Why does my dog lean on me?



Do dogs lean on us out of dominance?

I saw a comment thread on reddit where everyone was saying how cute it is when their dogs lean on them for affection. Most people said they like when their dogs lean on them, and they don’t seem to think anything of it, good or bad.

Then there were a few people who jumped in preaching Cesar-Millan talk, saying that a dog that leans on you is trying to assert his dominance. And of course this created all kinds of drama as people became emotional and defensive about dominance theory.

Sometimes dogs do use their bodies to claim space or to get to an object first or to simply be in the lead. Call it dominance. Call it cute. Call it whatever you want.

But not a single person (except yours truly) brought up the fact that many dogs will lean on their owners for security. They will lean on their owners because they are shy, fearful or insecure. They are not trying to dominate their owners. They are trying to feel safe.

Nine times out of 10, when dogs lean on us they really are just seeking attention.

Ace will come up and slam his side into my legs, wiggling his body into a U shape and whipping his tail every which way. I don’t see this as dominance (although he does want my attention) or insecurity (although he does feel safer with me around). He’s just trying to connect with his best friend. And guess what? It works! I always bend down and give him a good butt scratch. “Good boy, Ace!”

But there are dog owners who don’t read into anything their dogs are telling them. Everything the dog does is cute or funny to them, even when the dog is trying to communicate something. To them, a dog that leans couldn’t possibly be trying to say anything other than “I love you.”

And then there are dog owners who assume every action from a dog always means the same thing. Growling always represents dominance, for example. Or a wagging tail always represents happiness. Or leaning always represents friendship. Hmm …

In order to understand our dogs, we need to pay more attention to what they are trying to communicate during each specific situation.

Dogs can certainly block us with their bodies in order to gain access to what they want, but they will also lean on us in order to feel safe.

Here are some examples of when an insecure dog might lean on his owner:

Shy dogs will often lean on their owners in order to feel safe

My former foster dog Cosmo is a leaner. He would lean on me when someone came to the door or when we attended an adoption event. This wasn’t because he was trying to dominate me. He was leaning on me in order to feel more secure.

Poor Cosmo was always stressed at adoption events. His ears would be back. He would avoid direct eye contact with people. He would pant with an open mouth. Usually one front paw would be raised and tucked up into his chest. Sometimes he trembled. Sometimes he even growled at people.

No wonder no one was very interested in him during these events!

I made sure not to give Cosmo affection when he leaned on me for security. Telling him “It’s OK. It’s OK. Good boy,” would only teach him to continue looking to me for security. In order to help him grow as an individual and build his confidence, I had to teach him not to depend on me so much.

So I would block Cosmo with my hip or my elbow (I was usually sitting on the floor with him). Or I would simply move away or up into a chair. He would usually shift back in order to lean on me again, and I would move away again as well. When he was relaxed and lying next to me without touching, I would pet him calmly.

Treats and favorite toys can also be very useful to help distract an insecure dog from everything going on. You don’t want to reward the dog for being unable to calm down, but you can use treats to get him to think about something else like sit or stay and build his confidence that way. Sometimes I would make Cosmo lie down and stay a foot away. Then he would get the treat as a reward for maintaining distance.

Some dogs climb into their owners’ laps in order to feel more secure

Some little dogs will climb into their owners’ laps in order to feel more secure. Big dogs try this as well, but it’s usually the smaller dogs that tremble in their owners’ arms because they fear something in the environment. It’s usually the owners of small dogs who unintentionally reinforce the dogs’ insecurities.

It’s easy to nurture a small dog’s fear by carrying him around and telling him “It’s OK. It’s OK, baby.” But this will not help the dog build any confidence.

Instead, the owner should place the dog on the ground and slowly help him understand that nothing bad happens in new situations. The owner should ignore the dog or move away when he frantically paws at her legs to get back up. She should give him a treat or pick him up only when he is calm or if the situation is truly unsafe for the little guy.

