Why Do Dogs Sit on Your Feet?

A “Feet” of Evolution: Why Do Dogs Sit on Your Feet?

At the end of the day, there’s nothing a dog owner loves more than coming home and spending some quality time with their pup.

And from what we can tell, there’s nothing better for a dog, either!

But when it’s time to get off the couch and head to bed, your dog’s desire for closeness can end up being more of an obstacle than anything else.

It’s not just those puppy-dog eyes or that subtle little whine that compels you to bend to his will. No, in many cases, your dog physically prevents you from getting up by sitting on your feet.

Though at first this behavior is cute and charming, feet-sitting can quickly become annoying. It certainly doesn’t help that it’s not always clear just why your dog is doing this!

We may not know exactly why dogs sit on feet, since we’ve yet to perfect the art of canine telepathy. But there are a few prevailing theories — let’s break them down!

Dogs Sit on Feet Because They’re Anxious

Dogs Sit on Feet Because They're Anxious

Dogs get anxiety just like humans — that much is obvious. All it takes is one look around the vet’s office waiting room to observe all the different ways anxiety can manifest in dogs.

Wide eyes, trembling bodies, tucked-away tails and nervous glances are all telltale signs of an anxious dog.

But so is the dog’s position in the room.

An anxious dog will instinctively seek out comfort and security anywhere it can get it. At home, this may mean curling up in a favorite corner or retreating into a dark, quiet room.

But when you’re around, your dog will probably turn to you for reassurance and comfort during anxiety-provoking situations. And often, the easiest way to obtain these things is by sitting on your feet.

No jumping, no crying for attention, no risk of getting in trouble for being on the furniture. Just take a seat on your owner’s feet and start reaping all the benefits of close contact — easy peasy!

Physical touch plays a huge part in alleviating anxiety. We humans tend to calm down when we get hugs from loved ones, and dogs tend to calm down when touching their favorite people too.

And even in non-anxious situations, your dog just wants to be near you out of love. That obsession with your feet may actually be an expression of devotion, canine-style.

Dogs Sit on Feet Because They’re Cold…

Dogs Sit on Feet Because They're Cold

Though they’re covered in fur, dogs still get cold from time to time. As the saying goes, if you’re cold, so are they!

And believe it or not, dogs have devised many of the same ways of warming up as we have.

They’ll burrow into blankets or under rugs, seek out emanating warmth from fireplaces or radiators and curl up into little insulated balls. Physiologically, they also shiver and chatter their teeth, just like we do.

But dogs also instinctually seek out other sources of body heat when they’re cold.

We can observe this behavior in wolf packs, which huddle together when it’s nippy outside. The large mass of warm bodies conserves heat far better than a lone wolf, boosting the pack’s ability to survive in subfreezing temperatures.

…And to Keep Their Leader Safe and Warm

Keep Their Leader Safe and Warm

When wolves get together, the leader of the pack usually gets the prime spot in the huddle: the center.

It’s the warmest, best-insulated spot, and it’s reserved for the head honcho.

And the center of the group is the safest place as well — any attackers would need to fight through several layers of wolves before getting to the most important and/or vulnerable members of the pack.

But it doesn’t end with wild wolves. This behavior has clearly carried over to domestic dogs too.

As the pack leader, you’re the VIP of your dog’s world. His instinct is both to protect you and to rely on you, and feet-sitting fulfills both of these drives.

By sitting on your feet, your dog gets to combine his body warmth with yours, which warms him right up. But he’s also curling up at your feet in an act of deference to you and your leadership.

And whether or not he knows it, your dog is warming you up too! His dense coat of fur and warm skin turn him into the world’s most lovable foot warmer.

Dogs Sit on Feet Because They’re Too Warm

Dogs Sit on Feet Because They're Too Warm

Conversely, your dog may sit on your feet because he’s too warm and needs to cool down a bit.

It seems counterintuitive, we know. After all, we just learned that dogs often rely on feet-sitting to warm up when they’re chilly — and now they do the opposite too?

But your dog wants to be near you whether he’s hot, cold or anywhere in between. It’s just that his body temperature doesn’t always match up perfectly with yours.

When you’re curled up in bed under tons of blankets, your dog may get overheated if he joins in.

