Why Do Dogs Sit on Your Feet?

Dogs have a lot of strange behaviors that we often can’t explain. Even though they are much more similar to us than cats are, they can still leave us wondering sometimes.

For example – why do dogs sit on your feet? There are actually a surprising number of misconceptions and myths about this, as well as various possible reasons.

So, let’s go over each of the 10 most common reasons for this behavior below.

Then, we can address some additional questions relating to your dog’s health, personality, and more, that might also have something to do with this topic.

Why Do Dogs Sit on Your Feet: 10 Main Reasons

Small dog sitting next to its owner's feet

Every dog is different and there isn’t just one uniform reason for a particular behavior. So when it comes to sitting on your feet, there are actually lots of possibilities. Let’s explore them!

1. A Show of Love and Affection

The most common (and desirable) cause for this behavior is simply love and affection. When your pooch loves you, he or she will want to spend as much time near you as possible.

This will include cuddling when you’re in bed, laying on your lap when you’re on the couch, and sitting on your feet when you’re in a chair.

If your dog is too big to sit in your lap, he/she might sit on your feet instead. Even if there’s an opportunity for a lap cuddle, a dog may still prefer to sit on your feet.

It may be because you’ve taught your pooch not to get on the couch, or it may just be because the dog prefers the texture of the carpet.

2. Readiness to Move

An alternative reason could be that the dog is waiting for something to happen and doesn’t want to miss it. That could be a walk to the dog park or a visit to the kitchen for mealtime.

If your dog is eager for something like that but you’ve trained your pooch not to bother and bug you about it, the dog may decide to just sit on your feet and wait.

That way, when you inevitably decide to finally stand up and get moving, the dog will be ready to go too – that’s canine logic for you!

3. Anxiety and Stress

Scared French bulldog

A less fun reason is anxiety and stress.

Some dogs tend to retreat into solitude when they are anxious or depressed, but others are social enough to always look for your presence in such a time.

In those cases, cuddling on your feet can be done in an attempt to seek comfort and peace.

4. Fear Response

Fear can also whip your dog into your lap or feet. This can commonly be seen if your dog is afraid of thunderstorms, fireworks, or other loud noises that can sometimes happen.

The sudden arrival of guests can also frighten your dog so much that it looks to hide near your feet, especially if it doesn’t have a strong guard dog instinct. 

A good way to discern if this is the reason for your dog’s cuddling is to look for some of the telltale signs of fear in dogs. Some of these signs are: 

  • Goofy behavior
  • Shaking/trembling
  • Licking lips
  • Lowered body language
  • Inability to settle
  • Whale eye – this is when the dog shows the whites of its eyes
  • Lifting a paw
  • Panting
  • Attempting to hide
  • Reactivity
  • Salivation
  • Yawning

5. Attention Seeking

Attention seeking Labrador

Dogs are smart and know how to manipulate us just like we try to manipulate them. You know all those memes about how cute puppy eyes are?

Dogs are fully aware of their own cuteness and the power that gives them.

So, very often you can find your dog not just waiting for you to do something, but actively manipulating you to do it.

For example, if your dog notices that it always gets petted when it’s on your feet – it will therefore go there whenever it needs petting.

Or, if your dog wants playtime and sees that you always ignore it unless it’s on your feet – it may also learn to do just that.

6. Learned Behavior and Habit

Going off from the previous point, another explanation for why dogs sit on your feet could be that it’s just a habit.

Your dog may have started doing it as a pup in an attempt to get your attention. Now, it’s just something it does every day and that’s that.

Dogs aren’t as habit-driven as cats, but they still like their daily routines.

If cuddling on your feet is something the dog has done before, it will likely keep doing it even if your feet aren’t the most comfortable spot in the house.

7. Pack Mentality Instinct

Four dogs tilting their heads

Unlike cats, and even more so than us, dogs are pack animals.

If you ever check out a nature documentary about wolves for example, you’ll see that it’s perfectly normal for them to constantly sleep in small dens, pack neatly together.

Sleeping on each other's feet or literally on top of each other is perfectly normal for these animals.

From that point of view, some people’s insistence for their dogs not to sleep on their beds or even in the bedroom is quite unnatural for a canine.

So the most normal thing for a dog is to sleep near, by, or even on top of you. 

8. Guarding Instinct

A lot of the modern pet dog breeds have been bred as guard dogs for millennia. Guard dogs aren’t always as social as most herd, retriever, work, or even hound dogs.

However, they do have a far stronger protective instinct. One very common and simple way that instinct often manifests itself is with your dog sitting on your feet.

That way, your guard dog can be sure that it’s doing its job and is always ready to protect you.

9. Looking for Warmth

Dog hiding under a red blanket

Dog people often joke that the only reason why cats snuggle with people is for the warmth.

And while felines have other reasons to do so, including love and affection, both cats and dogs often just seek the physical warmth of our bodies.