It’s also important not to completely overwhelm the dog. If he’s fearful of new people and dogs it might be a bit much to set him on the ground in the middle of a PetSmart or a street fair. But the owner should seek out less “scary” situations first and slowly challenge the dog more and more from there.

Some dogs will even become possessive of their owners, growling and biting from their owners’ arms if anyone gets too close. Of course they are going to be possessive. They don’t want to be removed from their “power source.”

But even these dogs are not barking out of dominance. They are barking up a storm because they are insecure. They are acting defensively.

So how can an owner fix this problem?

The same way as above. Seek out situations that are not too overwhelming, and keep the dog on the ground. Carrying him around will not help him build confidence.

Most little guys will immediately try to jump back into their owners’ arms – their place of empowerment.

The owner should not allow this, not unless the dog is truly in danger.

If the dog tries to jump back into his owner’s lap, she should block him with her arm. If he makes it into her lap, she should stand and push him off or set him on the ground. If he starts growling and barking at people from her feet, she should put his leash on him and tether him away from her. She should reward him when he’s calm and not barking or crying.

The goal is to help the dog grow as an individual by weaning him away from his dependence on his owner.

If your little dog is reactive to other dogs and people when on a leash, you may want to check out my post on dog leash aggression. It applies to dogs of all sizes.

Some dogs will hide between their owners’ legs at the dog park

When dogs hide between their owners’ legs at the dog park, many owners respond by petting the dog or talking to the dog.

Instead, it’s best to just step away. Keep moving. Don’t allow the dog to hide behind you or under you. Help the dog build his confidence by decreasing his dependence on you.

If the dog seems overly shy or fearful, just walk away from the other dogs, re-group and return again after a few seconds. You don’t want to overwhelm your dog too much by forcing him to interact right off the bat. Visit the dog park during quieter hours and don’t plan on staying for long. If he plays for a few seconds and then seems overwhelmed, just quit while you are ahead. At least he played for a few seconds. That is a success.

We always want our dogs to be social butterflies, but then we complain when they’re not calm! If you have a calm dog that doesn’t want to socialize all the time, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Some dogs appreciate socializing in smaller groups just like some people like to socialize in smaller groups. Some dogs and some people get tired of socializing sooner than others. Heck, I’m one of the most introverted people I know! I can certainly relate to all those introverted dogs out there.

What have you noticed about your dog when he leans on you? Is he usually seeking attention? Power? Security? Probably all of the above, depending on the situation.

Lindsay Stordahl is the blogger behind ThatMutt.com. Follower her on Twitter and .

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  1. Kari on November 11, 2011

    As a companion to large-breed dogs, I have found they usually lean on us because they want something from us. Usually it is attention, but sometimes it is because they want to go outside, or they think it’s dinnertime, or they drank all their water. Our Saint Bernard will lean and lean and lean until she gets what she wants. Our other dog will start with the lean, but will eventually progress to “talking” at us if we don’t get the hint.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on November 11, 2011

      Hey Kari! That’s what I notice with most large breeds, too! Thanks for reading and commenting. Give your dogs hugs from me!

  2. Christina on November 11, 2011

    As usual, great post. A comment about the “Cesar-Millan types”: In general, I really like Cesar and think that he’s got a pretty amazing sense of what’s going on with dogs. But what I find disappointing is that a lot of people seem to only pick up on one aspect of his approach, and that is to think that everything is dominance, when Cesar himself frequently discusses insecurity, attention-seeking, fearfulness, etc. In fact, your post is much more “Cesar”-like than I think most of the “Cesar-followers” would acknowledge.

    As for leaning, I know that Tarski leans in two very distinct situations, when he’s fearful/insecure (and then I step away and don’t let him lean) and when, as far as I can tell, he really is expressing some kind of affection: When he’s very groggy (usually in the morning when we let him out of his crate), he stumbles out of his sleep, and pushes his head into me or my husband, and just stands there, leaning his head and eventually his body as he yawns and stretches… And if we’re both there to let him out, he leans his head into one of us and his body into the other (as best he can)! It really is disgustingly cute…

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on November 11, 2011

      Oh I am a fan of Cesar, don’t get me wrong! Cosmo would also lean on me for affection and for the most part I could tell the difference between when he was seeking affection and when he was seeking security. He would ask for affection if I was sitting on the floor at home or sitting on the couch.

