Is Your Dog a Lean, Mean LEANING Machine?

We are frequently asked about why certain dogs lean so much. Regardless of what we are about to say, the next sentence is either an exclamation of how the owner LOVES it when their dog leans on them or a declaration of total exasperation! Dogs tend to lean mostly on their owners, but real leaners are not picky – give them a leg or lap and they lean in with all their might. It can be cute with little dogs, but downright heavy or painful coming from larger breeds.

Leaning is the most common complaint, but we’d add the following annoying behavior to the list:

  • standing on your feet
  • sleeping on as much space of you as possible
  • pawing at your hands as you type on the keyboard
  • practically tripping you by stepping through your legs as you take them for a walk

We’ve heard lots of speculation:

  • It is a stance of dominance
  • It is an attempt to manipulate you to move or go where they want
  • It is natural behavior of a pack animal leads them to feel safety by proximity
  • It is nothing more than bad behavior to get negative attention
  • It’s a sign of insecurity or shyness and need for protection

Like people, all dogs are unique so before you make a decision about the meaning of the leaning we’ve created a little checklist to consider. Thinking through these for your pet will help you know when you should discipline and when you should just pile on the affection.


Dogs are very affectionate animals. Big and small – they love to cuddle. Leaning can simply be a way of getting much needed attention.


Cesar Millan, celebrated dog trainer, is adamant that dogs lean to show dominance over their owners. He believes you can train your dog to stop this. But the question should be taken in a larger context. Does your dog also lean on other animals? If so, they could feel threatened by another dog and training this behavior out of them may be tantamount to taking away their ability to communicate this to you.


Sometimes a dog leans only when threatened or when they feel their owner is being threatened. By not evaluating the situation clearly you may try to discipline a behavior out of your dog in which they are trying to protect themselves or you. If the dog is leaning on other dogs they could feel threatened and you may consider removing them from the company of those who are causing this behavior. If the dog is leaning on you only in certain situations, you may consider that your dog truly is trying to be your best friend and is attempting to get in between you and the perceived danger.


Dogs have their own personalities and not all of them love to be around strangers regardless of the breed. No matter how much discipline, some dogs may always have a harder time not engaging in this behavior when they are stressed about social settings. If you walk with a friend and the behavior only happens and not when you are alone with your dog this may indicate a shy or stressed pet! Do you notice your dog leans on you more when others are around? Do they lick excessively, yawn or avoid eye contact in these same situations. This may be indicators that your pet is simply not comfortable in its surroundings. It may not be possible to eliminate these situations all together, but making sure your dog knows you care can involve you minimizing the stress whenever possible.

WE LOVE YOUR PETS AS MUCH AS YOU DO! Every dog is different. If you have concerns about your pet’s behavior just make an appointment.  

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