Why do dogs like to sleep by peoples feet?
Why Dogs Sleep at Your Feet: 5 Possible Reasons
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.
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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.
Dr. Stevce Ilievski joined Petpedia.co as our resident expert with 25 years of experience working as a veterinarian and a pet shop owner. He began his journey as a student at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Zagreb, Croatia, becoming a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. After leaving university, he began working as a veterinarian, taking care of not only domestic but farm animals as well. As his love for his job grew, he finally decided to start a personal business, opening a veterinary supplies shop, which carried products from pet/animal care and medicine to food and toys. Then a couple of years back, after a casual read about farm animals on the internet (yea, he does that), he realized that many of the articles are either false or misleading. Therefore, he decided to make it his personal goal to offer only verified and up-to-date information to all pet parents. Thus, here we are. We welcomed him to our team as our resident expert who goes through all of our content and either verifies it or makes us wipe it off the face of the earth.
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Find in This Article
- Why Do Dogs Sleep At Your Feet
- What Does It Mean When Dogs Lay on Your Feet
- Should You Encourage This Behavior
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Key Takeaways
6 Reasons Why Dogs Like to Sleep at your Feet
What is one of the most iconic behaviors that dogs are known for? And no, not fetching. Any second guesses? It’s sleeping at your feet!
It’s been debated amongst owners about why exactly a dog will opt to sleep by your feet rather then in their own bed.
For the majority of us, it’s quite the touching gesture. We feel special because of it. But, are dogs actually doing it out of love, or for something else entirely?
Table of Contents
Why Do Dogs Sleep At Your Feet?
Dogs will sleep at their owner’s feet due to temperature, roominess, submission, protection, and simply because they want to be near you.
1. The Cooler Side
Dogs sometimes prefer this spot due to temperature alone. Most dogs have enough body heat and fur to solve any chilly night problems. They don’t necessarily need yours as well.
Think about when you get into bed. Which body parts are the coldest? I don’t know about you, but in the winter, my feet can get quite cold.
The majority of the heat in a bed is towards the middle and upper portions.
Whenever you talk to a dog owner about where their canine friend migrates to in terms of the bed, it’s oftentimes at the end where it’s slightly cooler.
If you had your own permanent coat on whilst in the bed, would you want to sleep under lots of warm blankets? Likely not! It makes sense for dogs to be in a colder spot.
2. Down By the Feet is Roomier
Another aspect to consider is the shear amount of space that is taken up when you are settled in bed. It’s enough to make your dog second-guess where they’d rather stretch out and relax.
Even one fully-grown adult human in the bed makes it tricky for Fido to scoot up near the pillows. When you ask how most people sleep, it’s oftentimes curled up in some way or another, meaning that there is free space towards the end of the bed.
It’s also not uncommon for humans to shift around in their sleep. To avoid being rustled or kicked, a dog may find it more peaceful to find a spot that is out of harm’s way.
3. Keeping Close for Reassurance
Ever had a child come into your room when they need soothing? Perhaps from a bad dream or some sound that they heard? Dogs do the same, just in a different way.
There are things that dogs fear in the middle of the night, especially if the furry household member has any pre-existing anxiety. When something feels off, they could keep close for a little company and stress relief.
Dogs aren’t the only ones who need reassurance. Canines are known for being incredibly observant when it comes to their humans.
If you’re feeling particularly sad, your dog may opt to sleep at your feet rather then off in the corner where their own bed lies.
4. Sign of Submission
Looking at the structure of any pack, it’s pretty obvious who’s in charge. The leader chooses which spot they want to take as their own while the rest gather around.
Even though dogs have been domesticated, they still exhibit signs of submitting to their owners. It just isn’t as extreme.
Sleeping at your feet is a way of saying that they respect you as the leader of the house. Think about it from your dog’s perspective. What’s more challenging in terms of a place to sleep?
That would be near your head. The most respectful spot is down by your feet, away from the face.
5. Feeling the Need to Protect
One of the reasons why people go about finding a dog to add to their household is because of safety.
Some canines take this role more seriously than others. Interestingly enough, those who are true guardians have a specific spot in which they rest.
Dogs who want to protect their humans will lie down in a location that allows them to react at a moment’s notice. It would be harder for them to protect you if they were resting towards the middle of the bed.
At the foot of the bed, a vigilant guard dog could jump off and pursue investigating the intruder.
6.Needing to Be Protected By You
We’ve touched on the fact that sleeping towards your feet is an easier spot to defend you, but some dogs migrate to this location because of the opposite.
As with just about any living being, there may be times where a dog feels uneasy or anxious. As the leader of the “pack”, you’re able to keep a close eye over things happening.
Anxious dogs will prefer to keep within a certain distance of their owner for their overall sense of safety.
Interestingly enough, you can gauge just how insecure a dog is based on not only where they’re lying down, but also the position in which they are doing this.
Are their paws tucked in tightly to their frame, or are they sprawled out? A curled up body would normally suggest that a dog is rather unsure or timid about anything going on in their environment.
Looking for these cues can give you a leg up in comforting your canine pal!
Is This a Bad Behavior?
There have been plenty of debates behind whether or not you should allow your dog to sleep at the foot of the bed. Are there situations where this could be potentially dangerous?
The simple response to that question is yes. We mentioned that one of the reasons as to why Fido may be at your feet is because they want to protect you.
This is just about the only scenario that can lead to risks. A dog that becomes overly protective can snap out at someone who decides to approach you.
We suggest seeking out a professional trainer immediately if you see any signs of your dog exhibiting this behavior.
The Feet Sleeper: Final Thoughts
Some dogs want to sleep by your feet simply because they want to be by your side, but there are other reasons as well. The foot of the bed is both cooler and roomier.
It’s also a way to offer reassurance while being respectful, submissive, and protected by their leader, which is you. Another reason may be that they want to protect you and keep an eye on things.
Be wary of this behavior as it can escalate rather quickly.
Frequently Asked Questions About Dogs and Sleeping Near the Feet
Why does my dog lick my feet when I sleep?
This action may be used as a self-soothing technique, to kill boredom, or even a way of getting salt from your skin.
Why do dogs sleep at your head?
Dogs can actually sleep at the head of the bed for the same reasons as they do for at your feet. Small dogs generally will do this to keep warm at night while large breeds want to keep close or protect.
Why do dogs sit on your feet?
More often then not, a dog will sit on your feet because they are nervous or want to keep close. It’s also a sure way to get attention that they want!
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Posted on Last updated: February 1, 2021