to sleep, switch up where you lie down or sit and see if your dog will still stick around your feet.

The Bottom Line

So, while we aren’t doggie mind readers, we have some ideas on why your pooch might be planting himself on your feet to sleep. Remember, there’s no right answer to this age-old question.They may be craving that social connection and the sense of security you as their fur parent provide to them. Remember this has the potential to get out of hand so contact a behavioral specialist if your dog starts getting too clingy to the point of suffering when you must leave the room or head outside.They may be trying to make sure they know where you are at all times as an added sense of security and out of a sense of protectionThey are being the protector in the relationship and may often sleep facing the door to be alerted to any dangers that might pop up while you sleep. They dislike their personal space (and therefore yours) being invaded so don’t be surprised if they get a little territorial with strangers or unfamiliar dogs approaching. If that’s the case, you may find it helpful to consult with a dog behavior professional.Whatever reason may be motivating your pup, try not to worry too much (unless it’s getting out of hand) and just enjoy the snuggles.

Why Dogs Love Your Feet

There are many reasons that your dog may love laying at your feet. It can range from being affectionate to just plain natural instincts. There’s usually a reason for it and it can often be attributed to comfort and just wanting to be with members of their pack. Let’s take a deeper look at what may be causing your dog to follow you around all over the house and keep your feet company.

It Goes Back to Instincts

While it can be difficult to think of our pups as “pack animals”, they still have those instinctual traits ingrained. Even in our 10-pound chihuahuas who have never spent a day in the wild, they are still domesticated from wild ancestors. This means they will still show some of the behaviors of a wild, pack animal.In the wild, dogs often travel in packs. When they stop to rest, the leader of the pack will find a place to lay of their choice, while the rest of the pack will huddle around for safety and warmth. Think of your home as your very own wild simulation. In your home, you are the pack leader.The act of sitting and laying at your feet can be a behavior instilled in their DNA. Since you are the alpha, they must lay at your feet once you’ve found your comfortable spot. This act basically tells you that they respect you as their leader of the pack, and want to lay at your feet as a sign of that. This can be their very own sign of respect and devotion.

Do they feel safe this way?

Sine our furry companions see us as their pack leader, we are essentially their super hero. They trust us to take care of them, and have faith that we will protect them when needed. Think back to a time when you were a child, and you were entering a crowded room with a person that you trusted. You probably found yourself leaning toward your trusted guardian, and tried to stay in their sight at all times. Our pups have this same mentality when they are feeling uneasy.When our dog’s are feeling nervous in a situation, they will come to you for protection, and most likely cling to your feet. As their pack leader, they are counting on you to keep them safe. While this often happens in a new situation for a canine, it can be a daily occurrence for a submissive pup as well.With this thought in mind, sleeping can be a very vulnerable time for a pup. When a dog is asleep, they are seemingly unaware of their surroundings. In the wild, this can be seen as the most vulnerable time for a wild dog, as they are defenseless to coming threats. While our spoiled canines are no wild dogs, they do seek a safe place to rest their heads. Simply being able to lay at your feet and feel your touch can bring them the comfort they need to fall asleep.

Is this a territorial behavior?

Just as we see our pets as our own, they see us in this light as well. Since you are such an incredible pack leader to your pup, they will often feel the need to mark their territory, and keep away other canines. Whenever you are out in public, you will often find your furry friend sitting extremely close, if not right on top of you.This is their way of telling other dogs that you are their pack leader, and how everyone else needs to stay away! Our pets are extremely devoted to us, so this action is just their way of keeping you all to themselves. This is their way of complimenting just how great of a pack leader you are, and how no other pup can claim you as their own.While this is okay when there is no aggression associated with the action, there are times where this action can be frightening. Some dogs become so attached to their owners, that they consider hurting others who come too close. Not every person who enters our space is dangerous, so if your pup becomes too territorial with you, it may be time to speak with a trainer about ways to stop this behavior.

