Why Do Dogs Lay on Your Feet?

By John Martin - October 23, 2020

dog laying on owner's feetIt’s quite a common scenario that you’re sitting in your chair or working at your desk and your pooch is laying on your feet below. Or, you’re reading in bed at night and your pet lies curled up against your legs. It’s not surprising that dogs love being near you at all times.

However, the question is, is it normal for your dog to lay on your feet at all times? Is this behavior healthy or is there a problem? Whatever may be the reason, having your pooch close to you when you’re winding down, especially on a cold night, can be cozy and comforting.

What Is the Reason for This Behavior?

The main cause for why dogs lay on their owners’ feet can be traced back to their “pack” instincts, which are exhibited even by domesticated dogs. Dogs in the wild usually live in packs and also sleep close together to stay warm and also protect both themselves, as well as their pack leader.

Dogs give humans the special spot on the couch or bed because they view them as their pack leader. This reverence is probably the reason why dogs lie at the foot of the bed instead of being sprawled across it.

According to a study, dogs perceive their owners as family and develop a child-like bond with them. Dogs have lived around humans for over 15,000 years and have gotten quite used to being around them and tend to choose humans as social partners.

Dogs depend on their owners for care and security and sometimes can develop a dysfunctional attachment that can result in being overly dependent on their owners and even develop separation anxiety when separated from their owners. And, so it is not very surprising that pooches love being around their owners and this also means sleeping very close to their owners, which means laying on their feet.

Related: Why Do Dogs Sit On Your Chest?

Also, puppies instinctively sleep at the tail of their mother or at a distance away from her to prevent being crushed by her as she rolls over while sleeping or gets up and this is a protective instinct that is learned by dogs.

There may be other reasons as to why dogs lay on your feet. Some dogs looking for a cool spot to sleep may find that sleeping on the floor by your feet is a great place. This could also be a sign of your dog being submissive.

Laying by your feet could indicate that your pet is afraid of something or needs reassurance. Dogs have a tendency to demonstrate a “secure base effect” which is quite similar to the parent-child bonding. They may stick to their owner’s side for security purposes and resist separation.

Dogs may also seek your presence for reassurance if they are feeling unsafe or distressed. By sleeping at your feet, they feel reassured and sticking by you can offer the feeling of being in a safe haven.

Your pooch may feel that you need to be protected and so he may lie at your feet. This can happen if there are other people or dogs around and your dog thinks that he is being protective.

Dogs who tend to protect their owners, guarding them as a precious belonging have a tendency to lean into their owner and if he gets tired, he may lie down and sleep on the feet of the owner.

Or, if your pet suffers from separation anxiety then laying at your feet may offer him reassurance. Dogs may also sit or lay on your feet to mark their territory for other dogs. So, as we stated earlier, there can be several reasons why dogs lay at your feet.

Should This Behavior Be Encouraged?

While your dog sitting or sleeping at your feet is not necessarily a bad habit or bad behavior, it can be quite tiresome to have your pet underfoot at all times. If you don’t really mind your dog hanging out on your feet at all times, then you can let him be. However, if you find the behavior annoying and undesirable, then here are a few tips to help you change your pooch’s behavior.

When your pet lays at your feet, don’t pet him because this will only encourage the behavior and he will continue this behavior. When your pet acts this way, don’t pay any attention to him. Encourage your dog to sit away from you by throwing treats away from you and when he goes to retrieve the treat, teach him to lie down in that place.

Praise him and give positive reinforcement when he lies down away from you. Show him the spot where you want your pet to sit or lie down and retrain your dog to obey the word(s), “lie down” or “lie”. When he follows your directions accurately, praise him and give him a treat. Keep doing this consistently and soon, your pet will learn to lie a distance from you and not at your feet.

Other Factors to Consider

There may be other reasons as to why your dog is laying at your feet. He may be feeling cold or he may be afraid of something such as lightning, another animal, etc. Give your pet love and reassurance to show your support.

If your pet is cold, then you could give him his own warm dog bed to lie on. Your pooch looks to you for support, love and to meet his physical requirements and by meeting all these, you are reinforcing your position in your pet’s life.

Your dog laying on your feet is purely instinctive and at times, your dog is in a protective mode. When your dog exhibits this behavior, there is nothing wrong with it unless you find it bothersome.

If you find the behavior annoying and clingy, then you could try out the training methods we have discussed in the article earlier. Otherwise, you can just let your dog be, love him, pet and cuddle him.