Nothing is cozier than that familiar feeling of your floof snuggling up to your feet and keeping your toes warm. It’s an everyday “aw” moment that automatically makes you smile and look at your pet with renewed surges of closeness and joy.
But why do they love to sleep by their owner’s feet anyway? Human feet don’t have the best reputation for cleanliness or smell, so why would Fido choose to cuddle up there instead of sleeping next to your head, for example?
Let’s take a closer look at why your dog sleeps at your feet and whether dog owners should do anything about it.
- 1 Why Does My Dog Sleep at My Feet? 7 Possible Reasons
- 2 Should I Let My Dog Sleep at My Feet?
- 3 How to Stop My Dog from Sleeping at My Feet
- 4 Final Thoughts | Why Your Dog Sleeps at Your Feet
Why Does My Dog Sleep at My Feet? 7 Possible Reasons
There are more reasons than you’d think about why your dog would choose your toes as their favorite resting spot. Here are 7 of the main reasons why your dog lays at your feet when sleeping.
1. Pack Animals Instinct
Even if your home is a single-dog household, there’s no denying the strong pack instinct pulsing through your doggo’s veins. They’ll still want to behave as though they’re part of a pack, and without other dogs around, they’ll substitute you and your family members in as members of their pack.
To your dog, you’re more than likely their alpha or leader of the pack, and as such, they’ll want to stay close to you in a subordinate position during times of rest. But this by no means implies we should assert dominance as the pack leader to enforce their subordination, according to recent studies.
The loving relationship between a pup and their owner is something magical that doesn’t require a show of dominance to attain, as some outdated beliefs ascertain.
Image by Ryan Stone from Unsplash
2. They’re Seeking Warmth
Yes, it could be that simple! Your pupper might just be feeling a little chilly, and by snuggling up to you to get close to your body heat, they’re trying to warm themselves up a bit. Their owners’ feet might not provide as much surface area as your stomach, but hey, any port in a storm as far as your dog is concerned.
Chances are that this is the reason for those foot snuggles if they really try to get as close as possible and curl up in a tight ball. They’ll probably be a little restless and move about while trying to find the maximum skin contact they can get.
This is more common with smaller dog breeds like shih tzus, who tend to have a tougher time when it comes to maintaining their body heat in the cold. If you notice your doggo is struggling to stay warm, it might be a good idea to invest in a warm shirt or a heating pad on a low setting they can lie on.
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3. They Simply Love You
As pet owners know, your puppers and floofs love to let you know how they feel about you. They’ll nuzzle, lick, and puppy-kiss their way into your heart with wagging tails to show their deep affection for you.
But if these options aren’t currently available, they may settle for sleeping at your feet for some intimate contact as a way of showing how close they want to be to you. If they are in a loving mood, don’t be surprised if these adoring sleeping sessions at the foot of your bed are accompanied by licks on the feet or legs and a happy tail wag or contented sigh.
4. They’re Marking Territory
Not all marking comes with the dreaded lifting of the leg. You see your dog as something that belongs to you, and chances are your dog feels the same way about you. You’re theirs, and they may want other dogs and animals to know it.
If you have more than one dog in the house, you might notice that when one jumps in your lap, your other dog approaches suddenly and a small competition for prime lap position begins. Even if you only have one dog, they may decide to sleep by your feet when people come to visit or your significant other gets close.
It’s standard territorial behavior, but it can get out of control and lead to aggressive possession of you with your doggo growling and even snapping at those who venture too close. That’s why puppy socialization is so important, to prevent things like this from becoming an issue in their adult lives.
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5. They’re Seeking Protection
You’re their pet parent, after all, and so it’s natural that your doggo would turn to you for protection from something they consider scary. This could be thunder, plastic bags, or other people. This may cause your dog to search for a safe place.
Hunkering by your feet may be their way of asking for the security of your closeness and strength to create safe space. When they decide to sleep at your feet, they’ll feel secure and safe knowing you’re there to protect them from the big scary things in their lives. This unspoken pact of protection goes both ways, though.
If they feel you’re the one in need of some protecting, they’ll also rush to your side, or your feet in this case, and stand guard to ward off whatever they deem a threat. They’ll probably stick around and even choose to sleep there too, just so they’re in the right place if you need them.