But since he still wants to be close to you, his best bet is to lay down at your feet. They’re the furthest things from your core, and thus they’re the coolest parts of your body.

The same holds true in other situations, like when you’re sitting on the couch. Hard floors tend to be cooler than carpets and upholstery, so feet-sitting lets your dog get the cuddling experience without overheating.

Dogs Sit on Feet Because You’re Their Territory

Dogs Sit on Feet Because You're Their Territory

Much of a dog’s behavior is driven by the instinct to define its territory. In fact, there’s a territorial basis for nearly every action (or inaction) a dog takes — including feet-sitting.

If your dog tends to sit on your feet at the dog park, in the vet’s office or at doggy daycare, chances are it’s a territorial move. When there are other dogs or animals around, defining his territory and staking his claim is your dog’s top priority.

And what better way to communicate ownership of someone than by sitting on their feet?

Well, we can think of a few, but dogs clearly can’t. So when it’s time to tell the world that he belongs to you (or, more likely, vice-versa), your dog is likely to head for your feet.

Feet-sitting can be territorial even at home, especially if there are multiple dogs in your home.

Ever witnessed your dogs quibbling over who gets to sit on your feet? It’s not just a matter of wanting to sit there for comfort — it’s a matter of who actually owns the feet, a much more serious issue.

And Why Do Dogs Sit Near — Not On — Your Feet?

And Why Do Dogs Sit Near — Not On — Your Feet

So feet-sitting has a number of root causes.

But what about when it’s almost, but not quite, feet sitting? What does it mean when your dog lies down next to or in front of your feet, not touching them but coming close?

Well, it could mean any of the previously-mentioned things, depending on the situation and other behaviors. But there is a reason for the lack of contact, and it goes back to your dog’s first days on Earth.

Puppies instinctually sleep a little ways away from their mother, not curled up right against her. They’ll pass out in a huddle together, but the huddle will be positioned near the mother’s tail or a couple of inches from her feet.

This is a protective measure that’s taken to prevent a tragedy: the mother rolling over onto the puppies in her sleep.

A puppy atop another puppy won’t do any damage, but a full-grown dog certainly will. Depending on the breed, a mother dog could weigh well over ten times what her puppies weigh.

So to mitigate this disaster, puppies have evolved to sleep a little ways away from their mothers. And this instinct persists into adulthood, giving rise to the peculiar phenomenon of next-to-feet-sitting.

Don’t be offended if your dog only sits next to, not on, your feet. It’s nothing personal — he’s just still a puppy deep down inside, doing what nature tells him to do to stay safe.

"If you think dogs can’t count, try putting three dog biscuits in your pocket and then give him only two of them."
--Phil Pastoret

35 thoughts on “When Pups Pass On: Where Do Dogs Go When They Die?”

    1. Paula Skerston

      You and your dog will be together in the afterlife, because love and the love bond never dies. Remember all of the joy your dog brought into your life to you. Be grateful for being lucky to have your dog. Do something special for your dog, like a small memorial or put your docs picture in a nice frame by your bed. Your dog taught you some wonderful lessons so learn from the lessons that your dog taught you.

    2. My dog just passed May 21, 2020 and it is so hard. . She lived 16 yrs. I miss her so much. I hope the same thing that I see her and my other pets as well there.

      That would be great to see them all again, happy and healthy.

    3. Hi. Yes its heart breaking. I had my dig put down because of a brain tumor, but i buried her at home. I go to where she is buried and say few things to her. It brings tears to my eyes. She was so special and unique. Loe her and miss her so much.

    4. My puppy died last january 1,2021, that the most painful day. I was crying all day and night. I want my puppy back, i dont know how to live a day without him, his just a baby i miss him so bad he accompanied me allday that his with me,. Were ever i go his following me even in the kitchen his with me. I miss him really bad. How i wish i want the day back when his with us., i hope his happy now. Ilove him very much

  1. My baby JoJo (toy poodle) would have been 17 yrs old on 5/17/2020. Today i had to send him on his journey to the next dimension.
    Was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But i do have some comfort that he will be chasing squirrels and wagging his tail so fast when it’s my time to meet up with him

    Goodbye my buddy, I miss you so much and hope i did the wright thing as i held you for your last breath.

