Close family always show affection for each other, we hug, we kiss, we cuddle, and nuzzle each other. This love and affection usually extend to our dogs. This usually happens because we see our dogs as part of our family. So when they put their head on us or nuzzle us, we don’t make much out of it, we assume they are reciprocating the affection we give but are they? There are cases where they push themselves against your face or try to force themselves on you even though it may not be necessary and this leaves you asking yourself
“Why does my dog put his head on my lap?”
“what does it mean when a dog rubs his face on you?”
So “why does my dog put his head on me?” Well, before we give you the possible reasons, it’s important to understand that the reasons are dependent on the events or happening around your household and more importantly in relation to your dog. So the possible reasons why your dog puts his head on you are:
- They are stressed
- They want Food
- They feel Cold
- They need emotional support
- They are trying to show Dominance
- They have Health Issues
- They are expressing their love and affection
- They are spreading their scent on you
Now let’s address each to put more perspective on them.
1.They are stressed.
Most dogs who have a close bond with their family unit when undergoing stress would lay their head on their favorite person in the house, much in the same way a child goes for a hug to find solace. This helps them calm their emotions and is good for their mental health. This is especially true for dogs that have separation anxiety issues. These dogs get nervous easily, especially when it looks like you are about to leave the house.
Some studies documented in the Journal of Mental Health stated that petting a dog with separation anxiety before leaving the house helps to reduce the stress felt when you leave as compared to those who don’t get any attention.
There are other things that can cause stress in our dogs, usually events around them that they can’t interpret properly. The best approach is to look for other physical cues. Is your dog visibly agitated? Do they have that anxious look on their face? etc. If so, try to decipher what the problem is and deal with it. Else if they are just putting their head on you in a relaxed matter, then there is really not much to worry about.
2.They want Food
If you are enjoying a delicious meal and your dog suddenly decides that this is the best time to put his head on your lap or put his head in between your leg, the high probability is that he or she wants your food. This would be more obvious if they keep glancing at your dish and back to you in anticipation. Some are more sly than this, but your food is still the likely target.
In situations like this, you really should be careful what you encourage and what you don’t encourage. If you are in the habit of giving your dog scraps from your food, then it is likely that they will continue the habit and might likely cause you some shame in front of your visitors in the long run.
Dogs generally are greedy for food and would go to great lengths to test boundaries set for them on food. They also don’t understand table manners so the best thing here is to have a fixed mealtime for them and stick to it.
3.They feel Cold
This is common in cold seasons like winter. Dogs in the past warmed up each other in their pack in cold seasons by sleeping together, laying over each other’s bodies for warmth. Things have not changed much today. Why would you think you can enjoy the warmth of your blanket all alone while sipping on your hot coffee. No way! Your dog would definitely want to get in on the warmth. This even becomes more apparent if you more than one dog or puppies at home. You will find their heads placed on you whichever position is comfortable and enjoying the warmth with you.
4.They need emotional support
Maybe they have had a very bad day, or are depressed because of the loss of someone or something special to them. No matter what it is, they want some assurance that everything would still be ok and who better to give them that assurance than their favorite person. When they put their head in this scenario, they usually don’t demand anything, there is that stare in their eye as if asking you to understand the situation. Maybe you do or maybe you don’t. The best thing you can do in this scenario is to pet and assure them that things are going to be ok.
On the flip side, you may be the one in need of emotional support, never underestimate the ability of your dog to read the situation around them. We have dogs specially trained for the emotional support of individuals, who have been accredited with saving people with suicidal tendencies, people suffering from depression, and more.
Whatever the case, if the scenario you have fits this reason above, just do your part and assure your dog that you both are in it together.
5.They are trying to show Dominance.
Depending on how you are relating with your dog, some of them might be operating under the notion that they are in charge of things. This happens mostly with dogs who are used to getting their way. They would put their head on yours, this in the doggy world is a sign showing that they are above you in hierarchy or order of things in the pack. It may just be a harmless display, like with Great Danes who because of their size would prefer to lean on you for support than stand on their own.
Whatever the case may be, you can put the dominance issue to test by trying to put the dog on its back, if there is no issue, it would likely roll over on its back as a sign on submission, but if you have a dog that snarls at you when you try to do this and aggressively tries to resist you putting him down even though they started by laying on your head, then it’s likely displaying dominance and you would need to rethink and change your relationship with your dog.
6.They have Health Issues.
It’s no secret that as your dog gets older their health status depreciates. Their internal organs, bones, and joints will not be as strong or function well as they used to before. This is not necessarily a death verdict on your dog, but this situation usually makes our dog change their behavior towards us. A dog that is normally inquisitive or used to playing pranks would mellow on such activity and depending on your relationship with him or her, opt to be by your side.
If you have that solid bond with them, you would find them laying their head on you to relax and ease the stress they might be experiencing from the health issue. Your dog doing this would also give you the opportunity to analyze the situation properly and rule out things that might not be the issue. For example, how is their heartbeat rate, have they been eating properly recently? How is the health of their coat and skin? Are they limping regularly? You see identifying and treating these problems helps to reduce the negative effect of getting old and encourages them to get closer instead of away from you.
7.They are expressing their love and affection.
Your dog may be putting his head on you as a show of their love and affection for you. It’s no secret that dogs desire love and affection from us, they are social creatures right from the time of their ancestors and that is why they were always moving in packs. Fast forward to today, our dog’s new pack is you and your family and maybe other dogs or pets around. From time to time, your dog needs to express their love and affection for you, and laying their head on you is one way they do this.
It is worth noting that our dogs also show their love and affection for us in so many other ways. Apart from your dog putting their head on you, they may express their love and affection by:
i.) Trying to groom you – Dogs groom themselves and those in their pack naturally. This is to clean up each other, share affection and form intimate bonds with each other, the same thing applies to you now as a pack member.
ii.)Wagging their tail – Usually, tail wagging has many interpretations, but if the tail is held and wagging in your presence then your dog is very happy to see you.
iii.)Jumping on you – Although this is not a behavior that should be encouraged, it is a big sign that your dog is so much into you.
iv.)Smiling at you – Dogs unlike human beings have no reason to fake their feelings towards you. A dog that is happy and smiles around you definitely loves you.
v.) Socializing with you – A dog that loves you would be definitely interested in your day-to-day life and would make a serious effort to be part of it.
vi.)Loyalty to you – A dog that is close to you would exhibit a high level of loyalty to you. The combination of loyalty and socialization is what makes them trainable and your dog changing its nature to adapt to how you want it to behave is the highest level of love any creature can do for you.
8.They are spreading their scent on you.
Your dog may be putting his or her head on you to spread its scent on you. Your dog having his scent on you is a way of stamping their ownership on you. Their scent on you is a way of telling other dogs that you are already taken and that they shouldn’t trespass.
Hi, I am Charles Nwankwo Editor-in-Chief, Mydoggything.com. Gleaning from Professional Dog Trainers, behaviorist, Registered Veterinarians, and Breeders. We are passionate about making dog care easy for you. My job is to make sure that you get the best-updated dog care information to understand and take care of your dog or dogs.