  3. Elizabeth on November 11, 2011

    Belle leans for affection. She loves to be petted and rubbed and lean on us. But that is the only time she does. I agree that little dogs are the most fearful with the most problems because people think it’s cute and not realizing that if it was a larger dog they would treat it differently. Thanks for always making sure that I think about my interactions with my dogs and theirs and my wellfare! :-)

  4. Jana Rade on November 11, 2011

    Jasmine leans for one reason and one reason only: to get people under her thumb. She will lean, wrap her body around the person, even push her head into their bodies. It’s her way asking for pets and attention, but I truly believe it’s part of her world domination program. It makes people melt and she can get then under her thumb one at the time. And it does work!

    She also loves to walk in between people’s legs and stop. “Ok, you can rub my butt now.” This is particularly funny if she picks a short person.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on November 12, 2011

      Yeah, even if the dog is asking for attention, it is still a way to get what the dog wants. It’s a way to control the human :)

  5. Jen S on November 12, 2011

    I love this post – I had heard the same thing from Cesar Millan and while I like a lot of what he says, I don’t buy the “wagging = happiness, growling = dominance….” and other blanket rules like that.

    Panzer leans on me when I’m sitting at my computer and he sits on or next to my foot and puts his head on my foot. This isn’t dominance in any way in my book! He also does it when he wants a good butt scratch just like ol’ Ace! He does this also when I’m setting up to groom him, and I make him face his fears of the dreaded scissors, comb, brush, whatever… and sit down and take the grooming. :)

    He also stands on his back legs and puts his front legs on my knees, wagging incessantly. According to Millan this is dominance behavior by standing on his back legs. While I prefer him not doing this, I know it’s not dominance, it’s excitement because his family is home, or playing, or just saying “Puppy!” in the “let’s play” voice.

    I appreciated your notes about reassuring an insecure dog. This is so easy to do and so important not to do. I do my best to be a point of safety without reassuring. A calm presence as I help him face his fears.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on November 12, 2011

      From what I can tell, Cesar Millan knows what he is talking about. He is able to interpret when a wagging tail means friendliness and when a wagging tail means aggression, for example. I don’t think he has blanket rules. The “Cesar-Millan talk” I was referring to in this post was directed towards his many fans who don’t quite understand dog behavior and are obsessed with dominance vs. submission. They don’t quite get it.

      One problem is that we tend to see dominance as a bad thing. But like Jana said in her comment, even an attention-seeking behavior really is a dominant behavior. On a basic level, a dog is showing dominance when he leans on a person in order to seek attention or food or whatever. I do not allow dogs to jump up on me or to put their front paws on me, mostly because I see it as rude. I am not so concerned about dominance vs. submission. I just don’t want a big dog jumping on me and I set the same standards for small dogs as I do little dogs.

      I think each owner just has to make sure she is setting rules for her dog according to her own standards. Most of us think it’s cute if our dogs come up and seek attention. Heck, that’s why we love dogs so much! Usually I give in and give Ace a head scratch whenever he seeks attention. But sometimes when I’m busy I make sure to ignore him and then he knows to go and find something else to do.

  6. Mel on November 13, 2011

    My rescue schnauzer has begun leaning against our legs when we pet him, and I see it as a trust thing. It’s taken many months for him to relax and let down his guard, and while I don’t necessary believe in “alpha” relationships, I feel like he sees us as people who will protect him and it doesn’t need to be the other way around, and so when he leans against us, it seems like he’s relaxing.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on November 13, 2011

      He sounds a lot like Cosmo. I’m glad he’s beginning to feel safe and comfortable with you guys.

  7. Kerry on November 15, 2011

    I am a huge fan of Cesar, but I agree, all my dogs love leaning on me. As I pet their back area and massage their back, they lean in even more. Its comforting for them so I believe they do it when in need of comforting.

