If you are lucky enough to own a dog (or dogs), you might have noticed that they tend to lay their head on your feet.
If you have ever wondered why they do this, you are in the right place.
In this post, we will answer the question – why do dogs lay their head on your feet?
Then look at how to encourage this behavior if you enjoy it or train them to stop it if you don’t.
Why Do Dogs Put Their Head on Your Feet?
The simple answer is that dogs put their head on your feet because they love being close to you, because they are social animals, and you are the leader of their pack.
Your feet are often easy for your dog to get close to and are nice and warm for them to cuddle up against.
The domestic dog has evolved over thousands of years from a now-extinct species of wolf called the Late Pleistocene wolf.
Being part of a pack is a matter of life and death for wolves. Lone wolves rarely survive for long, whereas wolf packs often thrive.
So, many behaviors you will observe in your dog, such as lying at your feet, can often be traced back to their wolf ancestor’s need for survival.
Wolves sleep together to keep warm and as a form of social bonding.
This bonding helps keep the pack together, which helps give all the pack members a better chance of survival.
So when your dog sleeps close to you, nuzzles you, and puts its head on your feet, these are all natural bonding instincts.
It’s their way of keeping your little family pack stronger. How cute is that?
(Don’t forget that dogs can’t use verbal language to communicate, so body language is fundamental in how they bond and express themselves).
NOTE – You might also like to read this article if your dog’s feet smell like Fritos corn chips (it’s more common than you think).
Why Do Dogs Lay On Your Feet More Than Other Parts of Your Body?
This is a really common question.
Many people notice the behavior pattern of the dog putting their head on their owner’s feet and wonder why they choose the feet over other parts of the body.
There is no hard evidence or compelling theories as to why they might prefer laying on your feet to other body areas.
They might do so because your feet are warmer or cooler than other parts of your body.
It might just be that dogs are (usually) much smaller than us, so they are often much closer to our feet.
Or it might be that they associate your feet with you moving and feel secure knowing that you can’t move without them.
NOTE – You might like reading this post explaining why some dogs rub against you.
You May Have Accidentally Trained Them to Lay Their Head on Your Feet
While this might sound surprising, it is easy to accidentally train your dog into a behavior pattern (this is often referred to as learned behavior).
For example, let’s say your dog randomly rested their head on your feet one day, and without thinking, you stroked them and gave them some attention.
The dog felt good because you reacted warmly to them.
On another day, they repeated the behavior, and you gave them a nice cuddle this time.
They have learned that if they lay their head on your feet, you will be nice to them.
So whenever they want some attention and affection from you, they put their head on your feet.
You could, of course, look at this the other way around.
That your dog has trained you to pet them when they lie on your feet.
Perhaps our dogs are a lot smarter than we realize.
NOTE – You might like to read this post answering the question – why does my dog sit behind me on the couch?
How to Encourage Your Dog to Lie on Your Feet More
If your dog shows no natural instinct to lie with its head on your feet, it might be very difficult or even impossible to train them.
But if they already do so and you want to encourage them to do it more often, this should be much easier.
The same principle applies when trying to encourage a behavior – reward the dog every time they do it, and they will be more likely to do it again.
It really is that simple, so in this case, every time your pooch puts their head on your feet, stroke them and praise them.
Just keep repeating this process, and the dog will soon get the message.
NOTE – You might like to read this post asking: why do dogs like feet so much?
How to Stop Your Dog Laying Its Head on Your Feet
To train your dog out of unwanted behavior, you need to replace it with different behavior and reward them.
So, if you don’t want the dog to lay on your feet, you must pick a replacement behavior, such as sitting on your lap or lying down somewhere else.
Then when they lay on your feet, you say “No” in a firm voice, lead them to where you want them to lie down, and give them lots of praise when they do so.
It will start to sink as you repeat this, and eventually, the new behavior should become habituated.
NOTE – You might also like to read this post asking the question: why do dogs love babies?
Final Notes On Why Dogs Lay Their Heads On Your Feet
Dogs have evolved from an ancient wolf species and, as such, are pack animals with a strong instinct to bond with other pack members.
In their eyes, you are not just another member of the pack. You are the pack leader and thus very important to your dog.
So, it will be crucial for your dog to bond with you, and one of the ways they might do this is by placing their head on your feet.
It’s not clear why they choose the feet over other parts of your body, but it might be because they associate your feet with moving and want to ensure you can’t go anywhere without them.
Before you go, here is a short video explaining why your dog might like lying at your feet.
Just click the video to start watching:
Related Post: Why Don’t Dogs Like Their Paws Being Touched?
Tim is a proud, vetted, and experienced dog foster carer for a charity helping dog owners escape domestic abuse.
He has years of experience training and caring for dogs, both his own and other people’s.
He is an expert in canine behavior and is highly skilled in dealing with all dogs but specializes in the difficult ones that other people may struggle with.
When he isn’t fostering dogs, he is making friends with other people’s pups!