If you have one of those adorable puppers that lays their snout on your arm, knee, or feet, you’ve probably asked yourself, “Why does my dog rest their head on me?” Is it out of a selfish desire for ear scratches? Would they like you to feed them their favourite dog food? Is this their way of telling you they don’t actually like that expensive doggie bed you bought them?
Luckily, the more probable answer is much more wholesome. They just love you! Your doggo likely isn’t going around resting their head on the feet of their Pet Sitter, and they definitely wouldn’t do it to a stranger.
So, in this article, we’re going to translate this doggie behaviour into English so that you can finally have answers to the question, “Why does my dog rest their head on me?” By the end, you’ll probably cherish this quirky little habit.
To answer the question, “Why does my dog rest their head on me?” we’ve got to get wild
Imagine you could be a fly on the wall in a wolf den. It’s cold outside. The pack spent a long day protecting the territory and looking for food. Now, they’re back and ready to curl up for the night. You would think that these doggie ancestors would create a big cuddle nets with tails and legs and snouts all tangled up and cozy. But there’s actually a hierarchy.
The wolves with higher ranking in the pack hierarchy get the best cuddle spots. The other wolves around them make sure that they are warm and comfortable. Experts believe that this might be a way to ensure that the wolves most crucial to pack survival are well protected from freezing temperatures. Those top dogs survive, and the whole pack thrives.
But it’s not just about survival. Wolves will cuddle up as a way to show affection and strengthen the bonds between them. You’ll often see wolves place their head gently on the neck of another wolf. This has nothing to do with dominance. Instead, it’s an affectionate way to say, “You’re safe and we’re in this together.”
It’ll make your heart melt, really. And it helps us to better understand our domestic dogs.
So why do dogs do it?
Obviously, the domestic doggo has come a long way from their wolf ancestors. Today’s dogs don’t have to worry about protecting the leader of the pack from freezing temperatures. So, why do they continue to place those cute little snouts on your lap?
Through their long process of domestication and evolution alongside humans, our furry friends have held onto some of those survival tactics. In fact, as we laid out in our article on Man’s Best Friend: The History of Humans and Dogs, humans did a pretty good job of keeping the wolf traits that we wanted and breeding out the ones we didn’t.
You can see why the wolves who did the feet-warming for the Alpha wolf were welcomed into human households more readily than the Alpha wolves themselves. And the trait carries on today.
There’s a key difference between wolves and dogs that can help answer “Why does my dog rest their head on me?”
At this point, you might be thinking, “Well I don’t feel very special. My dog is just doing what their DNA tells them to do for survival.” But that’s not the whole story.
Dogs are not wolves. They have some of the same characteristics deep down in their bones, but they’re drastically different animals. And one of the key differences between the two? Their love for humans.
Dogs love us. They seek us out. They love those belly rubs and ear scratches, and can’t resist a heartfelt “Who’s a good boy?” This love for humans is one of the reasons we make sure to get a loving Pet Sitter to care for our pups while we’re away instead of leaving them alone with a big bowl of food. We know that they depend on human cuddles for their happiness and wellbeing.
So, when they put their snouts on your foot or your hand, it’s not simply because they’ve been wired to protect the Alpha. It’s also because they love you and they want your affection.
Wait – what if my dog doesn’t rest their head on me? Am I doing something wrong?
No! Dogs, like every other intelligent animal, have their own personalities. And dogs show their affection in different ways. In fact, we’ve written a whole article on How To Say ‘I Love You’ In Dog Language because there are a ton of ways that are unique to individual doggos.
Plus, some dog breeds may be more likely to show affection by resting their head on their owners. Dogs like Great Danes, Dobermanns, King Charles Spaniels, for instance, are all breeds known to be cuddly and affectionate to their beloved Dog Owners. Other breeds, like Alaskan Malamutes, Shiba Inus, and Chow Chows may be less likely to seek out physical contact.
So, if you’ve never had to ask yourself, “Why does my dog rest their head on me?” don’t worry. They likely just have another way to show you that they love.
How does your dog show you they care?
We’d love to hear the cute, quirky, all-out weird ways that your dog tells you, “Hey, I’m here. I love you. Can you please give me a quick little head pat?”
Because although we’ve answered the question, “Why does my dog rest their head on me?,” it should be pretty obvious that dogs have plenty of ways to show their loving Owners that they care.