    Though I am only speaking on behalf of my own dogs, it would be interesting to see more of it on video to see if the body language is different than what I see everyday from my dogs.

  8. Lindsay Stordahl Author on November 15, 2011

    That would be interesting! I find that most people are not very good at interpreting dog behavior!

    • Kerry on November 15, 2011

      Lindsay,
      You are absolutely right. Many dog owners, even long time dog owners fail at recognizing dog behavior.

      It is important to understand dog behavior or body language before even training them. Every dog is a different individual and will have a different response to just about everything.

      I’ve spend most of today looking into this theory ‘dog leaning.’ I may just have to run this test myself and post a Youtube video some day.

  9. Tara @ Dog Vitamin Rep on November 15, 2011

    We have 1 Americana Pitbull Terrier( Scout) and 1 Pomeranian (Duke)and both come to my husband and myself for security. Both dogs are 6 years old and we have never had any issues from either of them.

    Many people feel like the Pitbull breed is one that is displays dominance, yet our baby boy is sweet, loving and respectful of our wishes. I could not ask for a better behaved dog.

    When we are out in publix, like a park the Pom is the one who hides under our feet and seems to be scared, yet our APBT is all about running and playing with the fellow dogs.

    Scout does not realized he is 90LBS and often climbs into mommy’s lap for love and affection. When we have storms, he is the 1st one right on moms lap. It is for security and he knows mommy makes him feel better in some way.

  10. Lindsay Stordahl Author on November 16, 2011

    Thanks for your input!

  11. Heidi P on November 18, 2011

    I’ve often wondered why our Lab leans her butt up against my thigh when I’m at the computer (we have a “knee chair”). She’s not the cuddly type but still expects to be the center of attention. I usually just reach down and tickle her belly. Other than that, she’s about as cuddly as an alligator. She doesn’t appreciate those goo-goo showers of hugs and kisses, which is a shame because she’s just so dang cute. Well, she is an “only child” so being the center of attention is all she’s ever known. Quite often I feel she takes us for granted.

    • Melissa Victoria on October 4, 2012

      Lindsey, thank you for this interesting post. As my puppy grows and matures, she displays different and new behaviors that I spend way too much time analyzing to figure out. She is very sensitive to any amount of negativity, even a hard look. If i talk on the phone with my family (loudly, cuban stereotype) she hides in her crate. Last night she followed me around the dog park over engaging with the dogs. I didnt discourage it, but its a new behavior. Instead I practiced recall with all those distractions since she seemed to be focused on me, which is rare; Usually she ignores me. I call her cat-dog because she is aloof and doesn’t like cuddling or head petting. Occasionally she will lay near me but get up and leave if I stroke her yet she has separation anxiety and monitors me closely when I am petting a new (friendly) dog. She does this cat thing where she rubs against your legs and as soon as you go to pet her she wanders off which confuses me because it seems like an attention seeking behavior but as soon as you respond she is off.
      I believe she takes everything for granted!

      • Lindsay Stordahl Author on October 4, 2012

        Well she is an interesting one, isn’t she? :) Ace is very attached to me and whines if I leave him behind when we are in public. However, at home, he could pretty much care less about me. He doesn’t care if I come and go. He usually doesn’t follow me around.

  12. Lindsay Stordahl Author on November 19, 2011

    I’m sure she does take you for granted! :) My dog probably doesn’t like hugs or kisses or cuddling, either. But he tolerates it!

  13. Alexis C. on May 3, 2012

    My fiance and I just brought a new puppy home a couple of days ago. It was one of those ‘free puppies’ on the side of the road signs. We brought him home, he slept with us that night. But ever since we brought him home, he has been acting strange. I have had a puppy at his age before when I brought him but it was nothing like this. Our new puppy, Bear, follows us EVERYWHERE! To the shower, bathroom, from room to room, outside, even into the car. When we put him on his leash outside and leave him he barks and yelps continuously, which is a major problem because we have roommates. He is always whining and making groaning noises even when we are with him. And I can’t seem to interest him in any toys. I’m really confused and worried. What’s wrong?

