Without a doubt, every dog in the world does tons of adorable things that endear them to their owners. Some behaviors, such as following their owners around the house, are easy to understand, but others are less obvious. One of these less obvious behaviors is when your dog sits behind you. Why do they do that?
There are a few different reasons why dogs sit behind you. Any one of the explanations below could be a fit for your dog. In fact, depending on the situation, your dog may have many different reasons for this behavior in different circumstances. Below, we will explore a few of the most common.
It Knows Who Is in Charge
The phrase “leader of the pack” is not just a figure of speech; it is a real thing. As you probably know, dogs are pack animals. That is one of the reasons why they make such good family pets. They survive by forming attachments and relying on their fellow pack members. In the wild, that was other dogs, but they adapt equally as well to us, their human owners.
Through good training, your dog should recognize you as the leader of the pack, or the “alpha” of your family/pack. In doing so, sitting behind you might be an acknowledgement of your position; they are literally following your lead. This is more likely if they stay behind you in other situations, especially on walks.
It Might Be an Instinct
As pack animals, it is vitally important that packs of wild dogs stick together. For whatever reason, this instinct in some dogs is stronger than others, which may explain why some dogs sit so close while others do not do it as often.
Your dog is also more likely to curl up behind you if your house is cold. In the wild, canines huddle together while they sleep for warmth. If your dog is curling up behind you as close as it can get, there is a good chance that it’s acting out some old survival instincts to warm itself up. If you do not want them there, try cranking the thermostat. You can also buy a heated dog bed for the truly pampered pooch.
Your Dog Is Being Protective of You
A pack works like a well-oiled machine, and everyone has a job. To your dog, you procure food, but its main job might be protection.
From millennia of evolving in the wild, dogs know that your back is your most vulnerable side. You can’t see or reach behind you, so your dog might have perched itself there to protect you. Ever heard someone say they “have your back,” or they “have your six”? This is the same idea. This is more likely if you are around people or other pets with whom your dog is unfamiliar. Your dog has not yet learned whether these new people or animals are dangerous.
Your Dog Is Seeking Protection From You
On the flip side, your sweet friend might be seeking protection from you. Pay attention to their body language in how they sit behind you. Are they sitting up straight and alert? If so, they are probably protecting you. But if they are crouched down or cowering, the opposite is possibly the case.
Very young and senior dogs are more likely to do this. During both early and late stages of life, your dog knows that it is not well equipped to protect itself. Therefore, it has sought this service from its alpha. You can ease your dog’s anxiety by slowly introducing it to new people around it, so it does not have to feel frightened.
Your Dog Needs Comfort
Just as your dog might be your best friend and stick diligently by your side on your bad days, it expects you to return the service and do the same. Many scientists dismiss the idea that dogs feel emotions, but there are probably just as many dog owners who swear their dog has moods. They cannot express themselves in words, so seeking close proximity to you, such as sitting behind you, is a good way to get their emotional needs met.
Alternatively, your dog might be feeling under the weather. Just the same as people, dogs seek comfort when they are not feeling well (and they instinctively know that they need extra protection as well). Look for other signs and symptoms of illness and call your veterinarian if you think that your pup is sick.
As cute and endearing as it is that your dog wants to sit behind you, it is a behavior that could potentially become problematic. If your dog needs to be close to you all of the time, it might be a sign that it is suffering from some form of separation anxiety. This is almost certainly the case if your dog shows obvious signs of distress when you leave the house or are in a room where they cannot reach you.
Separation anxiety is a serious problem for dogs and pet parents alike. It is upsetting to leave behind a pet that is so distraught. But your anguish is nothing compared to what your dog experiences. It can be incredibly stressful for dogs to feel so much distress and so much emotional agony. Just as in humans, that degree of stress can take a toll on your dog’s overall health. They also may begin to act out by destroying items around the house or engaging in compulsive licking and scratching of their bodies that can become a serious problem.
If you think that your pet might be developing separation anxiety, talk to your veterinarian or a dog trainer or other canine expert. There are several things you can do to soothe your precious pup while you are away and prevent the problem from becoming worse. If all else fails, there are also some medications that can help.
“Give Me My Seat!”
Dogs are naturally territorial; once they have made your home their home, they become protective of it. This is why dogs make better security animals than horses or cats: their instincts are different. This territoriality does not just apply to your home as a whole, though. There are undoubtedly spots around your house that they claim as theirs. If you happen to plop yourself down on “their” chair or couch cushion, when they squeeze behind you, they might actually be trying to squeeze you out! Pay attention to whether your dog sits in that spot when you are not also occupying it.
You Trained Your Dog to Sit Behind You, and You Didn’t Even Know it!!
Because of the way a dog’s brain works, it is very easy to train them unknowingly. Dogs are very well attuned to routine. You may notice that your dog gets in bed every night when you brush your teeth or gets ready for a walk after you finish breakfast.
In the same way, if you give treats, show greater affection, or otherwise reward your dog for sitting behind you or close to you, you have trained it to repeat this behavior. Given how sweet and loving it is, and that it gives you extra time with your best friend, that is perfectly okay!