Why Your Dog Leans on You

Have you ever wondered why your dog leans on you"? It's easy: it's its way of showing you affection through physical contact.
Why Your Dog Leans on You

Last update: 05 December, 2021

Humans, accustomed to kisses and hugs, sometimes don’t know how to interpret the language of other animals. That’s why many dog owners often wonder why their dog leans on them, especially those whose dog isn’t very prone to licking or cuddling.

Here’s a preview of the answer: Dogs don’t show their affection in the same way as humans. Even so, like all behavior, this one has certain nuances that need to be clarified in order to understand it in depth. Here’s everything you need to know.

Why does my dog lean on me?

This usually happens on the sofa, on the bed, or even on the floor. The moment you’re resting in one place, your dog comes over and lies down to be in contact with you. It can also happen when you’re standing up: Your dog approaches you and simply rests his back against your leg. Why does it do this? Find out in the following article.

Because it likes to be with you

Your dog sees you as part of its group and appreciates you. Therefore, the simplest reason why it leans on you is that it appreciates you and enjoys your company. Dogs, more than with kisses and hugs, show their affection with physical closeness and contact.

Physical contact plays a very important role in a puppy’s sensory and social development. If you see a litter of puppies, they’ll all be clinging to each other and as close to their mother as possible.

A pug under a pink blanket.

To get your attention

When your dog leans on you, it’s eliciting a response from you, usually automatic, to pay attention to it. It’s therefore very easy for you to reinforce this behavior without realizing it and for your dog to use it to get your attention. It may be because it’s hungry, wants to go out, wants to play, or simply because it wants to be pampered.

To sleep

Another demonstration of affection and trust is that the dog leans on you to fall asleep. This usually means that you’re reassuring to your pet and it feels that it can sleep with you without worrying about anything. This’s usually a sign that your bond is strong.

For another dog to stay away

If you live with more than one dog, you may have noticed that one of them leans on you when another dog approaches you. This is usually a message to other dogs, telling them to stay away because they want to maintain your attention. This behavior should be corrected as it can lead to possessive behaviors.

Your dog leans on you when you pet it

This is another sign of appreciation from your dog. If you pet or cuddle it and it leans on you–or even rests its head on you–it likes what you’re doing and interprets it correctly. It’s also a way of telling you not to stop the activity.

Is my dog dominant if it leans on me?

There are many myths surrounding canine behavior. One of the most well-known is the one that says that all dogs will try to dominate you as soon as you’re careless, which is usually accompanied by erroneous interpretations of many dog behaviors.

One of them is precisely the one that concerns us today: That a dog leans on its guardian. While it’s true that among dogs, it’s usually a sign of dominance to lie on top of each other or block another dog’s path with their body–which is often confused with leaning–, the relationship with humans is very different.

While dogs need to create a hierarchy between them, their relationship with humans has much more to do with learning than with instinct. Therefore, each dog will learn to relate to its guardian by adapting to situations, conditioning, and affection.

What do I do if my dog won’t stop leaning on me?

As you’ve seen, your dog leaning on you is proof that it has an affectionate bond with you. However, you may not want it to get on the sofa or bed, or you may want it to be more careful when doing so if it’s a large dog–so as not to throw you off balance. This, rather than rejecting the show of love, requires parallel learning to modify those behaviors.

You should also be careful if the displays of affection are accompanied by aggression towards other family members. This indicates a possessive behavior that should be corrected before an accident occurs.

A man carrying a golden retriever pup.

Know that the best option if you suspect a worrying behavior is to call a canine behavior specialist for guidance. Above all, remember that no behavior modification should include punishing the dog. Refusing affection is hurtful to everyone.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.