If your dog puts its head on your shoulder a lot, you might be wondering why and what you can do about it. This post will show you eight common reasons why dogs do it and what you can do to get yours to stop.
So, why does my dog put its head on my shoulder? Possible reasons why your dog puts its head on your shoulder are that it is anxious, wants attention, wants something from you, is being affectionate, or has learned that the behavior is rewarded.
It is actually possible that there is a combination of causes at play. However, there are some things you can consider when figuring out the main causes and there are many things you can do about them.
Why your dog puts its head on your shoulder
Below are eight reasons why your dog might have been doing it and what would make them more likely to be the main reason.
It feels safer
The reason why your dog has been doing could be that it makes it feel safer. This is because, by touching you, it will know that you are there and it won’t feel like it is alone. This would be more likely if it also tends to follow you around the house and if it can have a timid personality.
The cause might also be that something has been causing it to become anxious. This would be more likely if it tends to do it more at around the same time as something that might be causing it to be anxious such as just before you normally leave home.
It wants attention
The cause could also be that it wants attention and it has learned that putting its head on your shoulder results in it getting attention. This would be more likely if you tend to give your dog extra attention when it does it and if it tends to do it more when it has not gotten any attention in a while.
It wants something from you
The cause could also be that it wants something from you. This would be more likely if it tends to do it more when you have food in your hands and if you have given it some of your food in the past. In this case, it would help to avoid rewarding it with your food so that it does not learn that behaving in an undesirable way results in it getting rewards.
It wants you to do something
The cause might also be that it is trying to get you to do something. This would be more likely if it tends to do it more at around the same time that you would normally give it things such as food, exercise or attention.
Encouraging the behavior
It could also be the case that it has learned that putting its head on your shoulder causes it to get rewards from you. If you give it rewards, when it puts its head on your shoulder, it will likely do it more in order to get more rewards. Instead, it would help to reward it when it behaves the way you want and to wait for it to calm down before rewarding it when it does not.
Many people would argue that it might be doing it due to being dominant. However, the alpha/beta dynamic has been disproven in studies showing that wolves take turns in taking the lead.
With that being said, it could be doing it due to bullying behavior which would be more likely if your dog tries to get you to move and if it shows signs of aggression when doing it. In this case, it would help to avoid encouraging the behavior and to get it to learn to behave the way you want it to with training programs such as NLIF (“Nothing in Life is Free) dog training.
It’s being affectionate
It could just be the case that it is being affectionate. This would be more likely if it wants to sleep when it does it, if it does not face its head towards you and if it does not try to get you to do anything or to give it anything.
Things to consider
Below are some things to consider when figuring out the main reason why your dog has been doing it.
What else happened when your dog first started putting its head on your shoulder
If your dog did not always rest its head on your shoulder, it would help to consider what else happened when it first started doing it since it might be the case that there was an event that caused it to start.
If it started doing it suddenly, it could be due to things such as learning that it gets rewards for doing it, something causing it to be anxious or because it learned that it results in you giving your dog more attention.
What is different when it does it
It would also help to consider if there is a certain time that it tends to do it more. For example, if it tends to do it more when you are eating, it would be more likely that it does it because it wants your food. Whereas, if it does it more before you normally leave home, it could be because it has some separation anxiety.
What to do about your dog putting its head on your shoulder
Below are some options you have when getting your dog to stop doing it.
Avoid encouraging the behavior
As mentioned above, it might be the case that your dog has learned that it gets rewards for putting its head on your shoulder. Instead, it would help to reward it when it behaves the way you want and to redirect its focus when it is about to put its head on your shoulder.
Positive reinforcement training
Another option would be to train your dog not to put its head on your shoulder by teaching it to go somewhere else. You can do this by teaching it to sit or to lay down somewhere and then by gradually training it to stay there over longer and longer time periods.
You can do this by applying the same techniques as in the video below:
Give it attention throughout the day
It would also help to give it attention throughout the day so that it is less likely to try to get attention from you. Ways to give it attention would be to train it, play with it and to give it exercise.