Why do dogs lean?

As a social animal, it is important for dogs to be part of a group. A dog that feels its belongs with other animals or people, will often lean on members of its family in different ways.

A dog can indicate its relationship to other animals and people with a lean. A dog will lean in social situations to show affection, possessiveness and dominance. Dogs lean to indicate their feelings and to take a step up the social ladder.

A happy and affectionate dog will let the members of its family know that it trusts them by leaning on them when scratching or sleeping. A lean can indicate a possessive or defensive feeling over the loved one. A lean can also be used in situations where there are other dogs or people present as a way to say, “this one is mine”. In such a case, the dog wants to protect you. A dog will lean with its shoulder and entire body.

A dog may lean on surfaces or its family members for balance as it scratches at a hard to reach spot. A dog that leans on members of its pack or family for comfort and affection feels that it is an accepted member.

In a potentially violent situation such as when two same-sex alpha personality dogs meet, the dogs may lean into each other’s personal space as a way to increase their territory. This increases the tension of the situation.