6. They’re Sensing Your Feelings
It might sound a little Hallmark Channel cheesy, but dogs are very sensitive creatures and can pick up our feelings through the tone of our voice, body language, and even our smell.
Whether you’re suffering from chronic depression or just having a bad day, your floof knows about it and they’ll likely try to alleviate your mood or the mood of any of your family members in these circumstances. They’ll lay muzzles gently on your knees, cuddle close to offer support, or be extra generous with licks to make us feel better.
They may even snuggle down by your feet and stay there in an attempt to make you happier.
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7. They Want to Keep Track of You
The canine-human bond is famously close. So close, in fact, that studies have now revealed that our precious pups display a “secure base effect” with us. What is that, you might wonder? It means that very similar to a human child-parent relationship, your dog sees you as a secure base for interacting with the world around them.
So you might have a clingy or anxious dog that feels more secure when they know exactly where you are, and what better position to be in for that than right at your feet? The moment you decide to leave the room, they’ll be the first to know about it and be able to keep track of you.
Most of the time this doesn’t cause a problem, but some dogs can get very distressed if they can’t find where you are. Even if you’re still in the house and just in an unknown or unreachable location, it may induce separation anxiety, which can lead to some unwanted barking behavior.
Should I Let My Dog Sleep at My Feet?
In general, letting your dog sleep at your feet isn’t going to be an issue and is actually the fulfillment of a natural and healthy instinct. Most pet parents love it when their pooch snuggles up to them, so they encourage this close bond with affectionate pets and words. In many instances, it only serves to deepen your bond and provide a pleasurable experience for both dog and human.
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This is one thing when you’re settled down on the couch watching Netflix or reading the latest Jodi Picoult, though. It’s a different matter when you’re in the kitchen trying to cook and your dog is constantly getting under your feet, tripping you up, thereby presenting potentially dangerous situations.
It may just be that your pupper is uber-clingy. But if this is a sudden change in behavior, it’s possible that something has upset or scared them and now they constantly seek out the safety of your presence. If that’s the case, you’re going to need to do a little investigating to determine what might be causing their distress and try to resolve it.
Another instance where letting your dog sleep by your feet might not be a good idea is if they begin to show any signs of aggression towards anyone approaching you while they’re there. Growling, barking, and snapping are big indicators of this.
Once established as a behavior, aggression can be tricky to take care of, so the sooner you get a pet behaviorist to help you deal with the issue, the better.
How to Stop My Dog from Sleeping at My Feet
If this act of love has become problematic for any of the reasons mentioned above, you may want to dissuade your furry friend from hanging around your heels. How exactly do you go about this next time, though?
There are several ways, depending on the issue. The first thing you’ll want to do is start withholding any affection when your doggo comes to sleep at your feet. Don’t pat, don’t speak to them in that special dog-baby language we are all guilty of indulging in.
Image by LauraHalsel from Pixabay
The first step to stopping an unwanted behavior is to show your dog they won’t get a reaction from you for it, which gives them less incentive to do it at all.
The next step is to encourage them to move to a more appropriate location that you’ve picked out for them. You can entice them there by putting a comfy bed where you want them to sleep.
Give them some slack and start by putting the bed somewhere near where you like to relax. This means they’ll still be near you and can still see and smell you, so it’ll be an easier transition for them. If you go ahead and put the bed in another room completely, they’ll feel the separation from you as a punishment for what is technically natural behavior.
So, once you pick out the perfect spot for the bed, use positive reinforcement methods such as giving treats whenever they go to the bed to encourage them to use it.
You should also reward them with high-quality snacks whenever they choose to rather go to the bed than lay at your feet. This develops a positive association with being in the bed, and the more often you reinforce it with rewards, the more likely they are to rather choose the bed.
Go ahead and make a big fuss and let the treats rain down to let them know they’re doing the right thing, and they’ll catch on quickly that this is what you prefer. If your dog is very clingy, you might need to start by simply getting them used to choosing the bed, even if it’s right next to you, and then slowly moving it further away.
Final Thoughts | Why Your Dog Sleeps at Your Feet
Whether they’re a scaredy-cat, a loving lump, or trying to provide some comfort, there are many reasons why your favorite floof is seeking out your feet as their pillow of choice.
No matter what the reason, when your dog lies with you it is most often a benign act of love that demonstrates the strong bond most owners cherish. Should it ever become a problem, though, contact a behaviorist if it doesn’t resolve on its own.
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