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on May 3, 2012

      He sounds insecure. Make sure that, although you want to give him affection all the time, you also consciously create separation every day. That means shut the door and don’t allow him to follow you into the bathroom. Put him in a kennel at night or at least in another room. Leave him alone for a few minutes here and there, etc. Don’t pick him up every time you are on the couch. Make him sit on the floor.

  14. Tom on June 5, 2012

    I have a rodisan ridgeback (shes still just a pup about 1 year) and I noticed something she does everytime I get home from work. She first goes crazy because she is so excited when i let her out of the cage (normal of couse) and I feed her right away and let her out. The thing that she does that i think is kind of odd is when i sit down to take off my work boots she will keep going under my legs to rub her back on me. It is kinda funny but I was wondering if any of you dog experts out there know if this is because of her breed being that she has a strip of hair on her back that grows the opposite direction. Anyways just curoius I have never had a dog before and I got this one because my friend could not keep it.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on June 5, 2012

      I’ve known quite a few more submissive dogs that will do this when they are excited. I had a golden that would kind of weave through my legs when she was happy to see me and she would also lean on me. I’m interested in what others think.

      • Jan on April 4, 2013

        I dogsit regularly for a mixed breed that often does the same thing. He is very submissive and very friendly at the same time. He will rub against me several times when I first come into the house, and he is very insecure since he was abandoned prior to the people who have him now and the family is spending a lot of time out of state with a grandmother who is not in good health.. I think this has taken a toll on Mac and that he might be worried that he’s going to be left alone again.

  15. Bobby Büchi on July 29, 2012

    I found this website while trying to come to terms with euthanazing my wonder German Shepherd last month. She had cancer, was in a lot of pain, and too old to handle any operation. When the vet lady walked into the house I am sure Lady knew what was coming, because she dragged herself up and staggered to the opposite side of the house. I fetched her, and held her, and she leaned her head on my shoulder while she was being injected and it just tore me apart. I am battling to understand why she leaned on my like that, was it submission, fear, asking me not to do it? Has anyone had a similar experience or can anyone try to explain?

    • elpico on September 7, 2012

      It sounds to me as though Lady wanted to be close to you. Dogs don’t think in words and some things can’t be named. Maybe she wanted to be comforted, or maybe she wanted to comfort you. The only thing that makes sense is love. She loved you to the end.

    • Melissa Victoria on October 4, 2012

      I agree. Before my dog had her CT scan, she leaned into my body and tried to fuse her body with mine which is totally opposite to her behavior. Internally I was on the edge of an anxiety attack even though outwardly I looked calm. They can sense our emotions and respond. She probably knew you were sad and wanted to comfort you. I agree, it was compassion for you.

      I’m sorry for your loss.

  16. Rachelle on September 25, 2012

    Hello
    I have 3 dogs here. One 5 year old male Border Collie mix, and a 1 1/2 year old female Rotweiller mix, and a 6 month old female lab mix.
    My female Rottie mix often leans on me. At first I thought it was dominance because when we have company over, she will often lean against my legs and place herself between me and guests or other animals.
    She’s not an aggressive dog and very mild tempered well behaved but I feel like she’s claiming me somehow. (I usually ignore her when she does this)

    A few days ago I took in a 10 month old male chow/husky as a favor to a family member to find him a home and she’s been leaning more than ever. (understandable)
    Today, I let all the dogs run free on my 57 acres.
    The others took off running and playing while she stayed behind and leaned against my legs.
    Although she often leans on me, this was out of character. I looked down, pet her and she ran off to join the others. Almost as though she was waiting for verification or something.
    She’s not showing signs of insecurity and I don’t understand why she did this.
    If anyone has any insight I’d greatly appreciate it.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on September 25, 2012

      Lots of dogs do this to feel more secure. She may be a little unsure because the new dog is around.