    1. We did the same thing today with our lab. I’m back and forth on if it were the right decision. She was 15 in March. A lot of weekends and holidays it was just her and I.

      1. We too on this day, had to make the decision to lay our baby to rest he developed, a heart issue and we had to say goodbye. We are still grieving, I have to admit, we are not feeling peace about it yet ,my understanding of it is he had to be layed to rest However my heart is heavy ,he was 14 and was our family dog, great memories,unconditional love ,so blessed to have those years .I know what you are feeling.

  2. We lost our beloved Sherman on 5/17/20 at age 17. I hope to see him again in heaven. I will miss him for some time to come but I take comfort in knowing he is somewhere running around being his usual mischievous self. Till I see you again buddy..

  3. I lost the love of my life, my Chester . Even as the vet helped him pass, he showed love, worry and concern for me . I had a very dear friend to help me and he loved her too.
    He was my best friend and whenever I needed a hand he gave me his paw .
    It hurts so so bad and it was beyond hard , but I know I made the right choice because Chester told me . RIP CHESTER , age 11 Weimaraner

  4. Artyone Turner

    Very comforting article. I hope I see my Sheba on the rainbow bridge when my time comes. God I miss her
    Sheba the Shiba Inu, just turned 14 in April.

    1. My Sweet Boy Tyson passed on 30th October 2020 I miss him terribly, im struggling without him.
      But I know I will see him again one day

      The sweetest dreams handsome,
      your forever in my Heart

  5. My pup died today, an American eskimo. Sean was the most loyal dog I’ve ever known or Sean. It’s so hard and painful. I gave a kiss on his head right before I went to sleep and today he is no more.

  6. Today, we lost Happy.
    No matter what, he was always happy to see me…today I lost my best friend.
    I’m always thankful to Happy for being there for me during the most difficult times…
    So long Happy til next time!!!

    1. My heart goes out to you and your family. I lost Bear, my 10 y/o German Shepherd, my protector and sometimes my emotional regulator. He was easy going and would give me a look that calmed me down, when i was hurting, scared, angry or worried. He was definitely there with me during those difficult times. I set up a memorial in my house and everymorning I go over to that area and he is with me during my prior time. I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to have him in my life. Thanks for sharing your story and motivating me to talk about my experience. Since then, I went to the animal shelter and adopted a 2 y/o German Shepherd and he is really keeping my 4 y/o female German Shepherd good company. I hope you are doing well now and you may want to look into getting another dog. I know another dog won’t replace Happy, but I just think it is an awesome thing for a human to care for animals, especially when they don’t have a home.

  7. Francis Marc RO

    My queen Erza just died yesterday and it hurts so bad. I often call her Prin, Cute, Not Cute, Weird Feet, Alligator Dog, Kyo, Very, even Pangolin Queen lol and many more names. I really hope that we’ll meet again someday together with deceased loved ones and all the pets we’ve loved so much. Erza Splin, till we meet again. Goodluck in your journey. I love you Prin

  8. Francis Marc RO

    Erza died yesterday it hurts so bad. She is my queen. We will meet the people and the animals we love again and it will be perfect.

    1. Yes Francis, I miss Bear so much! I did go to the animal shelter and got a 2 y/o German Shepherd. I know he can’t replace bear, but it feels good to know that I was able to save another animal and welcome him into my home. He was abused in the passed and have a few scars from his abuse, but the outside wounds have healed and it feels good to know that I am helping him heal from the trauma of his past. Also, I believe dogs watch over us after they are physically gone and that we will reunite in the future. I feel Bear’s spirit everyday and I hope you still feel Erza (Ezra?) spirit as well.

    2. My Hooch died, Oct 11 2020 , only 3 days ago, I understand, I am heartbroken, everything feels empty without him. I have his cuddly blanket that has been with me constantly. So I know what your feeling. I wish they would all just come home.

      1. I lost my fur baby Cookie October 28th 2020 I had her for 13 years that was the hardest day of my life to lose I’m so heartbroken without her I miss her so much she was my baby I also lost my first dog Buddy October 30th 2019 I had him for 14 years it’s so strange to me that they both passed the same in the same month and they both passed on a Wednesday

  9. I lost my beloved frenchie on Friday, my heart aches for him. I love you forever and always, Rudy. I know I will see you again some day. I miss you.