There’s nothing wrong with that, especially considering that some breeds can’t tolerate cold and cool temperatures.

Breeds like the Chihuahua, Great Dane, Poodle, Pug, Beagle, Grey Hound, Saluki, French Bulldog, Yorkshire Terrier, Boxer, Shih Tzu, and others, are all good examples.

These are breeds that often have one or a few of the following characteristics:

  • A single coat layer - they lack an undercoat to keep them thermally insulated
  • Low body fat – something that may help with agility and running speed, but is only suitable for warm climates
  • A proclivity to certain health conditions such as hypothyroidism, heart issues, or kidney disease, all of which make cold temperatures much less tolerable

Some dogs are so susceptible to problems from low temperatures that they can outright get hypothermia by just sitting on a cold floor. 

So, sitting on your feet can literally be a survival mechanism in such a situation.

10. Showing Empathy

Most dogs are great empaths and are very good at sensing and understanding our emotional states.

So, if you are sad, depressed, or even just under the weather, a gentle and social dog may very easily sit on your feet just to comfort you.

It’s also very common for dogs to start sleeping on or next to us when they sense that we are sick.

This is especially common in dog breeds that are social, empathetic, and gentle enough to be used as service dogs.

Some examples include Labradors, Golden retrievers, Poodles, German Shepherds, Bernese Mountain dogs, Great Danes, Boxers, Border Collies, and others.

Is This Behavior an Attempt to “dominate” You?

A common myth is that dogs sit on our feet as a way to dominate us or to demonstrate that they are the alpha of the household.

While we can’t vouch that no dog ever does this, in the vast majority of cases people confuse the guarding instinct of guard dogs to protect their humans with “dominating” behavior.

This doesn’t mean that the dog views itself as your alpha or tries to establish itself as such. The far more likely explanation is that the dog is just looking after you.

No wild dog, wolf, or other members of the Canidae family tries to fight for the alpha status in the pack by lying protectively in the alpha’s feet.

What if My Dog Doesn’t Like Sitting on My Feet?

Yorkshire terrier with its tongue out

A reverse and equally – if not more – possible “problem” might be that your dog categorically refuses to just sit still in between your legs.

This may feel especially frustrating if your pooch is from one of the breeds that are traditionally expected to pull a stunt like that – German Shepherds, Labradors, Huskies, Malamutes, Great Danes, Newfoundlands, Mastiffs, and others.

Does your dog’s refusal or lack of enthusiasm to sit in your legs necessarily mean something is wrong? A health problem perhaps? Or, maybe, your dog just doesn’t love you?

None of these are necessarily true. It’s perfectly normal for a dog not to grow fond of the “on the feet” position.

It may be that the dog doesn’t like the feel of the floor, it doesn’t like your slippers or socks, it may be that you move too much when you sit on your desk chair, or it may just be a personal preference.

At the end of the day, every dog owner should remember that dogs are individuals, just as people are.

We may read about the specific characteristics of each dog breed, but at the end of the day, every dog is its own person.

So, if your dog has a different preferred sleeping position or place – that’s fine.

Sudden Behavioral Changes and Their Health Implications

Another interesting question arises if your dog suddenly changes its habits and starts or stops sleeping on your feet out of the blue.

As with any other abrupt change of behavior, this is something that needs to be looked at. It may still be inconsequential, but it may also indicate a health problem or a psychological issue.

So let’s take a look at both scenarios.

If Your Dog Suddenly Stops Sitting on Your Feet

Golden Retriever posing for a picture between his owner's feet

This doesn’t necessarily mean that your dog has stopped loving you. However, it may mean that you’ve had a bit of “falling out” without you even realizing it.

Did you unexpectedly take your dog to the vet earlier that week? Or maybe you’ve switched to a different brand of treats?

Getting a new pet or having a child can also change your pet’s behavior. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your dog has stopped loving you, but it can indicate a bit of confusion and uncertainty.

Moving to a new place or redesigning the interior of your home can also alter your pet’s preferred sleeping habits.

Also, if your dog has grown a bit older and isn’t a pup or a “teen” anymore, it may have just grown out of the habit of sitting on your feet.

However, if you can rule out all those possibilities, then you may have to consider certain health issues.

We aren’t going to give you a list of specific health problems because it really can be all of them.

As long as your dog feels a certain physical discomfort, be it internally or on a skin level, it may choose to retreat and start shying away from your presence and the presence of any other pets you may have.

In female dogs, this may often indicate a pregnancy or problems with her pregnancy. However, with both female and male dogs, such solitary behavior can also mean other problems.

So, if you know that your dog prefers to self-isolate when it isn’t happy, it’s wise to consider this possibility if it has stopped spending time near you.

This doesn’t mean rushing to the vet as soon as possible either, but it’s worth paying a bit more attention to your dog’s overall behavior and looking for other possible symptoms.

If Your Dog Suddenly Starts Sitting on Your Feet

The reverse change of behavior can arguably be even more worrying.

