Why Do Dogs Lean On You?

Dr. Joe Alcorn, M.S., D.V.M.

Dr. Joe Alcorn is founder of Care Animal Hospital in Temecula, California. He has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Colorado State University. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and his advice has been featured in large publications like Bustle and Martha Steward.

Home » Blog » Why Do Dogs Lean On You?

Have you ever wondered: why do dogs lean on you? Does your dog sit or stand next to you, then casually puts its weight against your body? Leaning is typical behavior among dogs, especially when they’re trying to communicate or show emotions. With that said, I’m going over the reasons why dogs lean on you.

Why Do Dogs Lean On You?

Dogs may lean on you because it is a sign of affection, comfort, and love. They may also lean into a person’s body to feel secure when they get afraid, stressed, or vulnerable. It’s also possible that dogs lean due to curiosity, interest, sickness, or when they want something.

Trying to analyze a dog’s body language can be tricky, as some of their actions may not be what we perceive at first. When your dog does a leaning stance all the time, it could be because of any of the following reasons.

A dog lying in bed and leaning on a woman

Showing Affection

Like humans, dogs use body language to show affection, and one way to do that is by leaning their weight against you. When you reward this behavior with snuggles or scratches, you’re also conditioning your pet to form a habit.

Most dogs are affectionate, and sometimes, they just want some tender loving care from you. By nature, domesticated dogs came from a line of social pack animals, so they crave physical closeness that they can only find from their human family.

Seeking Security

If your dog feels tense in certain situations, it may also lean on you for emotional and physical support. Similar to humans, dogs get a boost in positive chemicals in the brain when they feel safe in the presence of someone or something they trust. 

If a dog identifies you as its happiness source, it’s also most likely to associate you with safety. These are the various instances where dogs will put their weight against you for safety.

  • Fear: Leaning can come from fear just like staring, as dogs seek refuge in your physical comfort. Dogs can be afraid of fireworks, thunderstorms, and even other dogs. They may exhibit other signs of terror, including shivering, hunching, or dilated pupils.
  • Vulnerability: Another reason a dog is leaning on you is that it may feel defeated or vulnerable. Even dogs have times where they don’t feel their 100% best, which may cause anxiety in them. You might observe leaning, along with slight shivering, cowering, and tucked tail.
  • Stress: Dogs may lean on you due to stress. They tend to get stressed when they’re also frustrated, anxious, bored, or when they feel something isn’t right. If you notice this behavior when you come home from work or school, your pet may feel stressed due to separation anxiety.

Needing Warmth

Even with all the fur, dogs still get cold, especially short-haired, small breeds and senior dogs. Generally, dogs will get uncomfortable when temperatures fall below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. In effect, they would need protection against the cold.

Frostbite in dogs happens when the skin temperature reaches 23 degrees Fahrenheit for a certain period. When they feel this kind of pain, your dog will try to get warmth by shivering, slowing down, or putting their body weight on you.

Feeling Engaged

Sometimes, a dog’s leaning on you may mean nothing more than pure interest. A common example is when you’re eating or working on something, and your pet finds the action interesting. Your dog may lean on your body just to see what you’re doing.

Seeking Attention

Like most mammals, dogs have a circadian rhythm, which serves as an internal sense to know when they should be sleeping or be active. Similarly, this enables dogs to determine when to ask for something, especially when they know it’s time to eat.

When you lose track of time, dogs may get your attention by barking or leaning. Dogs can form this habit when they notice that they can effectively draw your attention by leaning. This is also why it’s essential that you provide discipline training, so they’ll learn how to behave appropriately.

A dog leaning on a child

Showing Sickness

Signs and symptoms of sickness may differ depending on the disease. However, some dogs may try to tell you that they’re not feeling well by leaning on you. You might observe other behavior such as excessive drooling, decreased appetite, difficulty in moving, change in bowel movements, and body soreness.

If you suspect your dog is sick, contact our clinic immediately. In this way, your pet can undergo proper diagnosis and treatment and receive the best recommendations on healing.

How to Control Leaning in Dogs

Leaning is normal canine behavior as it’s one way for dogs to cope with their feelings. However, if the action is starting to bother you, these are the ways you can reduce or remove it in due time.

  • Stop rewarding the lean: Dogs take cues from humans, so stop rewarding this behavior. Your pet may try to double down the lean, yet it would eventually give up. It’s like the dog version of hitting the elevator button several times before giving up and using the stairs.
  • Teach commands: The next step is to teach your dog the proper way to get your attention. You can use commands such as stop, fetch, or outside, depending on what you want to achieve.
  • Try mat training: Remember that there may be times you’re not around, and your dog needs something to lean on when feeling scared. You can position a new towel or blanket to an area where there’s less activity, so your pet can quickly go to it and get some form of comfort.
  • Do discipline training: It’s vital to teach discipline in dogs early on because this helps prevent stress factors or triggers that may provoke the leaning. This may involve using commands, rewarding obedience, or even doing time-outs.


Leaning is a harmless behavior in dogs as it’s a way of communicating and showing affection. However, if you think there’s something wrong whenever they lean, bring your pet to the clinic so I can provide examinations and treatments.