Why Do Dogs Lay On Your Feet?

We independently research our recommended products. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our links.

By monitoring a dog’s behavior and actions, we can learn a lot from interpreting what they’re trying to communicate to us. One of the most common canine-human interactions involves dogs laying on their owners’ feet, but what is meant by this, and why do they do it? 

When dogs lie at their owners’ feet, this is either physiological or emotional communication. Consequently, this action needs to be seen in context to determine if it is a result of external sources, such as seeking warmth in cold weather, or a method of communication, such as showing affection. 

While veterinarians and animal behavior experts are still debating why dogs lay on their owners’ feet, some compelling reasons suggest this is mainly an affectionate action from your dog.

Let’s explore these reasons below:

Why Do Dogs Lay On Your Feet? 

why do dogs lay on your feet

There are seven theories about why dogs lay at/on their owners’ feet:

  1. Pack mentality and instincts
  2. Seeking protection
  3. Protecting you
  4. Marking their territory
  5. Displaying dominance
  6. Seeking warmth
  7. Showing affection

1. Pack Mentality And Instincts 

The source of all subsequent behaviors and reasons that dogs lay on their owners’ feet can be interlinked with the fact that dogs are pack animals driven by instincts, which affect their behavior and interactions with people. 

Despite your dog being a domesticated animal that hasn’t had to engage in pack activities for survival, domestic dogs will still mimic actions and hierarchical structures as if they were a member of a dog pack. 

Consequently, while pack animals in the wild will rest after a long day upon the command of the pack leader, so too will your dog engage in a period of rest if they view you as the pack leader in the household that they must follow.

2. Seeking Protection 

Further to the idea that this behavior is linked to your dog’s perception of you as the pack leader comes the theory that dogs engage in this behavior to seek protection from external sources that they may believe are dangerous or trigger anxiety. 

Common examples of external sources that may threaten your dog include loud noises such as thunder or fireworks, new people or animals in the home, or a general sense of anxiousness resulting from being scolded or having a stressful day. 

Further signs to look for if you believe your dog may be frightened or anxious, further signs include shivering, whimpering, or submissive body language, such as a dropped head or brow. 

In the event that your dog may be seeking protection, try to minimize the presence of third-party sources that may be scaring your dog while allowing them to lie on your feet or lap for comfort.

3. Protecting You 

The inverse of seeking protection is that your dog may be lying at your feet if they believe that you need protection. If there are external forces in/around the home and your dog is fixated on a new person, pet, or entry point into the home, this may suggest protective behavior. 

Although this is an encouraging sign of trust between you and your dog, monitor these actions closely so that it doesn’t progress into overprotection and aggression.

4. Displaying Dominance 

While veterinarians and animal behavior experts believe that submissive behavior such as sitting on an owner’s feet is not a method of dogs displaying dominance. 

Some owners disagree and believe that the act of immobilizing someone by sitting on their feet is a method by which dogs control their movements and exert dominance.  

5. Marking Their Territory 

Lying on your feet is a way that dogs show other pets and people in your household that they have a level of ownership and connection with you, while the act of rubbing up against you transfers their scent to you to sign this ownership further. 

While this may be enduring, it can result in a level of overprotectiveness and jealousy with other pets in the household, so just make sure to watch their behavior closely to teach your dog the importance of cohabitation with others.

6. Seeking Warmth 

Similar to how pack animals huddle together to stay warm during the winter months and in the evenings, your dog may be lying on your feet for warmth. 

Should your dog be seeking warmth, you must take extra precautions to keep your dog warm such as giving them a blanket, turning on a heater, and/or closing doors or windows that may be exposing them to cold air.

7. Showing Affection 

Finally, and closely linked to the other reasons on this list, dogs laying at your feet do so as a sign of affection as they trust you, want to be in close proximity to you, and are hoping for some reciprocal affection (such as head scratches or belly rubs.)

How To Stop Your Dog Laying on Your Feet? 

In the event that you do not want your dog lying on your feet, the first thing you need to do is to discourage the behavior by not giving them positive reinforcement such as head scratches or treats. 

However, doing this may be perceived by your dog as you not wanting their affection or protection, which can prove distressing for your dog and lead to a breakdown in your relationship. 

It’s a similar process to if a dog enjoys licking your face!

If you do not want your dogs to lie on your feet without causing them distress, ensure they have an appropriate place to rest within close proximity to you, such as a dog bed.

When trying to get your dog to use a dog bed rather than lying on your feet, engage in positive reinforcement such as treats and head scratches each time they use their bed instead of lying on your feet.

Dog laying on a cushion

Should I Worry If My Dog Doesn’t Lie On My Feet? 

Because dogs are intelligent, expressive animals with their own personalities, not all dogs will show love and affection in the same way. Therefore if your dog does not lie on your feet, this may just be a sign that your dog is not overly affectionate while still caring for you.  

In conclusion, this shouldn’t be of any concern to a pet owner.

Although all dogs express their feelings differently, dogs that decide to lie on their owners’ feet typically do so in accordance with their pack instincts of protection and affection for their owners.

Leave a Comment