Dogs are important members of our family. They entertain, protect, and comfort us at home. And because they are family, they show affection to us in many ways.
One way they do this is by putting their head on us. Many dogs nuzzle your face, legs, or whatever part of the body with their head.
So, what does it mean when a dog puts their head on you?
Find out what can affect your dog’s behavior and some possible reasons why your dog is putting his head on you.
We also share when to encourage them and how to stop your dog from putting their head on you.
Factors That Affect Why Your Dog Puts Their Head on You
Before diving into the specifics, here are some clues that will help you analyze why your dog puts their head on you.
Remember, context is important when decoding any dog’s body language.
When They First Put Their Head on You
Timing means a lot when understanding your dog’s behaviors. When they first started doing it can help to explain a lot.
For example, you may have rewarded your dog with a belly rub the first time they tried putting their head on you. Since then, they have always laid on you in hopes of getting that same attention.
Your dog may simply be seeking your attention. It’s normal for dogs to miss you too!
Your dog might have accidentally put their head on you when they were very sleepy and realized that it felt comfortable being with you.
Try to remember what else happened when your furry friend started putting their head on you.
When Does Your Dog Put Their Head on You?
Another way to consider the timing when understanding your dog’s body language is by observing when they perform this behavior.
If they do this every time there’s a lot of noise outside, then they could be scared of their environment.
If your dog only lays their head on you when they are not given enough attention or when you’re busy, then they are probably seeking your attention.
There is surely a reason if your dog only puts their head on you during certain times. Observation is key!
Who Are They Putting Their Heads On?
Sometimes, we think our dogs are only putting their heads on people, but they are actually nuzzling.
One important question to consider is who they are doing it to.
If your dog puts their head on a stranger, they are probably gathering information about what they smell like and where they have been.
It could also be their way of greeting other people or dogs.
However, if your dog is doing it to you, then they are probably establishing ownership or just trying to seek your attention.
Dogs have scent glands in their faces which let them mark you with their scent. So, when other dogs smell you, they will know that you are taken, and they should stay away.
What Does it Mean When a Dog Puts Their Head on You?
Here are some possible reasons why your dog lays their head on you.
They Have an Itch
You don’t have to over analyze everything. Your furry friend could just be pressing their head on you because their face feels itchy.
They want to soothe the itchy feeling they have on their face, and they look to you for relief.
Because they trust you the most, they ask you for help or use you to soothe the irritating itch.
Use a homemade dog conditioner for your dog’s itchy skin. The best natural ingredient we recommend is oatmeal!
A colloidal oatmeal bath can reduce inflammation and wash away the allergens that are trapped in your dog’s fur. It’s non-toxic so you don’t have to worry about your dog licking.
If you would rather get a store-bought oatmeal product for your dog’s itchy skin, we recommend ProPet Works Oatmeal Pet Wash Shampoo.
Aside from oatmeal, it also contains aloe vera gel, almond oil, vitamins A, D, and E, and more. This hypoallergenic and soap-free shampoo effectively soothes sensitive and itchy skin.
Your Dog is Greeting You
Your dog is probably just greeting you whenever they try to lay their head on you. Dogs love to greet you in different ways.
Some dogs lick your feet to greet you, while others do a hip nudge. A hip nudge is when your dog exposes their bum to you.
Most of our furry friends greet us by leaning their heads on us. This is usually not a cause of concern since dogs are known to be friendly and amicable.
Your Dog Wants Attention
Your dog may be seeking attention and affection when they put their head on you because they like being comforted by touch.
This is normal, especially for puppies. Puppies need more attention when it comes to affection, routine, socialization, and training.
Dogs feel safer and more secure when they are close to their mothers or their owners.
They lean their head on you in hopes of getting more physical touch through belly rubs, a pat on the head, or rubbing the back of their ears.
Any form of affection is enough for them as long as they feel that you care for them and love them.
Your Dog is Showing Affection
While dogs love being loved and given attention, they also enjoy showing affection in different ways.
They may simply want you to know that they care about you. Dogs value the bond they share with you and other members of the family.
They are extremely loyal and loving, and they deserve the same amount of love from you.
Dogs can also read human emotions. They may be offering support when they notice that we are depressed, so they will nudge their head on us for comfort.
Don’t be afraid to receive the act of kindness they are giving to strengthen your relationship!
Your Dog is Marking You
When your dog presses their face on you, they leave their scent behind. And this scent is powerful as their face contains scent glands.
Your dog may be marking you to let others know that you are their territory. This is their way of letting other dogs know that they should steer clear of you.
If this worsens, it can lead to bad territorial behavior that leads to aggression. To prevent this from happening, you need to train your dog not to lay on your head.
You can do this by ignoring the behavior, asking them to get off, and simply rewarding them if they don’t lay their head on you.
Your Dog is Cold
Your dog may be laying their head on you because the temperature is too low. This behavior is also common among humans who stay on the couch to snuggle up against the winter cold.
Even if your dog has a thick coat to protect them against the cold weather, they can still want some additional body heat.
Some dogs also cuddle with each other when it gets cold. If your dog only has you in the house, then they will surely use your body heat to make them feel better.
Find out how cold is too cold for dogs so you can make sure they are always comfortable despite the cold.
Your Dog is Asserting Dominance
Your dog placing their head on you is usually a sign of affection. But how is it also a sign of dominance?
Your dog is probably testing their limits to see how much you can tolerate.
This is not just the case of seeking attention because attention-seeking dogs stop when they are told to stop. They already got the attention they want, so they are satisfied.
When you ask them to stop, dominant dogs will continue pressing their head on you to make sure you know that they are the boss.
But you don’t want to punish this behavior. Instead, use positive reinforcement training techniques to stop your dog from putting their head on you.