  17. Potty Pip on September 29, 2012

    Hi, I found your article very interesting. I was initially looking for a reason as to why my dog will come and stick his head in between my legs, under my arm and under my blanket if I have one on my knee. I have a feeling it is a security and trust thing but was wondering if you could tell me the psychological dog meaning. He usually does it when I am sat down. His ears are back, completely relaxed; no dominance whatsoever.

    Thank you

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on September 29, 2012

      I don’t know. Maybe he just wants affection.

    • Maggie on November 9, 2012

      Our aussie does that, but only to us. He loves people and will lean on them to get pets, but only with us does he shove his head under. Think about it, they are totally at your mercy in that position. I believe it’s his way of saying, I love you and I trust you, so pet me!

  18. Giovanni on October 12, 2012

    I have two female shepherd mixes. Both are rescues. Our first girl Coyote was beaten badly, and has become extremely attached to me. She is well socialized but insecure even now. When we got Bear she seemed a little upset about it but they have quickly become friends. Problem is Bear is terrified of everything, and when I call Bear or try to pet her Coyote pushes her way in between. I know it is insecurity but I am not sure how to fix it. I have also noticed that Coyote will take toys I give to Bear. Bear needs worked with badly, but Coyote won’t stay out of the way. If i separate Coyote from me while i work with bear she spends the most of the day pouting, curled up in a ball. Any Ideas?

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on November 11, 2012

      Work on Coyote’s obedience skills so that you can put her in a down/stay position and she will stay there with distractions for up to a half-hour, even when you are petting Bear or working with Bear. In the meantime, you can actually tether Coyote to a chair while you work with Bear. Ignore Coyote if she cries or whines. Don’t even look at her. Then, when she’s quiet, go over and pet her or invite her back to you and Bear.

      If Coyote chooses to pout later on, no big deal. Just ignore it, or if you want, take both dogs out for a walk. If you do something they enjoy, I’m sure Coyote will instantly forget about the pouting.

  19. Dessie on October 14, 2012

    I have a 10-11 month old Border Collie/Boxer mix (predominantly BC, she only really got the “boxing” trait from the Boxer side. Other than that she’s all BC!) She is definitely trying me when it comes to training her. She has “sit” and “lay down” very good but a lot of times when I tell her to sit she does so but leans her whole body against my shins and sits on my feet and looks up with me. A lot of the time she’s got her tongue hanging out the side of her mouth with little excited pants. And then sometimes she just looks up at me with those “puppy dog eyes”, esp. when she knows she’s done something to irritate me. I’ve been wondering what all this means. Sometimes she’ll come over and lean her head on my lap but I’ve picked up on her hints then that she wants to play or wants attention. But the leaning against me and sitting on my feet when I tell her to sit is perplexing me.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on November 11, 2012

      I’ve known quite a few dogs that do that sit/leaning thing during obedience classes. It really seems to be a comfort thing. I’ve also seen it with more herding breeds than other dogs, actually. Is the behavior annoying to you? If it is, just teach her that sit means sit directly at your side. So, if she sits on you or leaning on you, physically push her into a sit where you want her and reward. It will take lots of practice and consistency.

  20. Rebecca on October 20, 2012

    I have a 4 year old rescue Catahoula/ACD mix that does the same thing. When he gets excited or wants attention, he rubs against the person’s legs like a cat. He doesn’t stop even when the person pets him, he just keeps weaving back and forth rubbing on the person’s legs. I believe it is attention seeking and feels good, not that he is trying to take my space or other aggressively dominant action. He has had a rough background and occasionally gets anxious but usually this behavior comes out when he is excited, not anxious. I don’t believe it is comfort seeking at all. He has some comfort seeking behaviors, but usually those just involve being close to me, not even touching but laying at my feet usually. I do want to teach him not to lean, not because it bothers me, but because we are expecting a new addition to our family and I want to start teaching him early so he doesn’t try to rub against our baby or later our small child and knock them over. I have a 2 year old niece though and we have never seen him even try it with her. Any suggestions? :)

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on November 11, 2012

      Sometimes dogs are really gentle around small kids and won’t push them over, so hopefully your dog will have that instinct, too.

