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Why Does My Dog Lean on Me? 4 Common Reasons

Adam Mann

By Adam Mann

golden retriever dog panting and leaning on its owner

Whether it’s your first pup, your second, or you’ve had dozens, they always find a way to surprise us! One way your dog might be trying to get your attention is by leaning on you, but what does it mean when they start leaning?

The good news is that it’s almost always positive, and unless they pair this behavior with other aggressive or dominating behaviors, there’s probably nothing you need to worry about.

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The 4 Reasons Your Dog Might Lean on You

1. They’re Saying They Love You

The most likely reason your pup is leaning on you is simply that they love you and want to spend more time with you! Just like how you often want to touch the people you love, your dog can react the same way if they’re a touchy-feely individual.

Not every dog will react this way, but it’s pretty common, and many dogs will. Sometimes they’ll only do it in certain situations, like when you come home, and other times they’ll do it randomly throughout the day.

dog leaning to its owner
Photo Credit: Alexander_Evgenyevich, Shutterstock

2. They’re Anxious/Scared

When there’s a new situation and it scares your dog, makes them feel anxious, or just makes them feel insecure, they’ll often look to you for comfort. It’s a perfectly normal reaction, and if they’re only leaning against you in stressful situations or after major changes, this is likely the reason.

Proper socialization and more experience in these types of situations can help alleviate this behavior, but if it’s coming from a unique situation that doesn’t happen very often, you likely don’t need to do anything about it other than offer them comfort and a safe place to calm down, like their kennel.


3. They Want Something

Is your dog always leaning against you when it’s time for dinner or when they want to go out? If so, this isn’t a coincidence! Your dog can’t open their mouth to tell you what they want and need, so they have to get a little bit more creative with how they communicate with us.

Leaning can be an easy way to get your attention, and once you’re paying attention to them, they’re more likely to get what they want. This is a learned behavior, and it can be an excellent way for your dog to let you know there is something they want that they’re not getting.

dog leaning on its owner
Photo Credit: MT-R, Shutterstock

4. They’re Showing You They’re the Boss

This is far from the most likely reason your dog is leaning on you, but if they’re leaning on you while displaying other aggressive or dominant behaviors, it could be the reason. If your dog is leaning on you to try and assert their dominance, you need to address the behavior right away, including getting professional help if you don’t feel safe or comfortable handling the situation.

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Do You Need to Worry if Your Dog Is Leaning on You?

Most of the time, you don’t need to worry about anything if your dog is leaning on you. That’s because most of the reasons your dog would do this are completely harmless and actually mean your dog likes you and wants to be with you.

However, if you don’t like the behavior, you can train them out of it, and if you notice other worrying aggressive behaviors accompanying the leaning, you should take notice and potentially talk to a vet or a dog behavioral specialist about what’s going on.

How to Stop Your Dog From Leaning on You

While you certainly don’t need to stop your dog from leaning on you, if you don’t feel comfortable with the behavior, you don’t need to put up with it. Usually, all you need to do is provide consistent redirection whenever they start the behavior.

However, you need to be extremely careful about what you redirect them to. Common pitfalls to avoid include paying special attention to them, letting them outside, giving them a treat, or giving them one of their favorite toys.

It’s better to simply redirect them off you, but not give them super exciting to do or reward them with a little extra attention. The other half of this training method is equally important, though. When you notice your dog coming up to you for something and they don’t lean on you, then you need to reward this behavior.

This can be with a treat, some attention, or something else entirely, but you need to ignore and redirect the problem behavior while rewarding the positive behavior you want.

doberman pinscher dog sitting with owner on the living room floor
Image Credit: gemphoto, Shutterstock

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Conclusion

Your dog is likely leaning on you simply because they love you, and if that’s enough to put you at ease, you can enjoy the behavior and move on with your life. But if you don’t like the leaning, it’s easy enough to train them to do something else, just ensure you don’t punish them by correcting with negative reinforcement just because they’re trying to show you some affection!


Featured Image Credit: trofalenaRV, Shutterstock

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