Why Does My Dog Lean On Me With His Backside?

Small dog leaning against female owner with his backside

Dog owners know the feeling. Whether the dog is large or small, it will inevitably lean up against and then brace itself with its backside against your leg. The move means they want to feel close to you, either out of affection or for safety, want a butt rub, or just consider it a greeting.

Read on to find out more about this aspect of your pet pooch’s behavior.

Is It Normal Dog Behavior?

Leaning with its backside to you is completely normal for any type of dog. It is a way of expressing itself in several aspects. You should always acknowledge your dog when it does this by petting him or maybe scratching his backside above the tail.

Dogs have scent glands around their tail, both under and over. This is why dogs sniff each other as a greeting. They get a lot of information this way, including mood, health, and even what the other dog is eating. It is a way to determine if they can be friends rather than look at each other in the eye, which is an aggressive move in dog language.

Canines’ scent glands above the tail are also strong and that is one reason they love to have that area scratched. So, they put that part of the body near you for convenience.

Why Do Dogs Lean With Their Backside?

There are four primary reasons a dog will lean on its owner with its backside beyond wanting their but scratched.

  1. It’s a dog greeting

Since dogs typically greet each other by sniffing the backsides, they are trying to welcome you similarly by presenting their backside. Remember, dogs think we are part of their pack, so they want to communicate.

We believe we teach them, but we don’t realize that dogs also think they need to teach us how to be a part of their pack. Leaning against an owner teaches the owner the proper dog greeting.

This makes how you respond important. Don’t ignore your dog. That would be rude to it. Don’t shoo your dog away because that is hurtful as it just wants to greet you. Instead, acknowledge it. Tell him he’s a good dog and maybe give him a little back scratch. Your dog will happily stand there as long as you do without any misbehavior.

  1. They want to lay claim to their owner

A theory existed that stated leaning against their owner with their backside was to show dominance over their owner. That theory has long been cast to the wayside as ridiculous, but it does hold a kernel of truth. 

Dogs, particularly if they are around other dogs, may start leaning on their owner to show the other dogs who belong to them. In that way, they are showing dominance over the other dogs. Dogs know it’s a “first come, first serve” world, so they set the standard by claiming their owners early.

Another part of that is the dog wants to rub his scent onto you by leaning or rubbing up against your legs. While this is typically seen as a cat move, dogs do it too.

Each dog has a scent, as does each human. Dogs want to mix the scents so that your family has a “pack scent.” Your dog will lick and rub up against family members to create a unique scent that identifies the family as one unit or pack. 

Leaning with his backside to you is one way to mix the scent or put a fresh scent on you if he senses other dogs are nearby.

  1. The dog wants attention

This is the most common reason a dog will lean against its owner with its backside. This move is like a dog hug. Your dog loves you and just wants you to acknowledge that love with a pet on the head or a scratch.

Dogs are also demonstrating trust with this behavior. The canine is the most vulnerable when it turns its back and looks away. Putting its backside up against you and looking outward shows you that your dog completely trusts you. It doesn’t have to watch what you are doing constantly.

Consider this a high compliment that your dog trusts you so much. It means you have bonded with him and he has bonded with you.

  1. The dog is looking for security

There are times when a canine can feel nervous in a situation. It’s uncertain of its surroundings, so it will lean against its owner to calm itself. Touching you makes your dog feel more secure and safe. After all, you are bigger, and you will protect it. The dog knows that.

Knowing you thereby touch comforts your dog, kind of like giving a child a teddy bear to hold onto. Your dog will be fine as long as you don’t leave him alone in the situation.

How Do I Know Why My Dog Is Doing This?

Since there are four different possibilities of why your dog is leaning against you, you will need to look more closely at your dog, your relationship, and the circumstances surrounding this dog move.

For instance, it is probably just a greeting and a plea for a backside scratch if your dog does this immediately after you come home. A dog doing this in the pet store standing in line with other dogs and owners is likely laying claim or maybe feeling a little insecure.

If your dog is doing this while you are in the middle of a project or talking to someone, he is looking for attention. Achieving this maneuver while at a dog park or in obedience school tells you that your dog is nervous and feeling a little scared or threatened.

Should I Try to Change This Behavior?

No, this is normal dog behavior and is simply a form of communication. The more time you spend with your dog, the more you will be able to understand your dog’s other forms of communication and what exactly this move means when he does it.

The only time this behavior may need some adjusting is if the dog is accidentally knocking you or your children down when trying to do this. A big dog, especially a younger one, doesn’t know their power. He could think he is trying to show affection to a small child and ends up knocking the tot over.

This awkward miscommunication upsets the dog as much as the crying child. The dog doesn’t understand why the child, or you, are upset at his display of affection.

It would help if you didn’t scold him for this. Instead, catch him with a head scratch or petting before he tries the move and then distract him with a treat or toy. His behavior will eventually change to less hip action.


Dogs have their language, and a good dog owner seeks to understand it as much as the owner tries to teach the dog how to live with us. You can’t change what is in a dog’s DNA, and leaning is one of those things dogs do, some more than others.

Enjoy the little nudge of affection and understand that this is how dogs say they love you!

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