As a dog owner, you’ve likely experienced your dog resting their head on you at some point. You also might be wondering what this means and what your dog is trying to tell you! In this article, we will dig into dog body language, including when dogs rest their head on you, and how to understand what it means.
Dog Body Language: An Overview
As humans, we do a lot of our communication vocally. While body language plays a role in our communication, we can also clearly communicate with just our voices.
The opposite is true for dogs. They communicate almost exclusively with their body language.
The subtleties and nuances of how dogs communicate with their body language is quite intriguing to watch once you’ve learned the details. While many dog owners are familiar with body language that shows a dog is excited or playful, such as a play bow, the body language that indicates a dog is stressed or anxious is more often missed.
Some common signs that a dog is stressed include yawning, licking their lips, slowly blinking, turning their head away from something, and pacing.
This doesn’t mean that every time your dog yawns or licks their lips they are worried, though. When you read dog body language, it’s important to take all of the body language and context into consideration.
If you are holding a delicious treat in your hand, licking their lips might just be a natural reaction to the food. Yawning around bedtime is also likely a normal behavior.
However, if food isn’t present or it’s the middle of the day, licking their lips and yawning are more likely than not to be signs of stress. This is especially true if you also notice additional signs of stress at the same time.
Learning how to read dog body language takes time and practice, but your dog will thank you for it! You’ll be able to communicate better with your dog and understand their needs easier.
So, why does my dog put his head on me?
Since we know that dogs communicate with their body language, it stands to reason that they are trying to tell us something when they rest their head on us. There are a few common reasons why dogs will rest their head on a person – and the context of the whole situation will help you determine why your individual dog is offering that behavior.
In many cases, why dogs rest their head on you is simply that they are asking for love and attention. It’s an easy way for your dog to ask for something, and in this case, offering their head to you for pets is likely to give them the outcome they desire!
It’s also a good way for dogs to ask for attention, rather than jumping on you or barking. For this reason, if your energetic dog rests their head on you looking for attention, you should reward them by offering your affection. Doing so can help teach your dog that you prefer head rests to jumping or barking.
In some cases, your dog will still rest their head on you, but because they want food instead of attention. This might mean they want the food you are eating, and are trying to patiently wait for a bite, or it can indicate that it’s dinner time!
As we mentioned before, the context is important when determining why your dog is resting their head on you.
If it’s not close to meal time and you don’t have any food, your dog is probably asking for attention instead of food.
Finally, some dogs may also rest their head on you because they’re stressed. If you notice other signs of stress in your dog, including the yawning or lip licking like we discussed earlier in this article, they might simply be seeking comfort. Contrary to some beliefs, you can’t reinforce fear, so if your dog comes to you seeking comfort it’s best to give them that safe space by giving them the attention they want. You’ll help your dog to calm down and feel better about the situation in the future!
But What About Dominance?
The reality is that dominance is taken out of context in dog behavior. You can read more about dominance in dogs, and the truth about what it actually means, at the Association of Professional Dog Trainer’s website.
In short, though, dogs don’t often display dominance with humans. In addition, dominance is the control of a resource, not a behavior trait.
In regards to our dogs resting their heads on us, their behavior isn’t controlling a resource or telling us they are in charge. They simply want to be close to you and share the love!
If your dog is resting their head on you, almost all of the reasons boil down to your dog trusting you, asking for something, or just wanting a moment of affection. While you can figure out the exact reason by taking the whole situation into context, it’s a great sign to see your dog willing to rest their head on you!
It’s also more than OK if your dog doesn’t rest their head on you. Not all dogs show their affection or ask for something in the same way, so it definitely doesn’t mean your dog dislikes you if they don’t offer this behavior.