Why Do Dogs Lean on You?

Should you be worried if your pup leans on you?

There are few things more heartwarming than feeling your furry companion pressing up against your leg or cuddling itself against your side. The unconditional love you receive from a dog may be why you added one to the family in the first place. Despite all the love, dogs have some seemingly unusual habits, like eating grass, sniffing each other’s butts—and leaning on their human for seemingly no reason. Leaning may be the most noticeable of odd behaviors, especially with large dogs that may be too heavy to pick up. So why do these animals lean on us?

They’re looking for affection

Karen Reese, the animal behavior manager at Operation Kindness, says, “Dogs lean because they want something: your attention, your affection, your comfort.” As expected, many pet experts believe that dogs lean on you because they love you and seek out your touch just as humans feel towards their loved ones. When you reward these leans with scratches behind the ear and snuggles, your dog will be conditioned to lean for affection. Find out 19 things your dog actually wants from you.

Abhishek Joshi from Dog With Blog says, “Dogs are pack animals, descending from the wolves, and yet centuries of domestication [haven’t] let the proximity-seeking nature go away. I always find my dog leaning against me or putting a paw ever so gently on my foot, seeking attention or affection. In a way, a dog leaning on you is akin to dog hugs. If you weren’t standing, perhaps your dog would be cuddling or resting against your back.”

They are afraid

Peter Laskay, Pet Care Blogger at Petworshiper, says, “In some cases, leaning can mean fear. This is when dogs try to hide and seek refuge because they feel safe with us. However, in this case, there are other signs from which fear can be noticed.”

There are many reasons your dog may be afraid, including thunderstorms, fireworks, loud noises, and other dogs. Your dog may seek your touch in order to ease their anxiety just as a child may reach for your hand. They look to you as someone who can keep them safe from any harm. Find out if this has to do with why your dog follows you everywhere—including the bathroom.

Russell Hartstein, FunPawCare Dog Trainer and Behaviorist in LA, says, “It can also be a sign your dog is nervous and seeking comfort. Dogs are social and gregarious creatures. They also have emotions and feelings like us, so being comforted by a loved one helps a dog cope with whatever they are scared about.”

Is this normal?

Lynda Taylor, co-founder of Breed Advisor, says, “By nature, dogs are social animals that crave physical contact. Dogs lean on people because they want to be close to them. Whilst small dogs can be picked up and cuddled, bigger dogs do what they can to get close like leaning on you with all their weight.”

Leaning is a completely harmless behavior in dogs as it is usually a sign of comfort and love. However, some pups may suffer from separation anxiety, even going as far as following their human around the house and experiencing panic when left alone. See how to calm down an anxious dog without medication, but if this sounds like your dog, consult your veterinarian who will most likely refer you to an animal behavior specialist. Next, learn about why dogs yawn so much.