Facts about the animal kingdom

Why Does My Dog Lay His Head on Me? - Canine Communication

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. February 21, 2019
Why Does My Dog Lay His Head on Me? - Canine Communication

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Even at our busiest times, when our dog comes over and lays their head on us, it is difficult to resist. Humans and dogs share a unique bond which doesn't use words to be strengthened. Instead, dogs communicate with body language, vocalizations and facial expressions. Different actions have different meanings, but some have various interpretations we need time to consider.

AnimalWised asks, why does my dog lay their head on me? We do so that we can understand what our dog is trying to say to us with their various gestures and actions. This will help us to cater to our dog's needs and strengthen our relationship in the process.

You may also be interested in: Why Does My Cat Lay on Me and Purr?


  1. They want affection
  2. They are stressed
  3. They want attention
  4. They want food
  5. They are cold
  6. They believe there is a problem
  7. They have a health problem
  8. Why does my dog lay their head over my neck?

They want affection

Many people buy dogs because they want to give and receive affection. By nature, dogs are affectionate animals. Every dog is an individual and the amount of affection they crave will depend on socialization, breed, history and other variables. A healthy dog which has been appropriately domesticated, however, will often crave attention. By resting their head on you, they may simply want you to give them a pet. It is not only a common habit of dogs, but a wonderful opportunity to express love for our canine.

They are stressed

Petting our dogs is not only pleasurable, but it can help our mental health. Pet therapy is a growing area of psychology whereby we can use the natural sedative qualities of petting animals to reduce our stress and anxiety. Various studies have proven these stress reducing abilities, including a 2018 one from The Journal of Mental Health which concluded that short interactions with Guide Dogs reduced the participant's anxiety[1].

Less studies have been done on the effect of petting on dogs on the dog themselves, but they do exist. One shows that petting a dog directly before departing for a brief separation might be able to reduce separation anxiety in dogs[2].

As a dog may lay their head on you because they feel stressed, it is important to look at the entire context. Does their facial expression look anxious? Are they visibly agitated? Are they yowling or whimpering? These signs and signals of stress might be telling you something needs to be addressed. Conversely, if your dog used to lay their head on you, but don't do it any longer, they may be depressed.

They want attention

While a desire for affection is a type of attention, there may be more to it. Dogs are sociable animals. Their wild ancestors were pack animals and domestic dogs are no exception, even if the pack is limited to a human and a dog. When we go to work or leave the home for any length of time, our dog can get anxious. They may begin to fear you won't return or that they will not be able to have access to their basic care needs. This is known as separation anxiety and it can manifest itself in various ways.

Many dogs suffering from separation anxiety will get agitated and jump all over you for attention. However, others may simply come up to you and lay their head on you. It will depend on the individual dog and their circumstances. Regardless, you will need to ensure your dog is getting the attention they require. You can have loved ones or neighbors drop in on them or even send them to a canine day care facility. It is important to know that dogs should be socialized with others as much as possible. If you have a small family, it is a good idea to walk to dog parks or visit friends with dogs so they can meet these needs.

Why Does My Dog Lay His Head on Me? - Canine Communication - They want attention

They want food

It is also very important to look at the context of your dog laying their head on you. You need to be aware of what you are doing as well. Dogs don't have manners in the way many (not all) humans communicate. If you are eating something, especially something which smells delicious to a dog's sensitive nose, then they may lay their head on you to petition for some of it. Most likely they will be looking at your food or even trying to reach for it.

While dogs don't have manners, they still need to know what is socially acceptable and what is not. If you eat food in front of your dog and feed them scraps, you can count of them expecting to have some the next time you are eating. Even with a sufficient diet, dogs can be notoriously greedy. Basic education and training will help us to keep our dogs in line when we eat. This will also help us to reserve their treats for rewards for good behavior.

They are cold

You may be sitting on the couch to because you want to snuggle up against the winter cold. You may be wrapped in a blanket to save heating. While your dog has a natural coat to protect against the cold, this doesn't mean they won't feel it too. If you dog comes up to you and lays their head against you, they may simply want a little body heat. If you have more than one pet in the home, it is very common for them to sleep cuddled up to each other. You are not an exception and your body heat might make them feel a little cosier.

They believe there is a problem

If your dog comes up to you and places their head on your leg, they may be trying to alert you to something. This is one of the reasons it is so important to get to know the personality of your dog. Some dogs will jump up and bark loudly with the slightest provocation such as a letter coming through the door. They are trying to warn you of a perceived danger in their environment. While this is a protective instinct, it is important to limit this behavior through proper education.

Other dogs are more docile by nature and will not react so aggressively to disturbances. They may sense something is wrong and will lay their head on you to alert you to a problem. Again, you will need to look at the rest of their body language and demeanor. If they don't seem to respond to petting or seem to want to draw your attention to something, you may need to reassure them.

They have a health problem

Older dogs tend to become less energetic as they age. Part of this is the effect age has on their bones and hormonal activity. While we shouldn't assume there is a problem when an older dog lays their head on you, you need to look out for symptoms of a health problem. If they lay their head on you and don't much to stimulus there may be a problem.

Have you noticed you dog's energy levels have decreased? Have they recently lost apetite? These could be signs of a problem. With older dogs, it could be a serious problem. When a dog is about to die, they will sometimes go somewhere on their own and lay down. But this depends on the individual circumstances. Others may want to be close to a family member. Be alert and, for more information, take a look at our article on whether your dog is dying to help you assess the situation.

Why does my dog lay their head over my neck?

The answer is a fairly easy one. If your dog is big enough to reach up to your head, they may lay their head over your neck just to be close to you. It is something they do to other dogs they consider to be part of the family. If they do the same to you, they think of you as the same. Smaller dogs may simply want to rest on you, but it is still because they feel close and comfortable. It is an adorable sign of love which most dog guardians cherish.

If you want to read similar articles to Why Does My Dog Lay His Head on Me? - Canine Communication, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

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1 comment
Dee Rawler
I was walking in the park and a couple walked past with a golden labrador. It suddenly ran up to me and lay its head against my leg. They called it and it was going to them but it ran back to me and pressed it's head against my leg again. Three times.. it was very strange Do you think it was asking for help? I hope not.
I had pain in the same leg the other day. Could it be alerting me that something is wrong? Or was it just being friendly and wanted a pat?
I'm just curious what you make of this. I found it quite odd.
Thank you, if you tale the time to read and answer
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Dee,

We can't say because there are too many mitigating factors, but it is also quite possible he is just a very affectionate dog who enjoyed meeting you!
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Why Does My Dog Lay His Head on Me? - Canine Communication