      One thing you can do is to make sure never to give your dog attention when she leans on you. Ask others to do the same. Either get up and move away or tell her to go lie down and stay on a dog bed. Usually dogs will learn to stop a behavior if they are not rewarded for it. It will take time and consistency, of course, which is not easy!

  21. peta on November 1, 2012

    Other peoples dogs (who I don’t know) have leant on me! Just walked up and rested their hips on my feet while I was talking or just sat next to me on the beach and then put their weight to one side to lean on me!
    I like to think they just feel comfortable around me..!

  22. Millie on November 13, 2012

    I have two labs 1 year old they both lean on me and rub their heads and bodies on me. Sometimes they lift a paw and put it on my leg like theyre giving me a hug and they both do this strange bow everytime they see me. Literally everytime, they cant need to stretch that much can they? The downward dog. They lick me non stop and follow me all through the house more so than anyone else. They wait outside my door everymorning and try to get in my lap or nudge the other out of the way when i sit down. They dont fight but is this normal? The girl loves to lick me then lay on my feet or sleep against me. Is this territorial?

  23. Lindsay Stordahl Author on November 14, 2012

    Sounds like the are just really attached to you. They want to be near you, either for affection or security or both. The bow is usually a playful greeting.

    None of this is a problem unless they are bothering you or if they have issues when separated from you.

  24. John on December 16, 2012

    I picked up my dog from the pound. After listening to Cesar Milan types and his show I thought my dog putting his paw on my leg was dominance related. So I put my hand on his paw, at which time a staring contest ensued until the dog gave up. But 2 minutes later he did it again. Well I was going to be consistent and dominant, so I repeated. And so it went for two hours, until he pissed the floor. Apparently his former owner trained him to sit and put one paw on her lap when he needed a walk. :)

  25. Ben on December 30, 2012

    We used to have a greyhound and she would lean on us when new ppl were invited to the house.

    I was reading an article about greyhounds today which mentioned this was a particular tendency of theirs.

    Your article was interesting; I was wondering if one should always discourage the leaning in these cases – we normally reacted by absentmindedly fondling her ears – wasn’t it better that she was with us albeit leaning, than hiding in bed?

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on January 9, 2013

      I think, for some dogs, having contact from their owners gives them reassurance.

  26. Roberta Winter on January 9, 2013

    We adopted a pitbull over 3 years ago and do not know anything about her background other than that she was found on the street. With that said, she has always been an attention hoarder. It never matters how much or how little attention you give her, she always wants more. One action that stands out is that she constantly wants to put her bum on you. She wants to sit her bum directly on your feet if you are sitting or standing, she will climb into your lap if you are sitting on the floor but climbs “out” only to leave her rear-end in your lap, she does not do a lot of face time and prefers to have her butt in your direction instead.

    Should we reward only the face time and ignore all of the times she wants to put her bum on/near you?

    Last, if you give an inch she will take a mile. If I give her some snuggle time when we get up in the morning, start our morning routine, then head off to work, then give her some more lovings in the afternoon, she will still chew something the next day. (chewing is rare but it seems to happen when I try to give more loving than less.) Or if we go for a long walk with other friends and their dogs she will still be under your feet for the rest of the day. It just feels as though she will crawl into your skin if she could, she just cannot get enough attention.

    We have an infant at home who is crawling and standing, and our dog does the same thing: butt is all up in the baby’s business or tries to sit on her. (it should go without saying that we do not leave the dog alone with the baby.) And it also happens with guests and we are constantly trying to get her to stop because the attention is not always wanted; or having her bum all over you.

    Sorry for the novel, I just came across your blog and enjoyed reading this entry! I have mentioned this to the vet in the past but they have no response or suggestions. Any help would be very appreciated!

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on January 9, 2013

      It sounds like this contact makes her feel more secure. With her back to you, and touching you, she feels safe.

