Does your dog rub their body against yours, similar to a cat?
Does this make you curious? Would you like to know why they behave in this way?
In his post, we will answer the question, why do dogs rub against you?
And then look at how to stop them from doing so if you would like to train them out of it.
Reasons Why Your Dog Rubs Against You Like a Cat?
Dogs rub against you as a form of communication. They are trying to express something with their body language.
It can be a form of bonding, an expression of submission, or to let you know they want attention.
Here is a detailed list of reasons why your dog might rub their body on yours:
- Social Bonding and Affection
- Soreness or Itchy Skin
- To Show Submission
- To Feel Safe and Secure
- A Protective Instinct
- To Share Scents with You
- To Ease Separation Anxiety
- They Are Trying to Tell You Something
- They Are Copying Your Cat
NOTE – You might like to take a look at this post about why dogs lay on your feet.
1. Social Bonding and Affection
As everyone knows, dogs are pack animals, and in most cases, they see their owner as the most important member of the pack.
So, as their owner, they naturally want to bond with you and show you affection, which can include rubbing against you.
Dogs are often more intelligent than we give them credit for and are skilled at manipulating their humans.
It could be that at some point, your dog has figured out that you like it when they rub their body against you, and so they do it when they want something from you.
3. Social Soreness or Itchy Skin
Your dog could be rubbing against you because they have itchy or sore skin and are trying to soothe it or let you know about it.
Obviously, if you think this is the case, you should check them out carefully to see if there are any issues with their skin, such as a rash or grazing.
If the behavior persists and you are worried about their health, take them to the vet to get checked over.
4. To Show Submission
By rubbing against your feet and legs, your pup might be expressing submissiveness, letting you know that you are the boss and they are ok with that.
5. To Feel Safe and Secure
As social animals, dogs get emotional comfort from physical contact with other pack members.
Think about it like a dog using your body to stroke itself, and you will understand why they might be doing it.
If you think about it, humans aren’t much different. We cuddle up on the sofa or in bed to help us feel safe and secure.
6. A Protective Instinct
Once again, another type of pack behavior that dogs can exhibit with their owners.
Your dog could be rubbing against you because it wants to be as close to you as possible to protect you from any threats.
By rubbing against you, they can stay very close to you so they can guard you against anything that might attack you.
7. To Share Scents with You
Your dog might want to give you some of its scent or take some of your scent and mix it in with its own.
This is classic canine pack behavior.
Scent is essential for dogs, much more so than humans, so it drives many of their behavior patterns.
8. To Ease Separation Anxiety
If your dog suffers from separation anxiety and has been left alone for a while, when you come home, they will often want to be as close to you as possible to ease their anxiousness.
By rubbing themselves against you, they get to feel your presence and reassure themselves that you are back with them.
9. They Are Trying to Tell You Something
If only dogs could talk, it would be much easier for us to care for them.
Sadly, they can’t, but they often use non-verbal communication and try to express themselves.
Your dog might be trying to communicate with you by rubbing against you like a cat.
Your job is to figure out then what it is they want.
It could be a treat, a walk, a potty break, some attention, relief from pain, or something similar.
10. They Are Copying Your Cat
This one might be a bit of a long shot, but dogs copy behaviors from other dogs, so they may copy from other pets as well.
Maybe your dog has seen your cat rubbing themselves against your body and being rewarded with food and decided they will see if it also works for them.
You might also find this video interesting. It shares more reasons why your dog might often lean on you.
Just click on the video, and it will start to play:
Do You Need to be Concerned About Your Dog Rubbing Against You?
This behavior is perfectly normal, natural, and nothing to worry about in most cases.
However, if your dog shows any signs of sickness, pain, or distress, please take them to the vet for a health check-up to ensure nothing is seriously wrong with them.
If you are in financial difficulty and are worried about vet bills, this site lists helpful resources for charities to help you pay your bills.
(If you don’t live in the US, you can use Google to find similar help in your country, there is a lot of support out there for dog owners who are in difficulty).
How to Stop Your Dog from Rubbing Against You Like a Cat
If your dog rubbing against you is not something you like, and you want to discourage it, you can try the following approach:
- Never reward this behavior.
- Train them to understand “No.”
- Train them to go to a particular place on command.
- Reward desired behavior patterns.
- Make sure their anxiety levels are as low as possible.
1 – Never Reward This Behaviour
Any time your dog rubs against you, ignore them. Never give them praise or attention while they act in this way.
This is one of the golden rules of dog training.
Dogs will repeat behaviors that feel nice or get rewarded.
If you want to stop your dog rubbing up against you, never reward it with anything pleasant.
2 – Train Them to Understand “No.”
If you haven’t done so, training your dog to understand the “No” command is handy for stopping this and many other unwanted behaviors.
In extreme cases, the no command could save your dog’s life. On a less extreme level, it makes them much easier to live with.
So it is one of the most important commands you will ever teach your dog.
3 – Train Them to Go to a Certain Place on Command
A great example would be them going to their bed on command. This is easy to do with treats and repetition.
Once you have got them trained in this way, if they start rubbing against you, you can send them to their bed.
4 – Reward Desired Behavior Patterns
As with all dog training ignoring undesired behaviors and rewarding desired ones is the key to success.
For example, if your dog starts to rub against your legs and you give them the no command, and they stop rubbing, praise them for it.
This makes it much more likely that they will obey you the next time you tell them to stop rubbing against you.
5 – Make Sure Their Anxiety Levels Are as Low as Possible
If your dog rubs against you because of anxiety, the more you can reduce their stress, the less likely they will act this way.
There are two approaches to this first, try to reduce as much stress from the dog’s life as possible.
Then give them lots of ways to deal with stress such as toys, walks, cuddles, a nice quiet den-like bed to hide in, etc.
Final Notes On Why Dogs Rub Against You Like a Cat
Dogs rub against you as a form of communication or bonding. This is an endearing trait for most dog owners, but you can try to train your dog not to do it if you don’t like it.
In most cases, it is not something you need to worry about, but if your dog shows any signs of being in pain or of ill health, please take them to the vet to get checked out.
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!