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Why do dogs stand up when they see you?

Why Your Dog Stands On His Hind Legs & If You Should Let Him

We have all seen hilarious videos of dogs getting up on their hind legs or even engaging in a full dance with their owner.

Maybe your dog displays this behavior too from time to time and you have asked yourself why he actually does it.

Even if you have never taught your dog to stand on his hind legs, he may still do it with you or other dogs.

Standing on the hind legs is a way of communicating with you and it’s mostly for harmless reasons.

However, you may notice that dogs clearly weren’t intended to walk or stand on two legs and that this behavior has some risks when done involuntarily.

There are many tutorials online that show you how to teach your dog this trick but this might not be the best idea.

Why Do Dogs Stand on Their Hind Legs?

Dogs can stand on their hind legs for various reasons including attention, affection, playfulness, or if you have (accidentally) reinforced the behavior in the past.

Different postures are part of your dog’s communication repertoire and can send a variety of signals.

This is also true for rearing on the hind legs.

Besides barking, there is probably nothing that will capture your attention more than a dog on two legs.

Small black and tan dog trying to stand up on his hind legs.

This could mean that your dog is asking for a pet, walk, treats, or anything else he desires.

We are also very tall beings compared to our dogs so it’s a way of getting closer to our faces.

If excess energy is involved, your dog might stand or jump up out of pure excitement.

This usually happens when you come home or when your dog anticipates a ball throw.

Many dogs also stand on their back legs simply to display their affection to you.

However, this mostly happens between dogs and can look like they are wrestling or dancing with each other.

If you have danced with your dog in the past, he might try to engage you in this activity.

In general, all behaviors that have been reinforced in the past will happen again.

So if you tend to your dog’s needs while he is standing on his hind legs this will reinforce the behavior and your dog might communicate his demands in the same manner in the future.

If you or your family members laugh anytime your dog does his silly hind leg walk, he will also be more inclined to do it.

Is It Bad for Dogs to Stand on Their Hind Legs?

It is bad for dogs to stand on their hind legs involuntarily as they are not anatomically equipped for this and could risk an injury.

Unlike us, dogs are not meant to stand or walk on two legs.

Only one-third of a dog’s body weight is carried on his hind legs while two-thirds are carried on the front legs.

Nonetheless, the back legs are still much stronger and have a larger muscle mass.

In comparison, most hoofed mammals stand with about 60% on their front legs and 40% of the weight on their back legs.

When a dog stands on his hind legs, all this weight is distributed between two paws.

This can lead to ligament, tendon, or spinal injuries and subsequent pain.

Your dog might also suffer from joint issues that you are unaware of.

Many dogs are diagnosed with hip or elbow dysplasia which occurs when the connecting joints grow abnormally.

Forcing your dog to stand on his hind legs with an underlying condition can lead to great discomfort and might exacerbate the condition.

These risks mostly apply to forced behavior so if your dog is doing it voluntarily, it should be fine.

White dog with red harness learning trick to stand up on his hind legs.

Should You Teach Your Dog to Stand on His Hind Legs?

I would not recommend teaching your dog to stand on his legs as there is no need to risk an injury or inflict unnecessary discomfort when there are so many other fun tricks to teach.

Many veterinarians and experts also discourage teaching this dog trick.

Dogs have four legs for a reason. They don’t naturally walk on two – and certainly not over long distances – because it can be uncomfortable and cause them physical injury.

There are many ways that people can have fun with their dogs which are respectful and don’t involve ridiculing them.

Elisa Allen, Director of PETA UK

It’s also important to note that not all dogs are physically able to do this trick as it requires a lot of balance.

I have a list of 9 dog tricks for beginners that also includes some advanced tricks so make sure to check that out.

How to Stop Your Dog from Standing on His Hind Legs

If your dog is eager to stand on his hind legs, the first thing you can do to reduce the behavior is to not reinforce it.

This includes not petting or praising your dog and waiting for him to stand normally before you give in to his needs.

Negative attention, i.e. scolding or punishment is also attention and can reinforce the behavior so it’s best to ignore it altogether.

In the beginning, show your dog what you want him to do instead of standing on his hind legs.

If you want your dog to “sit”, give him the command and only reward when he follows it.

Soon your dog will learn that there is no benefit in standing upright and that he will only get attention when all four paws are on the ground.

Excess energy is oftentimes a trigger for dogs to stand upright or jump.

Make sure that your dog gets plenty of physical exercise and mental stimulation every day.

This may include teaching your dog tricks that are safer which is a great brain workout and bonding opportunity.