  27. sally on January 31, 2013

    Our mastiff is leaning on us more as he gets older, but im pretty sure its just because it makes it easier to stand with his arthritis. He also sits on our feet when we’re outside, but we have worked out that its only when its cold, and our feet keep his backside warm!

  28. Jackie on February 20, 2013

    My dog usually leans on me when im standing up doing the dishes or when shes eating, she will grab some food in her mouth then back up into my legs { so her body is up against mine} its as if she needs to know that im still there, and that im not going anywhere while shes busy eating her dog chow thats just my opinion on the subject. I think it all depends on your dogs personality

  29. Rod on June 5, 2013

    This was a very good article. My dog is a “leaner” and I agree it is very situational. Most times he leans because he wants a good butt scratch or he is telling me that it is time to PLAY!!! In the morning he sits on my chest while I am sleeping which means, “Dude, get your lazy ass up because I really have to pee.”

    I generally tolerate his leaning because I know he is trying to tell me something and has limited means of doing so. I never have had the sense of domination as he knows his place.

    I guess I agree with the author’s point that you just can’t take a behavior and say it means one thing. Sometimes my dog licks me for a bonding experience and sometimes it is because I have BBQ sauce on my fingers!

  30. Merlin's mom on July 18, 2013

    My 6-month old GSD puppy Merlin also does this leaning thing. If I’m sitting on a couch reading or watching TV he’ll come right up and sit leaning into me and sometimes put his head on my lap. His ears are usually folded all the way back and the tip of his tail will be twitching. I sometimes pet him sometimes ignore him…he does that for a little while and will go back to whatever he was doing. He does this mostly with me, sometimes with my husband but never with my 7-yr old son. I have noticed something weird, he is totally fine with me handling him, bathing, grooming etc, but he gets very anxious when I’m sitting on the floor and kinda pull him down for a cuddle. He immediately starts resisting, becomes hyper and sometimes puts his teeth on me, though he never bites, it more like trying to push me away. Is this normal? I have been patient with him on this and am trying to get him to be comfortable, but he is not showing any change. I dont want him to behave like this if I take him to the vet since he’s getting really big now. How can I get him to stop this behaviour. I spoke to a few professional trainers and was told he is dominant although his body language the rest of the time is anything but dominant….ears back, head down when approaching, does not block way or try to push his way thru the door first, listens to commands, gets up and moves out of the way when I approach. I’m pretty confused.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on July 18, 2013

      He doesn’t sound dominant to me either. I think you’re doing the right thing by slowly pushing his comfort level when sitting on the floor and handling him. Maybe just try this for a few minutes each day. He may be showing slow progress that you don’t even realize.

      If necessary, don’t hesitate to consult with a different trainer who can come observe him.

      • Merlin's mom on July 19, 2013

        Thanks, Lindsay. I’ll keep working with him, hopefully he’ll make some headway :). I find your blog very hands-on in terms of you using examples from your life with your dog. Keep it up!

  31. Corinne on July 31, 2013

    I have a 9 mo old male Pitt/rottweiler mix that is a heavy leaner. At first I thought he was trying to establish dominance, because we also have an 8year old female Pitt that we’ve had since she was born. After reading this I’m not so sure. He’s bigger than our girl now & getting bigger. He leans on everyone who pets him & is knocking people off balance. It’s not an aggressive lean, people will reach to pet him, & he slowly starts to lean, then before you know it all his weight is against you, so I stop petting & ignore him until his weights is off me, then I’ll give him attention again, & within 45 seconds he’s on me again, with the exception of my 2yr old daughter, he doesn’t lean on her, so that shows me that he knows not to do it to her. He’s a good dog, any other suggestions on how to stop him from knocking company over.? He gets when they tell him to, but he wouldn’t have to “get” if he didn’t lean on so many people.

  32. Carol on September 6, 2013

    My Jack Russell literally stands up on his back legs and slams the bedroom door shut when i am trying to get ready to go to work in the morning. what does that mean?

  33. Lee on December 29, 2013

    This article is great. Thanks very much.

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