Pulitzer-winning author Edith Wharton, one of the founding members of the ASPCA, famously said, “My little dog – a heartbeat by my feet.
The comfort of a dog under foot is certainly an old one – Our Dogs, Our Selves: Dogs in Medieval and Early Modern Art notes that there are many medieval tombs that depict dogs lying at their owners’ feet, saying “The presence of a small breed beneath the feet of the queen was commonly associated with hearth and home, a symbol of domestic bliss.”
So, just why do dogs insist on sitting by their owners’ feet? Let’s discuss!
Sometimes – and this is especially true in cold weather – dogs are cuddling up to you for warmth. This makes perfect sense, don’t you think?
In ancient times, dogs doubled as foot-warmers and night-guards to the royals.
Shih-tzu Ko translates to Lion Dog, and you might’ve noticed that these ancient dog breeds do fit their name. According to Pedigree.com, Shih Tzu’s were originally bred into existence by Tibetan monks and eventually turned into dogs associated with the royal court during the Ming and Manchu dynasties.
These dogs, exceptionally fluffy and warm, became the emperor’s best friends soon after they were offered to the emperors as gifts – they became the official lap dogs of the royals! The Shih Tzus served as both guards as well as comfy foot warmers that doubled as companions and company, too.
That isn’t the only reason dogs do this, though. It turns out there are several.
Studies in Budapest have shown us exactly what goes through your pooch’s head when they hear, smell and see you – and the overall consensus is love, man.
When your dog sits by your feet – or anywhere near you – they’re doing it because they see you as one of their own.
Anxious dogs might choose to cuddle up to their owners – for safety and security. Your pooch may be crowded around your feet as a way of saying “hey, keep me safe, I’m really scared right now!”
According to PetMD, some symptoms of an anxious pooch might include a tucked-back tail, shivering, whimpering and cowering; it might also manifest in other “nervous” behaviors including eating weird things or destroying everything in sight.
Yes, your dog is technically sitting by your feet and telling other dogs, “This owner is mine.”
Owners with several dogs will spot the slight power struggle between dogs about who gets the prime spot. The best solution for this is to give dogs their own spots to lie down – close, of course, to your feet. Allocating each dog their own individual “me time” with you helps to cut down on any potential jealousy issues.
When your dog is sleeping on your feet, it’s their way of bonding with their owner – who some believe they see as the leader of the rest of the pack.
This goes back to more primal days, when dogs had to rely on the leader – that’s, again, you – to keep them safe from predators. Dogs also know who rules the roost, so they’ll sleep close to the head honcho to make sure nothing happens while the leader of the pack is taking a nap.
Have you spotted any weird behaviors in your pooch that you’d like us to look into? Let us know!
Alex J. Coyne is a freelance journalist with eight years' experience writing for publications like People Magazine, Re:Fiction, Great Bridge Links and NB Publishers. Sometimes, his three dogs take him for walks around the neighborhood; they offer helpful feedback on his work and offer little to no comment on his singing.