A friend mentioned that her full-sized Goldendoodle always wanted to lean against her. If you were to survey dog owners who have owned several dogs in their lives, you would be hard pressed to find one who has never owned a “leaner”.
This got me wondering why Goldendoodles or any other breed of dog lean against you. Is it strictly for affection or could there be other factors contributing to this behavior? Although there may not be one definitive answer, we will examine the common theories of this behavior to explain this seemingly unusual habit.
Why Does My Goldendoodle Lean On Me?
It was once believed a dog leaning against you was a sign of dominance and something you need to correct. As experts have learned more about why dogs lean on their owners, we have come to find that your dog leaning on or against you is a sign of their desire for affection and comfort.
When trying to understand why your dog leans on you it is important to not only explore the reason for the action, but understand the possible causes along with the factors, that influence the behavior.
Are They Asserting Dominance?
Historically articles on this behavior have been written discouraging pet owners from allowing their dogs to lean on them to break dominant behaviors. The articles maintained the pet was guilty of infringing upon the personal space of their owner resulting in a disrespectful and dominant behaviors.
In some cases, this may be a true assessment, however, no one is more qualified to determine the dominant seeking behavior behind a pet’s actions, than the owner themselves. It is a good idea to remember the personality of your pet, their normal behaviors, as well as, reflecting on past behaviors to give merit to the idea your pet is seeking dominance when leaning on or against you.
Due to the remarkable intelligence of Goldendoodles, some theorize they use their intelligence to manipulate their humans (to learn more about the notable intelligence of Goldendoodles, check out our article that can be found at https://goldendoodleadvice.com/how-smart-are-goldendoodles/).
I think you would be hard pressed to find many, if any, who would agree with this assessment. It is true dogs are great at producing certain responses from their humans; however, they are not manipulative in nature.
Lately, dog behavior specialist has begun to dispel the idea when a dog leans on you they are exhibiting disrespectful and dominate behavior. Many experts explain dominance is a relationship between animals and not a personality trait.
With this knowledge it is easy to understand the action of your pet leaning on or against you is not a need for dominance in the relationship, but rather the need for affection and comfort. At the end of the day, you as the pet owner are in a better position to determine the motive of your dog leaning on you.
If you feel your dog’s actions are intentional in exhibiting dominance toward you, you can gently, but firmly, discourage the behavior through training and ignoring them until they stop the unsolicited behavior.
Are They Protecting Their Human?
Dogs have a keen sense of impending danger, often they will recognize a need to protect their humans from danger by leaning against them. When a dog puts themselves between their human and the perceived danger, their intention is solely protection.
When or if this happens, it is recommended the pet owner assess the situation by noting their surroundings and the emergence of people the dog may not be familiar with. Due to the loyal nature of dogs and their need to protect their family, they will always be on the alert to potential danger.
The need to protect is so deeply ingrained in a dog’s instinct often no amount of socialization will diminish it.
It is important to note, if your dog does not normally exhibit this behavior you need to consider your dog is doing what he perceives as his job, protecting you from apparent danger.
This action for your dog is simply their way of notifying everyone assembled you have a guard dog. When dogs go into protection mode, they will put themselves in proximity of their humans allowing them to spring into action to protect if the situation arises.
There are many reasons a dog will exhibit protective behaviors, loyalty to their owner, reciprocation of love and affection, and the knowledge their humans are the ones responsible for their care. A dog that is loved and treated well will always come to the aid of their owner.
Are They Afraid?
The act of leaning on their owner can be a result of fear a dog can be experiencing. It is important to note dogs will often try to hide behind their owner seeking refuge by their side or under their legs because they feel safe with their human.
This normally occurs when the dog experiences loud noises or sudden movements. During the holidays, particularly during the July 4th firework celebrations, owners may witness an increased amount of leaning from their dog during times of stress.
My little man will run directly for me and wedge himself under my legs if I am sitting at the first sound of fireworks in our neighborhood.
Your dog may be seeking the physical contact to ease anxiety, much like a child reaching for a parent’s hand when seeking physical or emotional support.
Not all dogs enjoy being around strangers, no matter the amount of discipline, some dogs may find it difficult to be around other people or dogs.
If your dog exhibits this type of behavior more often when out in social settings, as opposed to when you two are alone, this could be a great indicator your dog is shy and stressed.
Take note to determine if your dog tends to lean on you more when other people or dogs are around, this is a great indicator of your dog’s fear.
If you witness your dog yawning, avoiding contact or licking excessively during these types of social situations, these could be strong indicators your dog is not comfortable in its surroundings.
Are They Seeking Affection?
Dogs love to cuddle- if their owner is sitting or standing a great deal, the dog will adjust their behavior by taking the form of leaning against their owner or sitting on their feet.
For the most part, dogs are very affectionate animals who seek to cuddle with and receive affection from their humans. Being pack animals; they are accustomed to and crave close contact as a safety measure, instinct tells them they will find safety and comfort in having others around them.
As you feel love and affection for your dog, your dog loves you very much in return. Since your pet is unable to verbally communicate, he finds other ways of showing his love, hence leaning against and touching you, is a great way to demonstrate their affection. This can be considered their way of hugging their humans.
Just as humans find comfort in physical touch, so does your pet, whether it be the scratch behind the ears, a pat on the head, or a hug; leaning on you is a way for your dog to let you know they are seeking affection.
When your dog leans against you they are not only showing you how much they love you, but they are also seeking your affection in return.
When this happens take a few minutes to sit down and love on your fur baby, show them how much you love them, letting them know they are special to you.
Is This Behavior Normal?
Dogs are by nature, social animals, with this comes the desire for physical contact.
Especially for large dogs who are not picked up as smaller dogs, the need to be close to their human is great, therefore, they will lean against your leg if you are standing or sit on your feet if you are sitting.
When a dog leans on you this is completely normal behavior, it is a sign of comfort and love from your pet. Your dog craves the physical closeness to their pack, when you become a pet owner you become a lifelong member of the pack.
Remember, as you reward this behavior, by petting and snuggling your dog, he quickly learns the leaning will likely result in affection. He becomes your cuddle buddy, which I for one, feel is a great benefit of being a pet owner.
In conclusion, at the end of the day, the pet owner is best qualified to determine the reason for their pets leaning. Why one dog leans could be completely different than why another dog leans against their human.
Paying attention to your dogs’ personality, the pattern of the leaning and the frequency can better determine the reasons for the unusual habit.
It is best to note, if you are comfortable with your dog leaning on you, then you should continue to encourage the behavior. Obviously, adjustment will need to be made depending on the size of your pet.
For pet owners with the larger dogs make sure you can read the signs and you are ready at any time for the inevitable Goldendoodle lean.
There is nothing better than the love and affection your pet shows you by leaning against you or sitting on your feet with their sweet faces gazing up at you with complete love and devotion.
Personally, I love it when my dog leans on me, I enjoy the warmth and the physical affection from my best friend. I feel this time is a great bonding moment, enjoy your time with “your leaner”! Everyone enjoys knowing they are loved; dogs are no exception.
The information in this article is not meant to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice, if you feel your dog’s leaning is due to a health issue or a behavioral problem, it is strongly recommended pet owners should seek the advice of a veterinarian or behavioral specialist.