If you aim to interpret a certain behavior exhibited by your dog, be aware that other factors should be considered. A behavior by itself cannot be used to make an assumption about your dog’s personality; variables such as the frequency of the behavior and the surrounding circumstances are also part of the equation.
Any search engine will populate results attempting to answer the question of why your dog sits on your feet. Putting this information you obtain into perspective, as it relates to your dog, is essential to truly understanding his or her personality and needs.
A Show of Dominance
I have read articles and books which cite dominance as the main reason why dogs sit on their human parents’ feet. To determine if your dog is displaying this behavior to establish dominance, ask yourself, “How often does my dog do this?”
For example, Thisbe has sat on my feet on a few occasions, but not to display dominance or possessiveness. She simply likes to have a soft place to sit, and no other yielding spot was available at those particular times. Likewise, if your dog sits on your feet occasionally, evaluating the situation along with his or her individual nuances (such as Thisbe’s preference for supple surfaces) is critical.
Your dog may be inclined towards possessiveness, but sitting on your feet is not inherently a possessive behavior. Watch for the environment that this behavior occurs in. Does he or she only sit on your feet when other people or pets are present?
Take into consideration how possessive your dog is with food and toys. What is your dog’s demeanor when others are in close proximity? Frequently sitting on your feet in addition to already existing territorial traits, especially when your human and animal friends are nearby, would signify possessiveness over you. Alternatively, if your dog does not normally display territorial behaviors, then occasionally sitting on your feet could be indicative of shyness or a fear of strangers. As in the case of Thisbe, your feet could also merely be a comfortable platform for him or her…and sitting on them is a sign of adoration from your fur-child!
A Confirmation of Affection
Many dog trainers would state that sitting on your feet is your dog’s way of exerting ownership over you. However, I would submit that, in many scenarios, this behavior may be a way that your dog shows his or her regard for you—you are the parent and guardian, and bestie too! Perhaps there is an element of possession, but your beloved pooch naturally feels both of you belong to each other.
Should the Behavior Be Permitted?
Allowable behaviors from dogs vary from person to person. I am quite permissive with Thisbe and my foster dogs, much to the chagrin of dog trainers I know. I interpret behaviors, such as leaning on me or sitting on my feet, as an indication of the dog’s regard for me. Yet my tolerance is suitable in my environment. You must gauge your own environment, and the tone of the behavior in relation to the overall attitude of your dog. Only after correctly assessing the home life of your dog can you make a decision on whether sitting on your feet should be permitted, or if it quietly consents to potentially precarious incidents involving any possible possessive or territorial personality traits your dog may have.
By Gabrielle Allemeier
About the Author
Gabrielle Allemeier volunteers her free time as an animal rescuer and foster pet parent. As an animal lover, she enjoys sharing the knowledge she has gained from her experience with a variety of animals. Along with being an animal lover, Gabrielle is a globetrotter. She lives in Los Angeles, California with her terrier, Thisbe.