Most evenings as you’re winding down to watch tv, more times than not, your dog will come and lay down by your feet. Let’s be honest, most of us like it when our dogs do this and we enjoy the comfort of having our dog by our side.
But it makes us want to know why this happens… Why does my dog lay on my feet? Well, after diving into as much canine behavior research as I could find, I found the answer…
Why Does My Dog Lay on My Feet?
The act of laying, sitting or sleeping by your feet comes from their “pack instinct” and can mean many different things.
So, what does this mean?
Dogs used to live in the wild, and they survived, without the help of us. They relied on living in packs and this would have helped them hunt, stay protected, reproduce, and quite frankly, survive!
How you come into play…
In the wild, there is always hierarchy and for your dog, it’s the same in your household, you are the pack leader and your dog knows this. When it comes to sleeping or resting, the pack leader always has the best spot (a.k.a the sofa in this situation!) the rest of the dogs would lay close by the pack leader for many reasons:
1) Comfort ⭐
As your dog sees you as the one in charge, it means that have trust in you and they regard you as a “safe” person to be with.
Your presence will give your dog a lot of comfort and make them feel at ease. Lying by your feet will be one way they can be physically close to you to feel relaxed and calm.
This can also work the other way around. When your dog cares for you a lot, this can be their way of showing you support and comfort, from their perspective. It can be seen in dogs when their owner is sick or ill, the dog will stick by their side to provide them their version of support.
2) Safety ⭐
As the pack leader, you are also seen as the rest of the pack’s protector. Whether or not your dog is insecure, it’s common behavior for dogs to want to always be as close as they can to the pack leader, for their safety.
Insecure dogs will likely never leave your side, but even dogs that are not insecure will still do this.
It could be triggered by sounds outside, new people in your household, even different smells, and pretty much anything else they are unfamiliar with. Your dog will seek your protection and try to get as physically close to you as possible.
You can learn a lot about their sleeping position here. If your feet are firmly tucked underneath them and they’re exposing their belly, this means they feel completely safe. In the wild, exposing the belly is a big risk as it’s a vulnerable area.
3) Warmth ⭐
This is more commonly seen with puppies, but adults still exhibit this behavior too.
For puppies, they are used to sleeping close together, shoulder to shoulder around their mother’s tail. This keeps them warm and protects them.
Even when not sleeping, sticking physically close together is an automatic mode of survival in order to stay warm. Dogs will often stick by you if they feel the need to be warm.
4) Affection ⭐
When your dog comes to smooch up next to you by your feet and legs, it could simply be a sign of their affection. They love you, and by coming to lay next to your feet or on top of your feet, it’s their way of making “acceptable” physical contact to their pack leader.
This is similar to comforting above, but this one is perhaps slightly less “pack instincts” and more because of a good relationship that you have with your dog.
5) Territorial Instincts ⭐
When your dog comes to lay or sit close by you, it could be their way of marking their territory. It’s a warning sign to other dogs (or even people!) to back off from their leader.
This can be seen inside your house, and outside when you are taking your dog for a walk. You can usually confirm this territorial behavior if your dog shows signs of aggression when someone else or another dog comes near you.
You think your dog is yours, your dog also thinks you are theirs.
6) Protection ⭐
Some dogs who are a little more secure can display this behavior in order to protect you. When they come and lay by your feet or sit by your feet, they may see this as them guarding you.
We aren’t always aware of whats going on inside our dog’s mind, but there can be many things they consider threatening, so being next to you is their way of protecting you.
This is a classic survival trait seen in breeds that use to live in the wild. The pack leader is considered the most valuable of the group, and while the leader has the responsibility of protecting the pack, the pack often protects the leader just as much.
When My Dog Lays on My Feet Should I Stop It?
When your dog comes to lay by you or on your feet, this isn’t necessarily bad behavior. Most of this is coming from a good place in their heart and this is a sign that they respect you, love you, and care about you.
When it becomes a problem ⭐
The only time this may behavior is a problem is if they do it to be protective of you. Sometimes dogs can be so protective, they won’t let another family member near you without growling or being aggressive.
This is when the behavior needs to be stopped and while some owners will opt to simply shut their dog in another room, this isn’t solving the issue.
The next section will run through the best way to stop this kind of behavior.
How to Stop This Behavior
It all depends on you, I personally don’t mind this behavior from my dog, regardless of what it means, if they’re happy, I’m happy. However, if this is behavior that you don’t want, then there’s a pretty simple way you can stop it.
1) Create distance
As your dog comes in the room and approaches you to lay down, take a small treat, and toss it a small distance away from you. Your dog will go to the treat and when they’re there, you instruct your dog to lay down there, where they are. Whatever word your dog understands “lay down” “stay” use it.
2) If your dog ignores you
If your dog wanders back to you as nothings happened, you’ll have to get up and physically guide them back to that same spot and give your command again. After your dog sits (better to lay) go back to your chair.
3) Reward once your dog stays
Positive reinforcement-based training always works best. So once your dog actually does stay in the spot away from you, calmly praise them and throw them a treat. Be calm about this, or you may excite them enough to get back up and come to you.
4) Have patience and repeat
Always have patience with your dog and never shout or punish them. If your dog is having trouble understanding what you want, you’re going to have to keep getting up and guiding them back to the spot, relentlessly, always reward them once they stay put for at least 5 seconds. Do this every time your dog tries to sit at your feet. Before long, your dog will not attempt to do this anymore.
Why Do Dogs Lay Their Head on Your Feet?
When your dog lays their head on your feet, this is no different from when they come to lay completely on your feet or even sit by your feet.
The root of this behavior all comes from the pack instinct and follows the same reasons outlined above.
Whenever it comes to being physically close to you, it likely follows what we have spoken about in this article. Even though by now dogs are domesticated, their “pack instincts” if they have them will be deeply rooted in their ancestral DNA and this won’t change.
So there we have it, hopefully, this answers your question…
Why does my dog lay on my feet? Your dog likely lays on your feet for comfort, safety, affection, warmth, protection or to be territorial. These behaviors come from their strong “pack instincts” deeply rooted in their ancestral DNA.
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