If you have a dog, you may experience times when they just don’t want to leave your side. Maybe they sit at your feet, paw at you, and maybe even 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.
Our pups are extremely devoted to us, and they show so in so many ways throughout the day. Their actions often speak volumes about how they are feeling, and have a deeply rooted reason that dates back to the wild dog.
So what exactly does it mean when our pups insist on sitting at our feet? Let’s go over eight reasons behind this behavior, and give you a glimpse into what your pet is thinking when they cuddle at your feet!
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.
Is It Instinctual?
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.
Does It Make Them Feel Safer?
Since our furry companions see us as their pack leaders, we are essentially their superheroes. 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 trying to stay in their sight at all times. Our pups have this same mentality when they are feeling uneasy.
When our dogs 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.
Does It Show 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.
Are They 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 pup’s concern when you are in the middle of a breakdown? 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 into 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.
Do 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 owner’s location at all times can be comforting to a devoted companion. This habit also ties into 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 pup 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.
You could also try an online dog trainer like Doggy Dan for an affordable solution that fits your schedule.
Overall, this is an endearing action. If there was a way for our pups to show us just how much they love us, it would very well be done while sitting on top of our feet. By laying or sitting on us, they are telling us how good of a job we are doing at being their pack leader. Unless this action is accompanied by any undesirable actions, it is a perfectly normal way for our dogs to show us that they care.
September 28, 2022 at 6:26 pm
I have recently moved back to my parents house temporarily due to re location we’re my father passed a few years ago and his Shitzu dog who used to lay across his feet after his Stroke before passing now lays on my legs/feet or next to them when I’m laid watching tv in bed with the cover over my feet but he seems to always go straight to them , also if he has been out in the cold he positions himself chest height next to me with his face close to mine.
If I leave the room he follows me and listens to me more than he does my Mum who he has lived with since being a puppy.
So interesting points in this article ring true.
August 23, 2022 at 6:59 am
This am my hubby went to feed our two almost 17 months borbmemen.i no spending it wrong. They both just laid at his feet. It's like they knew something was off. Later that morning he tested positive for covid.
January 15, 2022 at 1:02 am
I am a Professional Dog Trainer. I make it a point to learn as much as I can about canine behavior. According to the most current research by scientists and animal behaviorist, dominance theory is no longer considered as valid. Otherwise this article is on the same page as other sources of information about domestic dog behavior.
An excellent book is "The Other End Of The Leash" by Patricia B. McConnell, PhD. Dr McConnell is an applied animal behaviorist.
While both dogs and humans are both mammals, our species have many behavioral similarities but also some equally vast differences. In her book, Dr McConnell explores, and explains what makes us alike and what makes us different.
Her books are easy to read. She provides many real life examples of researched dog behavior using her own dogs as examples. It's a great go-to book for answers to those "Why does my dog do that?", questions.
December 28, 2021 at 1:31 am
I have a 5 month old Shar Pei named Samantha and she loves to sleep on my feet at night until settles into her nightly sleep.
I love her dearly ....
September 9, 2021 at 9:28 pm
This article was very informative and I enjoyed reading it. It gave me a perspective on how my pup thinks and what he could be saying to me.
March 19, 2021 at 3:09 pm
I have a Morkie poo and she naps on my feet or next to my feet all the time thanks for the insight.
March 19, 2021 at 5:15 pm
Sounds like a great dog, Kim! Thanks for commenting!
December 19, 2020 at 8:50 am
This was really insightful. I have a 9-week old Cockapoo and he loves to sleep between our feet! Thanks!
December 19, 2020 at 3:20 pm
That sounds like a great pup Courtney! Thanks for commenting!