Why Do Dogs Lay At Your Feet?

Dog behavior and human behavior have evolved together since the Late Stone Age. Our ancestors worked together with wolves. Humans offered wolves food scraps and in return, these wolves offered our Stone Age ancestors protection. 

Today, one of the true pleasures of owning a dog is having them lay at your feet. This can make us feel protected and loved by our pets. Yet you may have wondered, why do dogs lay at your feet? There are several reasons why you may find your dog sleeping at your feet, night after night.

What Does It Mean When A Dog Sits On Your Feet?

Showing Affection

One obvious reason why your faithful pooch sleeps at your feet is that they are simply showing you some love. They want to be close to you, and they show their affection for you by sitting at your feet or lying on your feet. 

Seems pretty straightforward to us!

So what other reasons are there why dogs sleep at our feet?

Comfort and Warmth

Dogs are pretty smart when it comes to seeking out the warmest and most comfortable spots in the home. Sitting on your feet means that your dog can obtain warmth from your legs.

Knowing that their pack leader is right there gives your dogs psychological comfort too. They can rest easy knowing that their master is just a whisker away.

Dominance

You may wonder, why is my dog sitting at my feet?

Some dog trainers assert that your dog is trying to dominate you. If this behavior comes with aggression, then you need to put a stop to it right away and take your dog to dog school for some behavioral training.

This dominance may also show itself at walk time when your dog puts its foot on yours. This is not ok. Your dog must be taught to sit politely for their leash to be clipped on at walk times. 

However, if you feel that dominance is not what your dog is trying to communicate to you, then you should consider the possibility that your dog is anxious.

Anxiety

You are everything to your dog. You provide them with food, shelter, love, and enrichment (play and exercise).

Therefore, if anything ever happened to you, your clever dog knows that all of these things may come to an abrupt end. 

Ok, well whilst they may not actually think this, they understand it on a subconscious level.

So it makes sense for your dog to sit on your feet or to lie on your feet.

It is like they are making sure that you are not going anywhere, and that they are safe.

If your dog’s anxiety is becoming overwhelming for you both, it may be time to take them to your vet to discuss the issue.

dog lay at your feet

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Conditioning

Conditioning is a psychological term we associate with Russian scientist, Ivan Pavlov. You may have heard of his experiment on what he termed ‘Classical Conditioning’. History remembers this experiment as ‘Pavlov’s Dogs’. 

Pavlov was able to demonstrate that if he rang a bell at the same time that he fed his dogs, then eventually they would salivate in anticipation of food, even if the food was not given.

Your dog lying at your feet may be another example of classical conditioning. If you pat your dog when they are there, or if you give them a sneaky tidbit of your food, then they have become conditioned to understand that lying at your feet equals pleasurable rewards!

Safety For You Both

According to modern scientists, during the Stone Ages, some wolves were less fearful of humans than others. 

These wolves would hang around human settlements, perhaps curious, but more so because they could smell the meat of animals that the Stone Age hunters had killed and taken back to camp. Our ancestors would have tossed aside scraps from the kill, and the wolves would have scavenged these scraps. 

Our ancestors must have realized that having the wolves around the settlement had its advantages because they could offer some protection by their presence, and by howling if danger approached. This was especially useful at night when the wolves were awake and the humans slept.

Fast-forward to today, and it makes sense that your dog lies on your feet. They want to protect you if danger approaches! This is the ancient wolf part of their brain kicking in.

Your Dog and Communication

Dog experts believe that dogs have evolved trying to understand us. They also believe that dogs are far better at understanding us than we are at understanding them.

These experts also believe that your dog’s number 1 priority in life is to try and figure out what you want them to do. 

So if your dog is lying or sitting on your feet, perhaps they think that this is something that you want.

If this behavior really bothers you, then you need to kindly and patiently tell them that this is not ok with you. Your dog will need to be taught to go to its bed or somewhere else close by instead. Generally speaking, as long as your dog can see you they are happy.

This is why it is unkind to leave your dog outside on its own all day. Your dog is a pack animal and therefore they are hard-wired to want to be with you, their pack leader.

In Summary

Why do dogs sleep at our feet? 

Dogs lie on our feet for many reasons – to show us how much they love us, to seek warmth and comfort from us, and to both give and receive security. 

Dogs may stand on our feet to tell us that they are anxious, in which case a trip to the vet may be in order to discuss how to manage the situation.

In some cases, your dog may be showing dominance, especially if you are trying to take them for a walk. If they show any aggression to you or others, training with a qualified behavioral specialist is a must.

No matter the reason why your dog lies or sits at your feet, your dog is trying to communicate with you. 

Are you listening? Try to understand them as well as they try to understand you!

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