Having dogs in your life can be a lot of fun. They provide us with unconditional love, and security, and make us smile. However, sometimes their behavior can be confusing. Have you ever met a dog that will only eat at night or that licks concrete? Dogs can do some odd things.
It’s important to take the time to understand what your dog’s behavior means. For instance, most people know that part of the way dogs communicate is through body language, and often what they’re trying to say to us is seen in their tails. As an obvious example, a dog who is wagging its tail energetically and bouncing around is usually happy and excited.
Understanding your dog’s body language and his weird behaviors helps you make the right decisions about your dog’s training and health. Knowing that your dog’s behavior is signaling “I’m sick and need a vet!”, is just as important as knowing when he’s trying to be silly and get you to play with him.
So, what about when your dog is hovering over your feet? Why does my dog stand over my feet? The quick and easy answer many people look for is dominance. True enough, dominance is one of the reasons your dog might be standing over your feet but, there are other reasons your dog could engage in this behavior as well. Your dog could be trying to take control of the current situation, want to be as close as possible to you, looking for or giving protection, doing so out of habit, or acting like a silly dog.
Dominance is a reason many laymen point to as a reason for a lot of what dogs do. And, while it is a motivation for the way dogs act, it doesn’t motivate everything they do. If your dog is standing over your feet as a form of dominance, he likely feels like he has a good reason for it and he will show you other clues as well.
To determine if your dog is standing over your feet as a form of dominance, pay attention to your pooch’s body language and other signs he may offer.
Signs of Dominance
If your dog is asserting dominance over you or another dog he will likely demonstrate it in more than one way. If your dog is standing over your feet and growling at you (or another dog he is stopping from standing over your feet), staring intently, being aggressive when you make eye contact, and resisting your verbal commands that he normally obeys, then he is likely showing dominance.
This could be an attempt to dominate you, by telling you he’s now in charge, or more likely, your pooch could be showing dominance over another dog. Perhaps he thinks your new dog is getting too close to you, or for some other reason, he wishes to put another dog in its ‘place’, asserting dominance is a go-to method for some dogs.
In a dog’s world, there is usually a pecking order or hierarchy of sorts. This may even happen in your own home if you have multiple dogs. The dog who is the ‘ Alpha ‘, or dominant one, is usually the one in charge and the other dogs will defer to him (or her).
In a pack setting, this may not be as clear-cut and can depend on each individual dog’s personality, but there is often a leader of the pack. The leader is the one who calls the shots and the other dogs will look to him for guidance and follow his lead.
If your dog is standing over your feet, it could be that he sees himself as the leader of your pack and is trying to assert his dominance. He may not be growling or aggressive, but he is trying to show control and be the one in charge.
Again, you will likely see other signs of dominance if this is the case. If your dog is standing over your feet and you think he’s trying to dominate you or another dog, check the tips below for what to do about it.
Your Dog Wants To Be Near You
Dogs are emotionally close to their owners and they usually prefer to be physically close to their owners as well. Standing over your feet is an excellent way to do so. However, the root motivation for wanting to be close to you, and standing over your feet can stem from more than one reason.
Your Dog Loves You
This probably doesn’t need much of an explanation. Your dog loves you, he wants to be close to you, and standing over your feet is an easy way to do so. You likely see many other signs of affection too. Sometimes he’ll do them while standing over your feet, other times you’ll witness them throughout the day. Wagging his tail when he sees you, following you around the house, sleeping next to you, and leaning against you are all signs that your dog loves you.
Sure, dogs bark a big game but sometimes they get scared. Heck, some dogs are even afraid of flies! When dogs are scared they may do a number of things to reassure themselves, including trying to be close to their owners.
If your dog is standing over your feet because he’s scared, you’ll likely see other signs too. He may have his tail between his legs, his ears may be down, and he may be shaking.
Some dogs require specific situations to unfold in the ‘correct’ order, and when they don’t see it or believe it is being carried out correctly, they will try their best to put things in the way they feel they should be.
Correcting The Situation
One possible motive for your dog standing over you could be that he is trying to control the situation. This can sometimes be seen when dogs are around puppies. One way that dogs handle energetic puppies is by standing over them to regain control and direct the puppies.
If your dog is standing over your feet, it could be as a way to correct your or something else’s behavior or ‘right’ the situation back to where your dog feels comfortable.
Spoiled With Attention
Okay, maybe not spoiled. But dogs do like to get attention, especially the good kind that comes with pets, ear scratches, belly rubs, and treats!
Your dog might also take charge and try to tell you something. In this case, your dog is likely wanting your attention. This can be for a few reasons, but most likely he just wants some loving pets from you. You’ll probably see other signs that your dog wants your attention too. He may paw at you, or make a little noise.
Protection (Both Ways)
As part of your pack, your dog will feel the need to protect you. Dogs have a natural instinct to protect their pack and if your dog feels that you are in danger, he may try to put himself between you and the threat as a way to protect you.
