Dogs are known as man’s best friend for good reasons. Their loyalty, silliness, unconditional love, as well as other qualities, make them excellent companions. They can show an array of emotions such as joy, excitement, fear, sadness, and more which all helps to make them more relatable.
Just because dogs are wonderful companions, doesn’t mean they don’t also have some annoying habits. Some dogs nibble on our favorite things, while others plop down on you while you’re trying to enjoy some T.V. or even get some sleep.
It’s important to be good owners and know how to interpret our pup’s different behaviors as well as understand what they are trying to tell us.
So what about dogs that keep stepping on your feet? Why do dogs step on your feet? There isn’t a quick and easy answer to this question because there are so many things that could be going on with your pooch.
Your dog steps on your feet for one or more of the following reasons:
- She wants love and attention
- She’s defending you
- She’s excited
- You trained her too (oops!)
- She wants your protection
- She has anxiety
- She’s marking you as hers
- She’s imitating another dog
- She’s being dominant (not likely!)
- She’s doing it by accident
- If it’s a new behavior it could be one of many signs that she’s sick, ill, or has another problem.
Reasons Dogs Step On Feet
If you saw which reason applies to your dog, skip to that section for more details, and then check out my tips for how to get your dog to stop.
Otherwise, take the time to read the more detailed explanations. Hopefully, those will help you learn why your dog is doing this to you.
Love and Attention
Dogs love being close to their humans, and one way they express and seek love is by stepping on their owners’ feet. This behavior can be a sign of affection. It can come from either the dog wanting attention from their human or trying to tell their human ‘I love you!’.
In some cases, dogs can step on your feet out of protection or loyalty toward you. If they sense any kind of threat or danger nearby, they may try to shield their owner by standing between them and whatever they perceive as a potential threat.
Dogs can go crazy with excitement…and when they do, all bets of a perfectly behaved dog are off.
When he was younger, my dog Duke would go nuts with excitement. Especially when I came home! He would do his best to be a good boy, running up to me and sitting down.
But the anticipation of getting a pat on the head and his ears scratched was just too much!
His butt would start wiggling on the ground, then his whole body would shake, and soon he was bouncing out of his sitting position trying to get as close as possible to me in any way he could…including stepping on my feet.
You Trained Her To
It’s not out of the realm of possibility that you actually trained your pup to do this without even realizing it. If you have given your dog loves while she is stepping on your feet, then she may have learned that this behavior gets her the attention she constantly wants from her favorite human.
And of course, if you’re a dog, what better way to get more of that sweet attention than by repeating the behavior that got it for you in the first place!
She Wants To Be Protected
Your pup may just want some security or protection from something in the environment that is making her feel extra nervous. Dogs are drawn to their pack when they feel scared.
So, if she feels like she needs protection don’t be surprised that she wants to be as close as possible, which likely means stepping on your feet.
Your dog’s feet-stepping habit could also be a sign of anxiety in general, or perhaps only in certain situations. For example, if your good girl tends to step on your feet when there are visitors in the home or when there is loud noise outside, then it could mean that she feels anxious or nervous and wants reassurance from her favorite person: you!
Another reason why dogs step on their humans’ feet is because they are marking you as their territory! Yes, the trope of a dog urinating on something to spread his scent and mark his territory is well known, but dogs also spread their scents in other ways.
In addition to spreading scent, dogs may also show other dogs that you are theirs by physically claiming you.
Dogs are good at observing what their fellow canines do. For instance, I love to brag about my dog Bella, training herself. We got Bella after Duke was already trained; she immediately started copying nearly everything Duke did, including obeying our commands! It wasn’t long before she’d picked up on all of the common commands we give Duke.
She taught herself to ‘sit’, ‘go to bed’, ‘go potty’, ‘stay’, and ‘lay down’. It was pretty cool to see!
Dogs also like to see what their brothers and sisters get away with too. If one dog is getting away with (or even being rewarded for) foot stepping, then you can bet your other dog will try it too!
Sometimes our canine friends don’t mean anything when they step on our feet; it might just be an accident! Dogs can get very excited when playing or running around, which can lead to them running straight through furniture or even people.
If you notice that your pup tends to plow through things without much regard for their surroundings while playing or getting excited, this could explain why they accidentally stepped onto your feet. Don’t get angry – no harm was meant!
This isn’t likely, but it’s worth considering. One possibility is that your pup is trying to establish dominance over you. Some dogs have a strong instinct to become the alpha – especially when there are multiple animals involved.
Obviously, most dogs don’t act on this instinct in most situations, but there is the possibility your dog is trying to show the other dogs she’s #1, or the (even less likely) possibility she’s testing you to see if you can be dominant over you.
My Dog Suddenly Started Stepping On My Feet
Sure, your dog has her curious behaviors, but stepping on feet wasn’t one of them. At least not until now. If your good girl has started doing this, you might be wondering why she would suddenly start. If it is a new and consistent behavior, then the reasons I’ve already gone through may not apply to your situation.
When dogs experience a serious illness or injury they can’t exactly tell us. And in fact, they may even try to hide it!
Yet you can usually tell your good girl isn’t feeling well by sudden behavior changes. If your dog suddenly starts doing something strange that she’s never done before, like say stepping on your feet, then it could be a sign she isn’t feeling well.