If your dog has always been comfortable sitting and lying on its own, not needing too much physical contact to be comfortable, suddenly laying on your legs may be a problem.

As with the above point, this isn’t a telltale sign of just one or two specific health problems. The dog can react this way to literally any type of physical or even just hormonal irregularity.

This includes even the fear response we mentioned earlier.

So if your pooch is the type of canine that seeks physical contact when scared, and if it suddenly starts laying on your feet out of the blue – it’s wise to start paying closer attention to other potential physical and behavioral illness symptoms and clues.

Of course, there is a possibility that it may be nothing significant. It may easily be just that your dog has grown into adulthood and has adopted a new habit.

Or, your dog is suddenly grateful for the extra dog park walks and/or dog treats you’ve been providing it with.

Another reason could be that if you’ve just gotten a new pet or a baby, your dog may have sensed the competition and decided to show you just how much you should value your pooch.

So if you are asking yourself “why do dogs sit on your feet?”, then these are all of the possible reasons.

You should keep monitoring your dog’s behavior and look for further clues to determine the reason that applies to your situation. 

Sitting on Your Feet Vs Sitting in Your Lap

Adorable puppy chewing a plush donut

For all intents and purposes, dogs sitting in our lap and sitting on your feet are the same thing.

The breeds we call “lap dogs” are simply social and cuddly dogs who are small enough to fit in your lap, and lovable enough to want to fit there.

Larger breeds, on the other hand, will try to place their heads in your lap when possible or even stretch across it.

However, often they will just be satisfied with sitting on your feet too. The intent behind the action is usually the same.

Dog Breeds That Like Sitting on People’s Feet the Most

It’s hard to point to specific breeds as any dog can develop this habit, especially if you nudge it in that direction.

The only breeds that are especially unlikely to start sleeping on your feet are the smaller breeds.

For one, they prefer to sleep on our laps, and secondly – such small animals often find it risky to sit right next to our feet and our chairs’ wheels. Just ask most cats!

On the other hand, virtually every mid-sized, large, or giant dog breed can easily grow to love sitting on your feet. That being said, some breeds have different preferences.

Let’s quickly take a look at these breeds and their preferences. 

Guard Dogs

German Shepherd on alert

Most guard dog breeds are highly likely to start sitting on our feet or right next to them.

They do this to satisfy their own guard dog instinct – it’s their job to keep you safe and they always want to do a good job.

Such breeds include the Doberman, Akita, the Appenzeller Sennenhund, Australian Shepherds, German Shepherds, the Bullmastiff, Catahoula Leopard dogs, Caucasian Shepherds, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Rottweilers, Estrela Mountain dogs, Giant Schnauzers, the Puli, Romanian Mioritic Shepherd dogs, and others.

Sighthounds

Black and white Greyhound dogs

Many low body fat and single-coat breeds are likely to sit on your feet too, but for a different reason – warmth.

Sighthounds like the Saluki or the Grey hound are prime candidates for this, especially if you place a cushion under or around your feet too.

Smaller breeds like the Chihuahua and the Poodle are also likely to do this, although they tend to prefer laps over feet.

Dogs With Separation Anxiety

Small dog looking through the window

Dogs that tend to suffer from separation anxiety are very likely to frequently cuddle near your feet. This is especially common after you return from work or from a long trip.

Dogs that suffer from separation anxiety take it very badly when they are left home alone, and are prone to mischief and misbehavior when they’re alone. 

Once you’re home, however, they are often overwhelmed with not just joy but also love and attachment.

Such breeds include most social and highly intelligent dogs like Bichon Frise dogs, Labradors, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Toy Poodles, Jack Russel Terriers, German Shorthaired Pointers, Border Collies, Vizslas, Australian Shepherds, German Shepherds, and many others.

Final Thoughts

So, why do dogs sit on your feet? Simply put, dogs love to sit on our laps or feet because they love us.

They love being around us, they love spending time with us, and they love guarding us. They view us as their pack and they are used to sleeping next to or on top of their pack members.

They enjoy our warmth when they are cold, and they draw comfort from our presence when they are anxious, fearful, or depressed.

And, if they’ve been left alone for too long, it’s perfectly natural for them to stay in touch with us 24/7 once we’re back home – just as we would do if we really missed someone.

As for the “trying to dominate us” myth – for us, that is just a myth.

Maybe your dog is weird like that, but from what we’ve seen, dogs typically employ other methods when they want to dominate people – barking, disobedience, being extra fierce at tug-o-war, and so on.

Of course, you should never discount the possibility of a medical issue either.

If sitting on your feet is an unusual behavior for your dog, it’s smart to start looking for other irregularities, both physical and behavioral.

But don’t necessarily jump to conclusions either, you don’t want to rush to the vet for every little thing.

If you’re really worried, you can just call your vet first instead, and get his/her opinion over the phone. If it’s not a health issue, just enjoy having your dog sit on your feet!