On the other side of the coin, as part of your pack, when your dog is uneasy he may expect you to protect him.
Often your dog protecting you and your dog looking to be closer to you for protection will manifest themselves in the same way with your dog standing over your feet.
Being A Silly Dog
As much as we humans want to assign order and meaning to everything we observe, when it comes to dogs, that doesn’t always work. Sometimes, they just do things because they’re dogs!
Your dog may have started standing over your feet for any reason I went over above, or maybe even a completely different reason like he learned it by watching other dogs. The reason may have long passed but your dog still stands over your feet because he got in the habit of doing so.
What To Do About Dogs That Stand Over Feet
Luckily, most dogs are fun to work with and usually (with patience and effort) not too hard to train. If you’ve decided you don’t want your dog to stand over your feet there are many ways you can correct your dog’s behavior.
Of course, the first step you need to take is to figure out why your dog is standing over your feet. If your dog is scared you’ll probably want to use a different corrective method than if your dog is asserting dominance.
After you’ve determined the cause, use one or more of the following methods to help your dog realize you don’t want him standing over your feet.
Ignore The Behavior
This is easier said than done but if your dog is after your attention it can be an effective way for your dog to learn that standing over your feet won’t get him what he wants. By completely ignoring him when he’s standing over your feet you will let him know that this isn’t the way to get your attention.
Don’t Be Aggressive
Being aggressive verbally, and especially physically, as a way to train your dog is not as effective as most other methods. If your dog is standing over your feet and you want him to learn not to, being aggressive will only serve to scare, confuse, or even hurt your dog without teaching him the behavior you want.
Additionally, being aggressive about getting your dog to not stand over your feet is likely to increase tensions and the situation will escalate between you and your dog as your dog becomes more confused about what is going on.
Do Be Assertive
This should be used as part of many methods, but usually, a firm (don’t yell!) voice and deliberate actions are enough to get the point across that you’re serious about your dog.
You need to be the one in charge and let your dog know that you are and that you do not want him to continue hovering above your feet.
Don’t Encourage Your Dog To Stand Over Your Feet
If you don’t want your dog to stand above your feet, don’t encourage it. Okay, that’s obvious, but what if you didn’t even realize you were encouraging your dog to stand over your feet?
Think about it, if every time your dog stands over your feet you give him a pet or some kind of attention, even if it’s something seemingly small like saying he’s a good boy, he’s going to think that’s what you want.
Dogs are very good at reading human cues, and if you’re giving off signs that tell your dog standing over your feet is a good thing he’s going to continue doing it.
Nip It In The Bud
If you don’t want your dog to stand over your feet and he seems to be picking up the habit, nip it in the bud as quickly as possible. The longer and more times he stands over your feet the harder it will be to correct the behavior.
When you’re training your dog to not stand over your feet, or really any time you’re training him, it’s important to be consistent. Dogs thrive off of stability and routine. If you’re not consistent with your dog he won’t know what is expected of him and will be more likely to act in ways you don’t want him to, like standing over your feet.
The Off Command
One of the best commands I taught my dogs was the ‘Off’ command. Now that they are older, calmer, and have learned what is acceptable we don’t use that command much anymore. But, if your dog is young, energetic, and jumps all over the place the ‘Off’ command can be very useful in getting your dog to not stand on top of your feet.
When your dog is standing over your feet simply say ‘Off’ in a firm voice and use any hand gesture you trained along with the command. Once he moves, give him verbal praise.
The goal is to get your dog to move away from your feet when you say ‘Off.’ If he doesn’t respond the first time, do it again. Remember to be consistent and use the same voice and hand gesture each time.
Back to one of my standbys! If you’ve read much of our advice about dog training you’ve likely come across positive reinforcement. I love this because it works so well.
When your dog is in a situation that would normally lead him to stand over your feet but doesn’t get that far, give him some positive attention. As soon as he begins to stand over your feet, stop the positive attention.
You want him to associate not standing over your feet with good feelings. Positive reinforcement can take some time, but it is very effective once your dog gets it.
Do Not punishment Your Dog
Punishing your dog will only serve to make the situation worse. Not only will it not fix the problem at hand, but it could also lead to other behavioral problems down the line.
Your dog is not trying to be bad when he stands over your feet, and punishing him will only confuse him and make him think you’re angry at him for something he doesn’t understand.
Summary: Why Do Dogs Stand Over People’s Feet?
There are a few reasons dogs might stand over a person’s feet. It could be for attention, dominance, to get close to you, for protection, be an old habit or he’s simply being a silly dog.
If your dog is standing over your feet and you don’t want him to there are a few things you can do. Don’t encourage him to stand on your feet. Try training him with the ‘Off’ command.
It’s important to be assertive with your dog if you don’t want him standing over your feet. Be firm (but not aggressive) with your voice and actions to let him know that this is not something you want him to do. It’s also important to be consistent in your training and never punish your dog for this behavior as it will only serve to confuse him. Positive reinforcement is a great way to train your dog not to stand over your feet.