How lovely is it, especially in those cold winter months, when your pup curls up to sleep or sit on your feet? It’s comforting, cute, and way better than even the best pair of slippers. But why does your dog lay on your feet? Is it learned behavior? Instinctual? Does it signify something you should be looking out for?
The reason may be different for each individual dog, but it could be because of their wolf ancestry, their love for you, their anxiety, or their temperature.
Why do dogs sit on your feet?
There are actually lots of different reasons why dogs sit on your feet. Here are some of the most common ones.
They’re members of a pack
It’s not always easy – especially when you see a Whippet in a designer coat or a Yorkshire Terrier with a pretty pink bow in their hair – to remember that dogs are descendants of wolves. This means that they are innately wild, pack animals. Wild dogs huddle together to keep warm and protect each other when they sleep. Sleeping close to the pack leader shows respect and submission.
When your pup curls up on your feet, they’re showing their pack animal instincts, respecting and protecting you, its pack leader, and making sure you’re both warm.
They love you! (Probably a lot!)
Some pups just love to follow their humans around and sit on their feet (if you have such a dog you’ll know how adorable yet slightly annoying that can be). So why should that stop when you sit down to watch your favorite television program? They want to be as close to you as possible and get a lot of comfort out of being in physical contact with you. Their levels of oxytocin (the love hormone) go up when they interact with you, even if they’re snoozing. What’s more, not only do they feel like they’re protecting you (their wolfy leader), they also feel protected by you when you’re so close.
Territorial. You’re theirs and everyone needs to know it.
It’s not only when you’re settling down for the night that your dog comes over eyeing up their favorite place. You might notice that they do it when other people, children, or dogs are around. So, why do dogs sit at your feet in crowds? Because they’re showing everyone around who you belong to. Them. You are their human.
If you live in a multi-dog household, you want to make sure one pup isn’t lying on your feet more than the other, as this could lead to jealous behavior. Try positive reinforcement to show them that they should sleep in a different place or together.
From an early age, pups learn to snuggle together with their siblings and mother to stay warm. Sitting on the owner's feet is comforting but you also share body heat which your dog loves. This is great bonding time, but you of course need to make sure your pup isn’t cold. Here are some things you can do to make sure your dog stays warm in winter!
As well as keeping them warm, sleeping on your feet on a cold floor can help your pups stay cool. You might notice that your dog likes to sleep on the floor next to your feet when the weather is a bit warmer, especially if you have tiles or laminate flooring.
Anxiety and fear can both be a reason why your dog sleeps and sits at your feet. Just like humans, the presence of someone you love, who you know cares for you, can really reduce your stress levels. You might have a particularly anxious pup, or they might be nervous for a specific reason, such as fireworks, loud children, or building works.
If you notice that your dog lays on your feet more often and that he's showing other signs of being anxious – such as jumping at sounds, putting its tail between their legs, or having their ears flat against their head – try to reassure and comfort them. Stoking them, being in contact with them, and speaking to them can help relax your pup.
Should you encourage your dog to lay on your feet?
That really depends on you and how much you like tripping over your pup. If having them sleeping and laying on your feet is nice for you, you can absolutely encourage the behavior. Positive engagement, touch, and time with your pup are always good for your friendship and bonding. You get warm feet and they feel comforted. Win-win!
If, however, you notice that your pup’s behavior has suddenly changed and they appear nervous or particularly territorial, you should try to work out why. Try to soothe them if there have been any changes around the house. If you think they’re being territorial over you, try to positively reinforce calmer behavior with rewards.
There are many reasons why dogs sleep and sit on your feet. Does your pup like to do it? Why do you think that is?
I’m Charlotte, a content and copywriter from the North of England and currently living in Berlin. Animals have always been a huge part of my life, so writing about dogs is a total pleasure! I love all kinds of dogs and their cheeky personalities, but I’d have to say Weimaraners are my favourite!