Have you ever noticed how your dog likes to snooze by your feet? What’s that all about? Is it an instinct, or do they just like the smell of your feet (ew!)?
Today we’re going to unpack the mystery of why dogs sleep at your feet and whether this behavior can potentially be problematic.
Why Do Dogs Sleep At Your Feet
Unless your canine belongs to one of the loner breeds, understand that most dogs want company almost all the time.
According to a study by specialists at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, dogs consider their owners as family and form a childlike attachment to them. Hence, you’ll often spot a dog owner with their pup sitting or side-sleeping near their feet.
This is typical dog behavior, and it goes waaaay back. Humans and domesticated dogs have nurtured this close bond for at least 25,000 years! Over this long period, dogs have become comfortable in our company and prefer socializing with us to their own species.
Precisely these pack instincts are the primary reason for the sleeping habit in question. Raised in the wilderness, they gather in packs and slumber close together to defend themselves and their leader and even keep warm. It’s no different for domesticated dogs.
These impulses are also influenced by the leader typically having a better resting position, which is why dogs lie at your feet or sleep at the foot of your bed. We guess you can say that you are considered the pack leader!
What Does It Mean When Dogs Lay on Your Feet
Sometimes, this behavior has a more straightforward explanation, from craving physical attention to signs of fear. Not everything dogs do is related to their past and domestication process—sometimes, your pooch just wants some cuddles! Let us see what some of the other reasons might be:
1. Protecting you and seeking protection
If there’s one thing you have to understand about dogs, it’s that they’re possessive. Just like we see our dogs as our own, they deem the same ownership over us. Because you are such a unique pack leader for your dog, it may frequently feel obligated to mark its territory and keep other canines at bay by assuming its protective role.
That’s why when you’re sitting out in public, your dog is likely to sit near you, if not directly on your feet.
2. Proximity to the doors/sources of potential threat
Research discovered that when couples would go out and sit down someplace, males were more likely to sit facing toward the entrance so they could spot potential danger first and therefore have enough time to protect their partner.
Similarly, dogs will sleep on their owners’ feet, facing the door, to protect against potential threats.
3. Keeping it cool
Most dogs have enough body heat and hair to keep them warm on cold nights, so they choose your feet because it’s the coolest spot for them. It’s not in your face, but it’s just close enough so that they’re aware of the surroundings.
4. Keeping tabs on you
Over time, dogs exhibit a secure base effect akin to parent-child attachment, which is already self-explanatory.
Knowing that they are always aware of their owner’s position might be reassuring for them—if you decide to get up and go somewhere else, they’ll be the first to know. This practice is also linked to their desire to feel protected, as well as the urge to protect you.
5. Your dog loves you a lot
Many dog owners get their pets for emotional support. Dogs are incredibly loving, caring, and protective creatures, which can make any human feel better and safer.
Just like you’re comforted by a dog’s love, the pup might want to be near you for the same reason when they experience distress. Most of the time, that’s expressed with a lick, nuzzle, or their famous enthusiastic jumps. And, sometimes, laying on your feet is enough physical touch for them.
So, if the dog sleeps on your feet, just remember that it’s in their nature and part of showing affection and ensuring your safety.
Should You Encourage This Behavior
Normally, this isn’t a big deal because it’s typical for dogs to want to be close to you most of the time. But it can go downhill quickly if your dog becomes aggressive when other people approach. The pup can also develop separation anxiety or dysfunctional attachment.
So how do you prevent this behavior if you are afraid of repercussions or simply don’t enjoy your dog’s affectionate drooling at night?
First, you must make every effort not to reward or provide positive reinforcement when your pet engages in these behaviors, particularly if it involves some sort of aggression.
Why? Because our praise effectively tells dogs that we enjoy what they are doing. Instead, avoid petting them, urge them to move to their bed, and give them a treat there.
Over time, your dog will associate its bed with food and might stop coming to yours. The bed doesn’t have to be very far away—you can still keep your pup sleeping close to you without worrying about behavioral problems.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why does my dog sleep at my feet instead of next to me?
Besides being pack animals by nature, dogs want to be close to you for multiple reasons; however, it’s usually a sign of assuming the best position to protect you if necessary.
Why does my dog sit on my feet?
It’s one of many ways a dog expresses loyalty. Consider your dog sitting on your feet the canine equivalent of a hug.
So, why do dogs sleep at your feet?
Is it because they consider you their pack leader? Is it because they want to protect you and themselves? Or is it because they love you?
It’s all of the above!
This might be endearing at first, but if your dog becomes overly attached and barks at other people approaching you, it can be a problem. That said, you need to train it to be more tolerant and friendly to other animals and people.