  10. My best friend of 11 years died of heart failure on August 12, 2020. He brought so much happiness to my life. He was always there for me and I could tell that he loved me just as much as I loved him. He was more than my dog. He was family. Argos, I will always have you in my heart and memories. I love you and I miss you so much.

  11. We lost Bella Thursday. She was 13 and 1/2. Never did I know how painful it would be to lose the nicest black lab you could ever meet. She loved everyone and everyone loved her. This is going to be hard for quite some time.
    I pray I will see her again. Love you Bella forever!

  12. I lost my Rottweiler, Max on Saturday, August 31, 2020. I can’t stop crying. It is soo very hard and yes, painful. I look a mess and feel so empty. Max was truly family for 9 years. He was my little boy, so sweet in spirit, loving, and caring! I stand in his room now, just to try to smell his scent. I can’t wait until we meet again. Right now I’m sooo sad and heartbroken. He could really “read” what I was feeling…. I love you Mackie!!

    1. I to had to make the hardest decision today to let Ebony go. One of the hardest things I’ve ever faced. I miss her and today has been so hard. She’s been a big part of our families life for 15 years. To say goodbye is so heart wrenching. Our home feels empty and will for a very long time. I love you my sweet girl. Even at the end you were concerned more about loving me and how I was. I love u so much. Until we me at the rainbow bridge. RIP

    2. Judy i lost my Mya on Sept 30th. We had been together for 13 years. On the 7th day of her home going she came to me in a dream. She was running around playing with another dog. I do believe that she wanted me to know that she was in no more pain and that she could walk again. i cremated her and have started to gst her little corner whdre her favorite things will be placed for me to go to as oftsn as i want totalk ti her. I feel your lost. Believe me. I could not work the rest of the week. One day I guess it will get better but it I have not gotten there yet. God bless you and your family flr your loss.

  13. I had to put my sweet girl down today. 10/3/2020. She was almost 15. The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do is make the decision .
    Ebony was the sweetest most loyal and even at the end she was so concerned about me and how I was feeling and still showed me love. My heart is so heat broken filled with such sadness. I love u EB! Until we meet again my sweet girl.

  14. Our boy Buddy was diagnosed with Chondrosarcoma in October 2019 and had surgery to remove the tumor on his rightside ribs. But the surgeon couldn’t remove all of it. He turned 10 in May of this year (2020) and that tumor started growing and is now the size of a baseball. He also suffers from a tightening of his esophagus which has recently made him hack, almost like he is trying to get rid of a hair ball. He still drinks loads of water but will only eat if my Dad or I hand feed him. He is still fairly chipper early in the day but pretty much sleeps through the afternoon. We will have the clinic repeat the ultrasound to see how badly his lungs are involved. He is our second Labrador retriever and he is my Dad’s shadow. When our first Lab passed, I thought it was going to kill Dad too but, just a few weeks after Duke’s death he brought Buddy home from our local shelter. I sure hope that when Buddy’s time comes to cross the Rainbow Bridge that he gives Dad the message, loudly and clearly that we need to have another pup in our lives!

  15. Kyle Marion De Guzman

    My pup died today I was just having fun because it’s weekend then when i got home they told me that he’s gone. we just had him last month but it really breaks my heart that he didn’t spend more time with us but in that 1 month we took care of him and love him. I missed him already, I hope we see each other soon with my other pup.

  16. We lost our beloved Albus a month before he was suppose to turn 10. It’s heart breaking, he had kidney failure by the time we realized he was in a critical stage. He was having difficulty in breathing when his kidney started to shutdown he was on oxygen and fought for 7hrs to make it with us until we decided to rest him peace. I can see he didn’t wanted to let go but also it was so hard for us to see him struggling. I still feel that I should have tested him before, rest him peace before rather then making him fight for 7hrs. He always gave us happiness which I was not able to compensate in the end. I love you forever and ever

  17. My dog got a loose from her leash while walking her and she ran under the middle of a van and got hit by the back tire I miss Koko so much 08/03/2012-12/18/2020

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