Dogs lean on people for all kinds of reasons, depending on the dog and the exact situation. The following are just three of many possibilities:
There are plenty of reasons why a dog would lean on his owner. I am oversimplifying things by listing only three.
Here are three possibilities:
Most dogs love attention and affection. Leaning on us is just one way to seek that affection and connect with the person. We humans are good about giving dogs the affection they’re seeking!
A lot of insecure, shy or fearful dogs will lean into me if I’m a person they trust. They use me as a safety blanket. No one can sneak up behind them if they have their back to their safe person (me). No one can grab them.
Our dogs do lean on us to manipulate us. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It doesn’t have to be about (dare I say it?) dominance. Simply, the dog wants attention, so he leans into you.
Ace leans on visitors all the time to get them to pay attention to him. Yes, he’s motivated by wanting affection and attention, but he’s also manipulating people to give him that attention. If someone is sitting down trying to focus on something other than my dog, Ace will sometimes go up to the person and bump his side into her. It’s pretty hard to ignore that, and he knows it.
Is this insecurity? No, not in this case. Attention seeking? Yes. Controlling? Definitely.
Other examples of how dogs lean on us to control us:
It’s not necessarily a bad thing if your dog leans on you. I don’t mind a bit if Ace leans on me (unless he’s just jumped out of the water).
But maybe your dog leans on you a little too often or during inappropriate times. If you’re trying to sit and drink your coffee, you may not want your 70-pound dog backing his ass into you, for example.
Or maybe you’d just like to help your dog lessen her dependence on you. If your dog has separation anxiety, it’s a good idea to look for ways to create mild separation. Requesting her to stop leaning on you all the time would be a start!
No matter what your dog’s motivation is for leaning on people, it’s important to teach your dog some commands that communicate your need for space.
Dogs lean on us to communicate what they want, but it’s also important for them to respect our space. You wouldn’t want your boyfriend hanging on your arm all the time, would you? Our dogs don’t need to be touching us 24/7 either.
Useful commands all dogs should learn for creating space:
In addition to these commands, you can also just get up and walk away from your dog if he’s leaning on you too often. Every dog is different, so you’ll want to think about your particular dog.
For example, if your dog is constantly leaning on you at the dog park, it’s probably because he’s overwhelmed. You can try stepping away from your dog (and it helps to keep moving), but if he’s still hiding between your legs, maybe you should try socializing him with just one or two dogs next time instead of 15.