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You settle down on the couch to catch up on your favorite Netflix series and before you know it, your dog comes and lays by your feet.
This behavior will probably not raise eyebrows the first time it happens. But if it keeps recurring, you may start to wonder whether it’s part of the dog’s way of appreciating your presence or if there are certain underlying reasons behind it.
We’ve taken the liberty to research and prepare some of the top reasons dogs prefer to sit, sleep, or lay at their owner’s feet.
Reasons Your Dog Is Sleeping At Your Feet
1. It’s In Their Pack Instincts
Dogs are social animals with a profound sense of belonging.
In a dog’s eyes, every household member belongs to the pack. That includes fellow dogs, other pets, and human occupants of the house, including you.
So, one reason your dog is sleeping by your feet is that he identifies you as a member of the pack. And as with most pack animals, there’s a sense of safety and comfort in numbers.
The instinctual behavior of dogs laying by their owners’ feet traces back to thousands of years before these animals were domesticated by man.
Dogs typically roamed the wild in packs. And whenever they stopped to rest, the pack leader would find a suitable spot to lay. Then the rest of the pack would huddle around their leader for safety and warmth.
Therefore, it’s reassuring to know that laying by your side means your dog recognizes you as the leader of the pack.
2. It’s a Display of Territoriality
Dogs are fiercely territorial. Just as we view them as our pets, they also consider us their property. And one way they choose to lay claim to their property is by lying next to it.
By sleeping at your feet, Fido is trying to warn other dogs to keep their distance as you belong to him.
If not well-socialized, the animal can easily attack anyone or anything that tries to enter your space.
3. It Offers a Sense of Security
We’ve already alluded to safety as one of the primary reasons pack animals instinctively hang around one another. However, your dog may also lay by your feet when craving a sense of security, regardless of whether the behavior happens subconsciously or consciously.
Dogs are intelligent enough to know that their safety ultimately comes from their human parents. Even ferocious canines that make excellent guard dogs will turn to their owners whenever they feel threatened.
Hanging by your side is how the dog demonstrates his complete faith in your ability to protect him when needed. That’s especially if the dog feels frightened by unfamiliar sights and sounds, such as fireworks and thunderstorms.
4. It Offers a Sense of Comfort
You’ve just returned home from a joint workout session with your dog and as you lay down to rest, you realize that your pooch also sits or naps by your side.
Well, the most straightforward reason is that the animal is exhausted and simply needs a comfortable place to rest. For some reason, laying by your side offers that comfort.
When comfort is the main reason your dog sleeps at your feet, you may also notice that the behavior is usually common during chilly weather. Laying by your feet allows the dog to enjoy the warmth radiating from your body.
5. It’s a Display of Affection
Another common reason your dog may be sitting, laying, or sleeping at your feet is that he loves you.
The animal simply delights in your presence. He wants to feel your touch, sniff your scent, and hear you breathing.
This display of affection may be more intense when you’ve just returned home from a long period of absence. It’s one of the ways your canine friend says that he missed you and wouldn’t desire for you to leave again.
6. It’s Indicative of an Underlying Condition
Certain medical conditions might cause your dog to not only sleep next to your feet but also want to hang around you longer than usual. Most of these conditions are mental or psychological, such as separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety is an anxiety disorder common in dogs that spend a significant amount of their waking hours alone and without enough stimulation. Such dogs may demonstrate unusual clingy behaviors, especially when they sense that their owners are about to leave.
Other tell-tale signs of separation anxiety include;
• Overly-excited greetings when you get back from a long absence
• Obsessive-compulsive behaviors, such as excessive chewing, scratching, and licking
• Poor potty habits
• Unusual sleeping and/or eating habits
• Irritability and avoidance
When Should You Be Worried?
Sleeping or laying at your feet is usually not a cause for immediate concern. But if you suspect the behavior could be a sign of separation anxiety, you can address the condition by spending more time with your dog.
Go on your early-morning runs and play the game of fetch together. Also, consider regular visits to the dog park so your pooch can hang around fellow canines. And if you must leave, ensure your dog has enough interactive toys to keep him occupied in your absence. You could also hire a professional pet sitter to keep the animal engaged in your absence.
If separation anxiety isn’t the problem but you somewhat find the behavior of laying at your feet undesirable, then training would be the most effective solution.
Say commands like ‘LEAVE’ or ‘GO’ whenever your dog spends more time by your side than he should. Better yet, take him to the exact spot where you’d want him to stay and use commands like ‘LIE DOWN’ or ‘SIT.’ And if he obeys, reward him with his favorite treats.
Dogs mostly sleep at their owner’s feet for normal reasons. You can permit the behavior if you find it adorable or redirect it through training. And if the habit persists despite your best efforts, your best bet would be to take the dog for further medical checkups.