When it comes to dog ownership, communication is the key to having a satisfying relationship. Personal bridges of communication are the difference between clarity and confusion.
And there are always varying levels of communication. Since dogs and humans don’t speak a common language, that means many dog owners tend to hear and see what they want.
It is a flaw, but it is a flaw that makes human beings human. And when it comes to dog owners, who sometimes view themselves as “dog parents,” they tend to project humanity onto their dogs.
A research study even backs up that assertion. Over 67% of pet owners, especially dog owners, claim that they and their pets understand each other when they communicate.
For these pet owners, their dog is a family member, not a pet. Over four out of every ten pet owners buy their pets gifts during the Christmas season.
Communication and Perspective
Let’s put that into perspective. There are about 78 million domesticated dogs in the United States. That is the equivalent of about 44% of every American household owning at least one dog.
And about 43% of American dog owners obtained their dogs via word of mouth. In other words, they received their pet through a relative, friend, humane society, or shelter. Over 6% of dog owners obtained their pet originally by adopting a stray.
That is the power of communication and love. Dog owners obtain their pets in the same social manners they would use to socialize with humans.
Or they convince themselves that every time their dog barks or growls, it is like a human language, like some exchange of information has occurred.
And there is the issue. What makes communication powerful is that it is usually fueled by personal perception. In other words, we see or hear what we want to see or hear.
And since being a pet owner inherently assumes that we have a lot of control over dogs, we never realize that the dog may perceive communication differently.
Your dog may see and hear what it wants.
In the same manner, you may have convinced yourself that you and your dog mutually understand every bark uttered; your dog may feel the same about you.
However, your dog may communicate more through actions. Does your dog always sit at your feet when you’re sitting down?
Your dog may be doing that for an innocent reason borne out of loyalty. It may also be exhibiting involuntary instinct. Or it may just be acting territorial.
We’ll explain a few reasons why your dog sits on your feet.
Let’s start by briefly discussing how dogs communicate.
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How do Dogs Communicate?
Dogs communicate via barking, howling, whimpering, panting, whining, and other sound-related vocalizations. Dogs also communicate by scent and smell.
What dog owners may not know, or overlook, is that dogs also communicate via body signals.
Dogs talk to each other when they wag their tails, perk up or arch back their ears, or assume defensive or submissive stances.
While 67% of dog owners think they are fluently conversing with their dog, their dog may also be projecting their communication system onto them.
And when your dog sits on your feet, it can mean a variety of things. Here are a few.
Leader of the Pack
When your dog sits on or at your feet, it may just be instinctually reverting back to its wolf-like tendencies to respect the leader of the pack.
Every domesticated dog on Earth is the genetic descendant of ancient wolves. Ancient wolves hunted and traveled in packs for efficiency, warmth in cold weather, and protection.
When ancient wolf packs settle down to rest, they huddle together for warmth. But as many wolves as possible would also try to sit on or lay at the feet of the alpha or lead wolf as a show of submission and respect.
When your dog sits at your feet, they may instinctually show you devotion and respect as their owner and leader. This behavior is hard-wired into the DNA of dogs, so it may be performing this action automatically without realizing it.
Many single or couple pet owners have no choice but to leave their pets alone for many hours every day due to work, transportation, and other obligations.
The average dog spends over 2,000 hours alone at home every year.
Even though it is not malicious, over 80% of dog owners feel intense guilt for leaving their pets alone so much.
Your dog may intensely miss you when it sits on your feet—sitting on your feet could be your dog’s way of ensuring that you stay by its side for an extended period.
Your dog may be sitting on your feet out of fear, anxiety, or stress.
As previously mentioned, many dogs spend many hours alone every day while their owners are gone.
Being left alone can be an anxiety-inducing experience for a dog.
Ringing phones, automated vacuum cleaners, loud noises from the street, and other benign nuisances may be stressing out your pet unbeknownst to you.
If you have multiple pets, one pet may feel bullied or left out of attention.
Your dog could be sitting on your feet to feel protected, wanted, and safe.
Your dog may be sitting on your feet to show you who the boss is.
Sitting on your feet could be a sign that your pet is marking its territory. It could be territorial to show you that it is in charge, not you.
If your dog sits on your feet, you can’t walk or go anywhere.
This hypothesis can be proved if your dog sits on your feet, and it takes considerable effort for you to move it.
And pay attention if your dog does this in the presence of other pets. Your dog may be showing the other dogs in the home that it is in charge and not you.
Is Your Dog Sitting on You a Problem?
Unless your dog is trying to communicate to you that it is the head of your household, there is nothing inherently wrong with your dog sitting on your feet.
If it bothers you, train it to sit on its bed or elsewhere with treat reinforcement.
If you notice that your dog aggressively tries to stay on your feet when you move, it may be trying to claim you as its territory. It is trying to assert itself as head of the house.
Discourage this behavior by moving your dog. Don’t pet its head or give it a treat when it does this – it will only encourage the behavior. Use positive reinforcement and treats to train it to sit elsewhere.
Enlist the aid of a professional obedience trainer if all else fails.
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