Dogs love to sleep as close to you as possible and many times they will sleep right beneath you at your feet. But have you ever wondered why your dog enjoys sleeping at your feet so much?
The most common reason for dogs to sleep at your feet is so they know when you move. By sensing your feet’s movement they can have a restful sleep without worrying about waking up alone.
As dog owners, we are committed to caring for our pets and giving them the best diet, guidance, and training possible to be healthy and well-socialized. If your dog sleeps at your feet, there might be a few reasons for this behavior. If you are wondering about the source of the behavior and if it is healthy, keep reading to learn what, if anything, there is you can or should do to curb your dog from laying at your feet.
Reasons Why Dogs Sleep at Your Feet
One reason dogs sleep at our feet might be the instinctive pack behavior ingrained before their socialization with humans. Pack behavior provides protection and security for the group; the pack would sleep close together for safety and warmth. It’s likely your dog is just doing what comes naturally. In addition to added security wild dogs would be more likely to detect any threat as at least one would sense it. As soon as one dog has sensed the danger, its own movement will cause the remaining dogs to wake up.
Because of this pack behavior your dog may sit at your feet due to a combination of things. Security and comfort are an important part of the process with the added benefit of being alerted as soon as you move from your position.
The natural pack behavior of dogs is a good explanation for why your dog sleeps at your feet, but there may be other reasons that your dog is choosing to be close to you. Let’s investigate other reasons why man’s best friend might decide to sleep right on your feet:
- Protection – Dogs have an instinct towards being protective, and it’s in their nature as pack animals. Your dog may be lying on your feet, protecting you as a member of its pack. Many dogs are happier dogs knowing they have a job to perform, and your dog might see this protection as its duty. On the other hand, your dog might feel that same protection from you and they know the safest place to be is nearby to their owner.
- Comfort – Your dog might just find that being close to you is most comfortable. It’s natural for dogs to want to cuddle and have contact with other members of their pack. It’s not a far stretch that they would continue to seek comfort with you as their pack leader.
- Separation Anxiety – The bond humans and dogs develop is strong and can become dysfunctional if your dog becomes overly dependent early on in their life. Try to ensure you give your puppy enough time alone to develop their own resilience. in addition to this laying at your feet might be your dog’s way of telling you it’s feeling anxious. Being close to you reassures your dog everything is okay.
- Warmth – Contact with others when feeling chilled is something we all do to warm up. Your dog might choose to sleep at your feet to share your warmth. If you’re on a sofa they may enjoy the feeling of the sofa on their back or the fact they have something behind them.
- Territorial Behavior – If there are other dogs or pets around that are not members of your pack, your dog might sit or sleep on your feet as a way of letting other dogs know that you are their alpha pack leader and are protecting their territory. This is a standard pack mentality.
- Security – Dogs should consider the humans in their pack leaders or alpha dogs. Lying on your feet is a dog’s way of feeling a sense of security within the pack. It’s also their way of showing submission and deferring to you as their leader.
- Needs – Your dog may be trying to tell you it needs something by placing itself right in front of your feet. The most common things a dog might need are food, a walk, the ability to go outside to relieve itself, and affection. If you determine your dog needs food, water, or a walk, take the time to make sure it has its basic needs covered. Add affection, and your best friend will be a faithful and loyal companion.
On occasion owners will ask why their dog is not as close to them. Some dogs are not as needy and don’t require constant attention. This, however, is not always something owners want to hear and it’s important to realize your dog’s character before making any assumptions. Check out our article on “Why Won’t My Dog Sit On My Lap” for more information on this subject.
When Shouldn’t Your Dog Sleep at Your Feet?
Now that we’ve looked at the reasons why your dog sleeps at your feet, the next step is to consider whether or not you want to encourage or discourage this behavior. Let’s look at reasons you may want to be concerned about your dog sleeping at your feet.
Territorial or Overly Protective Issues
Your dog may sleep or rest at your feet as a way to let other dogs know that you are its pack leader; this in and of itself isn’t a reason to be concerned unless your dog starts to exhibit aggressive behavior towards other dogs or people that try to come close to you.
