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Why Does My Dog Rest Their Head on Me? 13 Likely Reasons

Written by: Rachael Gerkensmeyer

Last Updated on May 9, 2024 by Dogster Team

dog resting his head on his owner

Why Does My Dog Rest Their Head on Me? 13 Likely Reasons


Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca Photo


Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca


The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Dogs are awesome companions and loyal pets that tend to do whatever it takes to please their human family members. All dogs are different, though, so some are more independent than others, and some are also more affectionate. One behavior that a dog may display is resting their head on their owner. If this is the case for your dog, you may be wondering why they do it. There happen to be many reasons that your canine family member might be resting their head on you!


14 Possible Reasons Your Dog Rests Their Head on You

1. They’re “Marking” You

Dogs like to leave their scent on what they perceive as their territory, kind of like what cats do. When they are outside, they might pee on a fire hydrant or a tree to claim the space and let other dogs know that they were there. Dogs not only pee to mark their territory or things, however. You may find that your dog lays their head, paw, or whole body on their favorite toy or pillow at home to keep other pets or kids from taking over what they perceive as “their” belongings.

Some dogs also like to rest their heads on their owners to “mark” them as part of their pack. There is nothing wrong with your dog resting on you unless they act aggressively toward people and animals that come near you. In a case like this where your dog is being overprotective, you should correct the behavior immediately and speak to your vet or dog behaviorist before it escalates to a bigger problem.

dog lying its head on the thighs of his owner
Image By: stylefoto24, Shutterstock

2. They’re Offering Support

Dogs typically have a knack for understanding how their human companions are feeling. Body language and other signals let your dog know when you’re feeling lonely, depressed, stressed, ill, or just down in the dumps. When a dog feels that their human is not in a good head space, they usually look for a way to offer their support.

One way is to rest their head on their owner. So, if you’re feeling down, ill, or unhappy for any reason, don’t be surprised if your dog curls up and rests their head on you while you’re sitting on the couch.

dog biting owner's foot
Image By: ChutiponL, Shutterstock

3. They’re Looking to Bond

One reason dogs are considered humans’ best friends is that they are willing to bond with us on a personal level. The more your pup bonds with you, the better they will understand you and what you’re communicating to them. The same is true the other way around — the more bonding you do, the better you will understand your pup.

Dogs bond with their human companions by creating physical contact, like resting their heads on their companion’s feet or lap. If your dog is calm and relaxed, and you can’t figure out another reason for the behavior, them resting their head on you should be taken as a sign of wanting to further bond.

4. They Want to Protect You

Some dogs are protective over their human companions, especially when they feel that something is “off” or that danger is lurking. For example, your dog might feel that a stranger you meet in public is threatening and will want to protect you somehow. In this case, they might decide to rest their head on your foot or against your body in an attempt to protect you from the perceived threat. If no threat comes to fruition, your dog likely won’t do anything more than just rest on you.

dog staring at his sleeping owner
Image By: AnnaStills, Shutterstock

5. They’re Looking for Protection

Just as your dog wants to protect you, they rely on you to provide them with protection when necessary. Sometimes, your dog might feel threatened or uneasy, especially in a new social situation, and they will try to get protection from you to feel more comfortable and at ease.

One way that they might do this is to rest their head on you. They may do so while trying to hide behind your body or while underneath a table. They might shy away from people they don’t know and stick to your side, whether they can touch you or not. Closeness and physical contact make them feel safer and more in control of their environment.

6. They’re Trying to Warm Up

Another common reason for a dog to rest their head on a human companion is to warm up on a chilly day. Although dogs have coats of hair to keep them warm, they might still get too cold for comfort. To try to warm up, they will combine their body heat with others from their “pack,” like their ancestors would in the wild. If you’re chilly yourself and are using a blanket, robe, or sweater to warm up, chances are that the cold is the reason that your dog is resting their head on you.

woman lies with a large dog on the couch
Image by: Zapylaiev Kostiantyn, Shutterstock

7. They Want Attention

All dogs enjoy getting attention from their human companions. Whether it’s a walk around the neighborhood, playtime at the park, or fetch in the backyard, the attention that a dog gets from their companion helps improve their quality of life and ensures their well-being as time goes by. When your dog feels like they are not getting enough attention from you while you’re spending time together, they might decide to rest their head on you to get you to focus your attention on them.

8. They’re Feeling Depressed

Dogs can develop feelings of depression. Depressed dogs tend to want comfort and reassurance from their human companions. Depression can develop for a variety of reasons, including changes to their routine, illness, chronic pain, loneliness, and even grief after a fellow pet or human family member dies. Many dogs will try to regain comfort when they feel depressed by resting their head on a companion, human or animal. The extra physical contact can help ease a dog’s body and mind.

a dachshund dog looks sick lying on its owner
Image by: Leka Sergeeva, Shutterstock

9. They Aren’t Feeling Well

A dog that is not feeling well tends to nap frequently to reserve their energy for healing and to pass the time until they feel good again. Sometimes, they want to keep their mind off their discomfort. They might find a comfortable blanket or pillow to sleep on or rest their head on your feet or lap. The physical contact will give you an opportunity to check their vital signs (like their body temperature and respiration) and gauge the kind of care that they need, if any.

10. They’re Tired

Even though most dog breeds are full of energy, they get tired at times throughout the day. Many dogs will head to their bed or a quiet corner of the house to take a nap, but others prefer to snuggle up with a human companion. So, if you have just finished walking your dog and feeding them, they may be ready to rest their head on you so they can take a comfortable nap. This is a good time for you to take a nap too!

Person holding a sleeping brown french bulldog
Image by: Damir Mijailovic, Pexels

11. They’re Reminding You of Their Presence

Sometimes, a dog might rest their head on their owner’s body just to make sure they are known. This is especially true for dogs that don’t like being ignored and that are used to being the center of attention. A dog that sees their owner focusing on houseguests or other animals might want to simply make their presence known with a quick nudge or lean with their head. A pat on the head or a command to sit and stay should provide them with the reassurance that they’re looking for.

12. They Want to Reduce Stress Levels

Stress can make your dog feel uncomfortable, whether it’s them or you that is feeling the stress. If you are stressed out, chances are that your dog can detect it, and they may want to take steps to offer you comfort and support. One way that they might do this is to rest their head on you. They might behave the same way if they are feeling stressed and in need of comforting themselves.

labrador dog resting its head on its owners lap
Image by: Erickson Stock, Shutterstock

13. They Simply Enjoy the Interaction

Finally, there might be no reason at all that your dog wants to rest their head on you other than simply enjoying the interaction. Some dogs won’t do this because they have a more independent temperament. Other dog breeds are physically affectionate with their human companions and might often rest their heads on their owners. Dogs that like physical touch are more likely to do this just for the fun of it.


In Conclusion

There are many different reasons that your dog might rest their head on you. It could be just one reason, or it could be a combination. Look for other signs that your dog might display right before, during, or after they rest their head on you to gain more clues as to why they are doing it.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: Vach cameraman, Shutterstock

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