Showing Dominance

Have you ever met a new dog, and instantly felt special by the fact that they hopped right up into your lap? Yes, it could very well be that they were just incredibly happy to see you. But, it could also be that they are letting everyone in the room know that they are in charge, and you are now theirs.By sitting on people, a dog can feel higher and more in charge. Sitting on you or your feet gives them a leg up, and is essentially a passive way for them to assert their dominance on you or other pets in the room. People often see this behavior from their pups if they’ve brought new pets in the home.It’s hard to know for sure if our furry companions are just eager to sit in our lap, or if they are trying to show us our place. In this situation, it’s best to assess your dog’s overall behaviors. If they are showing dominance in other ways in your home, it’s very possible that this is a way for them to display their dominance.

Guarding The “Pack”

It’s a dog fact that just as our pups look to us for protection, they will often feel inclined to protect you. You are a very important member of their pack, and they will try their best to offer you their protection whenever they can. Our beloved companions are so devoted to us, that by sitting at our feet, they are putting themselves between you and any danger.Most of the time, there is no real danger present, but that won’t stop our doggos from giving us their all. While it’s endearing that our dogs are willing to risk it all for us, it can become a problem if it’s associated with any aggression.If your dog is “guarding their pack” to the extreme, then you may need to look into a trainer to help work with your dog to prevent them from getting into any unnecessary trouble. Our dogs can love us to the point of getting themselves into some risky situations!

Is it because they love me?

All other behavioral instincts aside, sometimes it’s all because our dogs just really love us. Sometimes our pups are laying and sitting at our feet because they truly admire us, and just want to be near us. We often forget that we are our furry family member’s entire world. When they have us all to themselves, they just want to cuddle!Our pets are also very in tune with how we feel. By living with us daily, they become accustomed to our movements and our emotions. If we are feeling off, they can sense it. Have you ever noticed your pups concern when you are in the middle of a break down? Their body language changes, and they become consumed with what you are doing. If you find your doggo sitting at your feet at a time when you are feeling low, that may just be their way of giving you a big hug.

Are they seeking warmth?

Sometimes, especially during colder seasons, our fluffy companions could just be cuddling with you for your body heat. On a cold winter day, huddling into a group of friends offers more warmth than standing alone, right? This is exactly what your dog is doing with you on chilly nights. This can also tie in to their old pick behavior, where the pack would cuddle around their “alpha” for warmth.Some dogs seek warmth more than others. This is especially true in smaller breeds of dogs such as chihuahuas, shih tzus, and other similar breeds. Cuddling close to you is a way for them to find the warm comfort that they desire. You are their personal heated blanket.

They Want To Know Your Whereabouts

Over the years, dogs have become intertwined with their human companions. Studies have shown that dogs tend to display a “secure base effect”, which is similar to what is found in parent-child bonding. This means that like a child clinging to a parent, dogs seek our presence for comfort.By laying on top of your feet, they know that they will be the first to know when you decide to switch positions or get up to leave the room. Knowing that they are aware of their owners location at all times can be comforting to a devoted companion. This habit also ties in to their need to feel safe, and quite possibly their need to protect you as well.

Should I allow this habit?

In general, this is not a troubling habit for your pet to have. Most of us love the affection that our pets show us by sitting or laying close. We often take this time to give them a loving pat, and show our affection in return.If your pups is one of the ones who shows any type of aggression, or you simply don’t want your dog under your feet at every moment of the day, then there are a few ways to stop this behavior.First, you must try your best to never reward or offer positive reinforcement when your pet is in the middle of these actions. By petting our pets while they lay at our feet, we are essentially telling them that we like what they are doing. Try instead to refrain from petting them when they lay at your feet, and encourage them to move to their comfy bed. You can keep the bed near you, but this way, your pup won’t be sitting on top of you.Also, try your best to offer positive reinforcement when they use their bed, or choose to sit next to you instead of on your feet. By giving them a yummy treat or praise when they follow these rules, they will be more inclined to do so in the future.In situations in which your furry friend shows aggression towards other people or pets, the solution may not be so easy. In these situations, we recommend working with a trainer to ensure that your pup is getting everything they need from a trained professional.