This type of aggression should not be encouraged and is a safety concern. It’s essential to seek professional help and training to keep your dog from biting anyone trying to get close to you.
If your dog is resting at your feet and doesn’t appear to be comfortable, it may be trying to let you know that it’s feeling unwell. This scenario requires investigation, and you’ll need to determine if your dog needs something simple or more involved, like medical attention. Here are some signs your dog might be sick:
- Excessive Panting
- Shivering or trembling
- Raspy breathing
If you determine your dog is ill, lying at your feet isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you’d want to be proactive in getting your dog help. A good plan is to call your vet during business hours or call a pet drop-in clinic for advice and guidance. A 24-hour emergency vet is also an option if you have a concern when your vet isn’t available.
If your dog is uncomfortable being alone and constantly underfoot and sleeping at your feet, these behaviors may signify separation anxiety. Most likely, your dog is seeking reassurance by laying as close to you as possible.
Separation anxiety can lead to ongoing long-term issues where your dog cannot be home alone or is destructive when you are away. Curbing this behavior might be a strategy you can employ to train your dog to have self-confidence without relying so much on constant contact.
Remember that although your dog doesn’t bark or whine when you are around, that doesn’t mean they are barking or whining when you are away. separation anxiety happens when you leave them on their own and you of course won’t be there to recognize this condition. Speak to a neighbor if you have suspicions your dog has separation anxiety. Another good idea is to purchase a camera that connects to your smartphone. this way you can see and hear everything your dog does.
Dogs are very aware of their surroundings, even if it doesn’t appear like that. Your dog watches everything you do and anticipates everything you are going to do. This is where begging comes in. Most of the time if your dog tries his luck at some of your food, then they will often just sit and stare at you, somehow trying to convince you to hand over the grub.
Staring of course doesn’t work…well not always and that leads to what looks like giving up. Don’t be fooled, your dog is probably very much aware that staring is not going to get them what they want and they will wait patiently by your feet until you give in. Of course, this behavior is not necessarily something that should be discouraged. After all your dog is not begging for food as such they are just staying close by in case they get lucky.
Creating Another Sleeping Space for Your Dog
While you may enjoy this closeness with your dog, there are times when having your dog sleep on your feet might tend to be bothersome. There are a few things you can do to create some space for you and your dog to encourage a healthy dose of time apart. Here are a few examples:
- Provide your dog with its own bed or resting area and encourage your dog to use it.
- If your dog is at your feet, don’t promote this behavior by petting it; that only reinforces the behavior.
- When your dog does lie away from you, use positive encouragement for this behavior, train your dog to lie in a particular spot, and use specific words for the action you want, for example, “lie down.” Practice this until it’s natural for your dog to follow your instructions.
- If your dog is lying at your feet for warmth, provide a blanket or dog bed where it can rest comfortably.
Dogs can be independent as well as needy, they will often follow their instincts and sometimes you may find them change their behaviors slightly. Often when dogs are allowed to sleep in bedrooms or on the bed, owners become worried when their dog moves to another room or stops sleeping at their feet. There is no need to jump to conclusions when this happens, your dog may want to sleep in another room for many reasons. Check out our article on “Why Does My Dog Sleep In Another Room” for more detailed information on this behavior.
Positive reinforcement and training your dog will strengthen the bond you share and encourage healthy behaviors. While sleeping at your feet isn’t unhealthy, dogs as pack members, with a pack mentality function well with rules, boundaries, and order. It’s in your best interest and your dogs to have them trained effectively so that they can lead a healthy and productive life.
In summary, your dog sleeps at your feet because it’s an instinctive pack behavior, or it could be seeking warmth, comfort, or reassurance. Overall they want to know when you are on the move and placing themselves on your feet will allow them to feel when something changes and alert them to the movement. There’s no need to curb this behavior unless you feel your dog is underfoot way too much or have other concerns like aggressive behavior. If you enjoyed this article, check out some of our other articles on the homepage.