Likely there will be other behavior changes and signs as well so don’t immediately jump to the worst conclusion if this is the only behavior change.
Emotional Or Behavioral Issues
I mentioned anxiety as a reason your dog may have the habit of stepping on your foot. It’s also a reason your dog could suddenly pick up the habit as well. It’s possible that your dog could be feeling emotionally overwhelmed or anxious about something and she’s using foot stepping to cope.
Pay attention to any new stressors in your dog’s life. Maybe she’s getting too old to rough house with the kids, or maybe you got a new dog that picks on her. These and many other reasons can cause your dog stress which may lead to an odd behavior like stepping on your feet.
Trying To Tell You Something
If your dog is like my dogs, she can effectively communicate everyday things to you. For instance, my dogs are very good at telling me when it’s time to eat. With Bella’s little ‘I’m hungry’ dance, I almost don’t need a watch to tell you when it is 5:30 in the evening!
However, if there’s something new and urgent your dog wants to relay to you, she’ll need to try something new. Stepping on your feet is an excellent way to get your attention, if she does that and barks, or tries to lead you somewhere, or does a little dance afterward she might be trying to tell you something.
Is It Okay For My Dog To Step On My Feet?
If you’re okay with it, then it might be okay as long as your dog’s foot-stepping isn’t due to a medical issue. Of course, not everyone will enjoy your dog stepping on their feet, so it’s probably not a good habit to encourage even if your dog is doing it for sweet reasons like love and excitement.
How to Stop Your Dog From Stepping On Your Feet
If your dog is stepping on your feet, you likely want to get her to stop. Not only can it be painful if she steps on your bare feet, but having a dog who has possibly painful and destructive habits makes it hard to have company over or get a friend to dog-sit when you want to take a long weekend vacation. Check out my tips below on the best ways to get your dog to stop stepping on your feet.
Remember, don’t yell at or punish her; this won’t help with the training process and could cause more issues down the line.
Finally, if none of these training tips work, or there is something medically wrong with your dog, reach out to your vet for more personalized help.
Tip #1: Identify Why She’s Stepping On Your Foot
The first step to take when trying to train your dog out of any bad habit, like stepping on your feet, is to identify why she’s doing it. Does she do it for attention? Is she trying to defend you? Is there something else that she wants? Answering these questions can help you determine the best way to approach training her not to do it anymore.
Tip #2: Move Your Foot As Soon As She Tries
As soon as you feel your dog’s foot on yours, move your foot away from her. This will signal that she should not step on your feet and will let her know that it’s not ok.
This will work even better if you can move your foot as soon as you see her about to step on your foot. If you don’t even let it happen she’ll quickly figure out you don’t want her to.
Tip #3: Use Basic Commands
Your dog should already know basic commands such as ‘no’ and ‘off’. Use them when she tries to step on your foot so that she understands that what she is doing isn’t allowed.
Tip #4: Train A New Command
It might help if you train a new, specific command such as ‘no feet’ so that there’s no confusion about what behavior isn’t acceptable.
You can start by saying ‘no feet’ every time you catch her trying to step on your foot and then rewarding her with treats or praise whenever she obeys the command. With enough repetition, eventually, this new command will become second nature and will help prevent her from stepping on your feet again in the future!
Just be sure to use this command consistently every time so that she knows exactly what it means and learns quickly which behavior isn’t allowed.
Tip #5: Use Positive Reinforcement Training
Finally, remember that positive reinforcement training is key for any type of behavioral change with dogs – including getting them not to step on their owner’s feet!
Rewarding good behavior with treats or verbal praise helps reinforce the desired behavior while discouraging unwanted behaviors like stepping on toes or paws. Over time, this kind of reward-based training will help create lasting behavioral changes in dogs, so don’t forget to use it every time you want to train your dog something new.
Summary: Why Is My Dog Stepping On My Foot?
There are a variety of reasons why your dog is on your foot. She may be seeking love and attention from you. Or she may also be trying to protect or defend you by standing guard over you. Your pup could also be extremely excited and jumping around in glee.
If this behavior has been reinforced through positive reinforcement such as verbal praise or treats, you could have accidentally trained her to step on your feet too.
Anxiety can also lead to foot stepping; dogs are known to pace or move restlessly when they feel uneasy or stressed out. This can manifest itself in physical contact with the owner, even though he/she was not directly prompting it.
She may also be marking you as hers; this could be her way of letting other animals know that you are off-limits!
She might even be attempting to dominate you; although it’s highly unlikely.
It is also possible that she learned this behavior from other dogs who get away with it.
If your dog has suddenly started stepping on your feet, watch for other signs that she’s physically unwell and/or stress triggers that have suddenly entered her life.
Regardless of the reason behind why your dog steps on your feet, it’s important to remember that it is usually not out of aggression.
Using positive reinforcement, obedience commands and physically moving your foot away from your dog are all excellent ways to train your dog not to step on your foot.
Remember to not punish your dog, as it’s cruel and it won’t produce better results than positive reinforcement anyway.
Of course, if you think something else might be going on with your pup then don’t hesitate to reach out to a veterinarian or qualified animal behaviorist who can help address any potential issues more thoroughly.