Ignoring the behavior while reinforcing a more desired posture will definitely reduce the times you will see your dog standing on his hind legs.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to worry about it too much if your dog is doing it voluntarily and if it only happens occasionally.

Disclaimer: This blog post does not substitute veterinary attention and does not intend to do so. I am not a veterinarian or pet nutritionist. If your dog shows any sign of illness, call your vet.

About Danielle

I am the founder of PawLeaks where I share weekly tips on dog training and behavior. Sharing a passion for dogs and helping owners to solve problems through understanding canine behavior and modification is my number one goal.

Why Does My Dog Sit in My Spot When I Get Up?

Amy Y. Conry Davis is a writer who specializes in green living, sustainability, and travel. She holds a B.A. in English from the University of San Diego.

Updated May 23, 2022

chocolate lab rests head on woman's lap on outside chair

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Anyone with a dog knows this scenario: You’re sitting in your favorite chair, minding your own business, and seconds after you get up, your four-legged friend swoops in to steal your spot. So, what’s the deal?

There are several reasons why your pooch may want to steal your seat, the most common being affection or dominance. You can usually decipher which is the case based on the dog’s body language.

Find out why your dog keeps taking your spot and what, if anything, you should do about it.

Seat-Stealing as a Sign of Affection

small white terrier dog gazes adoringly at their owner

As social animals, dogs want to be part of a safe and secure place in which they feel they belong. This goes back to the pack mentality of their wolf ancestors. Back then, the strength and support of the den was a matter of life and death, and they’d stop at nothing to protect it.

Today, dogs—now fully domestic animals—see their human companions as their safety. Your scent is familiar, so your dog knows instinctively that any place you’ve been must be familiar and safe, too. It’s the same reason why dogs are keen to sleep in our beds, ride in our cars, and lounge on our furniture and in our laps.

Dogs are incredibly intelligent animals and quick to pick up on the habits and routines of their humans. They know the places in and around the house you use often. Sitting in your spot is a way of protecting your territory, as well. Think of this behavior as your dog saving your place so that you can come back to it later.

Seat-Stealing to Show Dominance

german shepherd dog sits in driver's seat of jeep

Another reason a dog will steal your seat, and not one to encourage, is to show dominance. This could be the case if there are multiple dogs in the same household. It often occurs when the dog is a fairly new addition to the family, has a history of abuse, or is part of a larger group of dogs. This behavior is often a dog’s way of establishing its «rank» in the family, either among the humans or the other dogs they live with.

In this case, body language may be more aggressive and territorial. Spot-stealing could be accompanied by barking, taking a defensive stance, or biting. This indicates that the dog is trying to find its place in the group, or pack, and figure out where it belongs.

Dogs are naturally territorial, but some territorial behaviors are not healthy in a family dynamic. Allowing your dog to show this kind of dominance for extended periods of time can lead to other behavioral issues. The American Veterinary Medical Association says it’s even more important to correct this behavior if there are young children who may get hurt as a result of the dog’s aggression.

Most of the time, with proper training and positive reinforcement, the dog will come to understand that there is no need for this action and eventually quit the behavior.

What to Do When Your Dog Steals Your Seat

person holds out treat to chocolate lab who waits patiently

If your dog steals your seat while wagging its tail and exhibiting gentle behavior, chances are there’s nothing to worry about. But, if you notice aggression—especially in the form of growling, bearing teeth, or biting—it’s best to implement some training methods before the issue worsens.

One option is to hire a professional dog trainer or take the dog to a training school. Your trainer will help you get to the bottom of why the dog is reacting this way. Is there another dog they’re in rivalry with? Are there children in the house? If the dog is a puppy, this early training will ensure that the behavior won’t continue as it matures.

chocolate lab holds blanket in mouth in kitchen, looking confused

If you feel comfortable enough to train your dog on your own, there are books and tutorials available online that can help. As long as you’re consistent in reinforcing good behavior with praise or treats, it can be turned around in a matter of weeks or months. Keep in mind: It doesn’t do any good to yell or shout at the dog for doing the unwanted behavior, as they won’t necessarily understand what it is exactly they’re doing wrong. Instead, buy plenty of training treats and provide positive reinforcement when they behave well.

Lastly, it’s important to make sure everyone in the household is on the same page as to what to expect and how to handle the disciplinary tactics. This will ensure the dog isn’t getting mixed messages or confusing cues from each person.

Why Pets Matter to Treehugger

At Treehugger, we are advocates of animal welfare, including our pets and other domestic animals. The better we understand our dogs, the better we can support their wellbeing. We hope our readers will adopt rescue pets instead of shopping from breeders or pet stores, and will also consider supporting local animal shelters.

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