They are Alerting You to Danger
If your dog suddenly runs to you and places their head on the most accessible part of your body, then it could mean they are alerting you to something.
Other dogs will simply jump on you or bark to alert you of something.
Some dog breeds are bred to work with their owner to keep them secure while in a group.
Most of the time, there isn’t really a threat. This is why you should train your dog to distinguish an actual danger from a harmless situation.
Your dog should not have to run to you and cause inconvenience whenever someone comes to your door or someone walks by your house.
When to Encourage Your Dog to Put Their Head on You
When our dogs press their head on us, it is usually harmless. As long as you have ruled out any dominant behavior, then it should not cause any concern.
You can encourage them to put their head on you if they don’t do it aggressively and if it does not cause you inconvenience.
It is important to train your dog to see you as the pack leader so they will respect and obey you. This is the foundation of good behavior in dogs.
When dogs see you as the pack leader, they don’t put their head on you to test your limits. They also don’t exhibit destructive behavior or pull you while they are on the leash.
A dog who respects you is a dog who only puts their head on you to communicate something important.
Be careful, though. When your dog leans their head on you, you need to avoid eye contact. They may decode this as a challenge from you.
But head pressing can also be dangerous to your dog. If they also like putting their head on other surfaces like a wall or furniture, then this may indicate a neurological disease.
If you are in doubt, contact your vet right away.
You may respond to your dog’s behavior in an affectionate gesture. You can hug or cuddle them back, although some of our furry friends do not like being cuddled.
You can offer them some love through a belly rub, a pat on the head, or some verbal praises. Be careful not to overdo it nor do it more often, so they don’t become overly dependent.
How to Stop Your Dog from Putting Their Head on You
If you have decided that your dog laying on your head is a sign of bad behavior, then here’s how to discourage them from doing it.
Give Your Dog Attention
If you find it annoying when your dog keeps on laying their head on you, then try to check yourself.
Are they seeking attention from you because you haven’t been giving them attention? If yes, then it’s probably not their fault for causing inconvenience.
It would help to give your dog attention to stop them from laying their head on you. How do you give them attention without reinforcing the behavior?
Give them attention in the form of training, exercise, and socialization. This will allow them to get rid of any bad behavior because they are mentally stimulated.
Ignore Their Bad Behavior
You should not have to punish your dog every time they put their head on you, nor should you reward them with any form of attention.
The best way to stop them from laying their head on you is by simply avoiding them. This is more effective if they enjoy doing it for attention.
Always ignore bad behavior and reward good behavior. You can also train them to stop putting their head on you using a reward system.
Do Not Punish Your Dog
Also called positive punishment, giving punishments to your dog for undesirable behavior only ruins your relationship and causes them to develop other bad behaviors.
For example, yelling at them may only cause them to have anxiety, fear, or even aggression to try defending themselves.
Sometimes, dogs may not understand what you are doing when you punish them. They mistake it for precious attention and the bad behavior only gets reinforced.
Train Your Dog to Stop Laying Their Head on You
Training your dog to sit somewhere else is how you will train your dog to stop laying their head on your body.
As they learn this trick, you’ll be able to train them to stay there for a longer time.
Here’s a step-by-step guide for you:
- Decide on a command word, like “place” or “bed”.
- Stand close to your dog’s bed or mat.
- Lure them onto their spot using their favorite treat. Once their feet are in their place, use the command word right away.
- Follow up with giving them the treat and offering verbal praises. This will make your dog associate the command word with the action, and the action with rewards.
- Repeat the command several times.
- Add another command, “down.”
- Again, offer them treats and verbal praises when they start laying down in the appropriate place.
Check out this video to see this in action.
FAQ Clingy Dog Behavior
Why Does My Dog Sleep on Top of Me?
Your dog must surely be affectionate if they always sleep on top of you. To know why your dog sleeps on top of you, check when they do it and if the behavior is new.
Ask yourself, is this behavior a recent one? The first time this happened, what else was happening?
Aside from greeting you or showing their love for you, some dogs sleep on top of you due to separation anxiety, protection, or a reinforced behavior.
Check out our guide on why your dog sleeps on top of you so you can help them fix the behavior.
Why Does My Dog Want to Sit on My Lap?
Dogs are very clingy beings. They show this in many ways like by sitting on your lap.
They can sit on you to show affection because it is a breed-specific behavior or simply because they want attention.
No matter what their breed, gender, or age is, our dogs consider their owner’s attention the most precious thing in the world.
When they get bored, they sit on your lap and ask for playtime with puppy eyes and playful noises. They may also sit on your lap because of separation anxiety or to spread their scent.
It is important to know the exact cause of your dog sitting on your lap so you can respond to their needs.
Why Does My Dog Lick My Face?
Aside from putting their head on you all the time, dogs also like licking your face to show affection, seek attention, or greet you.
Many people think that this is a dog’s way to give you kisses. It can be the equivalent, but it can simply mean that they lick us because they are happy with us.
Dogs also lick our faces because it is part of their instinct. Like their ancestors in the wild, dogs lick meat from their mother’s mouth.
Find out why dogs lick your face so you can understand what they are trying to communicate.
Let Your Dog Rest Their Weary Head
When your dog places their head on you, they are usually just looking for affection, comfort, love, and security. As with us humans, physical touch can also be a dog’s love language.
Our warmth makes them feel safe, and they get this longing from their mother when they were still puppies.
It’s harmless to let your dog rest their head on you.
As long as you train them from the start to see you as the pack leader, give them a consistent routine, and socialize them regularly, then it’s not a form of bad behavior.
You can stop your dog from placing their head on you if it has become an assertion of dominance or if it is making you uncomfortable.
Understand why your dog always touches you with their head or other parts of the body so you can attend to their needs right away.