Why Does My Dog Climb On My Shoulders?

why does my dog climb on my shoulders

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It seems like we get back pains from everything these days!  Working, spending too much time on the phone, and sleeping the wrong way are just a few ways we can cause pain in our bodies!  But maybe, your problem is a little furrier!  Maybe, your dog is the one causing your back and shoulders to hurt because they keep climbing on them!

So, you’ve come to ask yourself, why does my dog climb on my shoulders?

Well, your dog might be trying to tell you they are excited, nervous or that they want to play!  Your dog could be asking for attention, or might not even realize that they are in your personal space.  Maybe you even accidentally trained your pup to do this!

Don’t worry!  We will try to figure out why your dog is climbing on you!  If you don’t love that your dog does this, we also have some simple solutions for you!

Reason 1: Your Dog Is Excited!

One of the most obvious reasons that your dog could be climbing up on your shoulders is because they’re excited to see you!

When your dog jumps up on your shoulders, is it usually right when you walk in the door?

While this can be a little annoying, especially with guests, this is just your dog showing you that they’re excited.

Because dogs can’t communicate with us through words, they find other ways!  Some of the ways dogs talk to us are pretty obvious.   Dogs can bark, growl or whine when they are trying to tell us something!

However, there are many other ways that dogs communicate besides the traditional noises that they make.  As a matter of fact, the majority of communication between dogs is through body language, not sounds. For as many times as your dog audibly whines in the day, they are saying even more with their bodies!  Dogs will wag their tails, raise their lips, and move their ears as ways to communicate different things.  Dogs also use their amazing sense of smell to trade information with other animals!  They can even tell you something by jumping and using their body to climb on you!

Climbing on your shoulders could be your dog’s way of saying, simply, “Hey, I’m happy you’re home, and I’m so excited!”  Since they can’t use the words they have found another way to tell you that they are happy.

This video show some adorable examples of dogs climbing onto their owners when they are excited!

You can see that these dogs don’t seem to be nervous or aggressive, they really are just happy to see their people!

Reason 2: Your Dog Wants to Play With You.

Maybe jumping on your shoulders is more than just your dog being excited.  They could also be telling you that they want to play!

How can you tell the difference between a dog that is just excited to see you and a dog that wants to play?  We recommend paying attention to your dog!  After they climb on you, are they staying there and licking your face, or do they immediately run to a basket of toys?

The act of climbing up on you may just be to get your attention focused on them so that they can show you what they really want; their toys!

If you only play with your dog after they climb on you, you are rewarding them for this behavior!  This starts a sort of cycle where your dog knows that when they want to play, they have to jump on you for attention.  If you’re not thrilled about this, just make sure you play with your pup throughout the day, not just when they start to climb all over you for attention!

Reason 3: Your Dog Might Be Anxious.

If your dog is constantly climbing on your shoulders, it could also be a sign that your dog is a little nervous or anxious.

There are many different types of anxiety a dog can experience, but separation anxiety is the most common.  Seperation anxiety is usually fueled by a sudden change in a dog’s schedule or environment. For example, something like you needed to go back to the office for work could spark separation anxiety.

So, if this is the problem, then why does it make your dog climb on your shoulders?

Well, one of the ways that dogs calm themselves is through physical touch.  This is an instinct that starts when they are born.  To feel better and safer, puppies cuddle up together.  When they are older, dogs might find comfort by lying with another dog or with another human.  Just being close to someone they trust is comforting to them whether that’s by laying on your stomach, squirming their way between your legs, or of course by climbing on your shoulders. Whatever they do, it’s all about trying to be close to you!

This could be their way of trying to lessen the feeling of anxiety or stress from when you are gone.  Naturally, when you’re home they just want to climb on top of you!

Reason 4: Your Dog Wants Attention.

Earlier, we talked about the idea that dogs aren’t able to use words to communicate.  So far, we have decided that your dog could be conveying excitement, nervousness, or playfulness by climbing on your shoulders!

But, another thing your dog could be “saying” when they climb on your shoulders is that they want attention.

This is something that even people can sometimes do!

Think about when you’re talking to someone, and you can tell they aren’t listening.  Their eyes are glazed over, they’re not looking at you, and they’ve stopped reacting to the conversation.  Sometimes, the first thing we do in a situation like this is wave our hands in front of the person’s face.

Imagine that when your dog is climbing on your shoulders, this is their way of waving their paws in your face.  They know that you aren’t giving them attention, and they think the best way to get it is to get close to your head!

It makes sense!

If you give your dog more attention when they climb up on your shoulders, you are reinforcing the idea that climbing on your shoulders gets them what they want.  If this has become a cycle, start giving attention to your pet before their front paws have left the ground!

Reason 5: Dogs Don’t Understand Personal Space.

Really, though!  Your dog doesn’t understand that climbing on you might not be something acceptable for you.

Dogs definitely get inside each other’s bubbles when they say hi!  They sniff butts, touch noses, and play.  For a dog, this is a normal way to talk to another dog.  Unlike humans, dogs have no parts of their bodies that are inappropriate for other dogs to touch.

It’s possible that your dog doesn’t realize that they shouldn’t be climbing up on you.  They really have no concept of personal space.  They might even just be trying to do their normal thing, by smelling your ears or breath.  Dogs can get so much information from smelling our mouths.

So, maybe your pooch doesn’t mean to offend you, they are just doing what feels normal to them!  They might even consider it polite to get so close to your head to say, hi, by hanging on your shoulders!

Reason 6: You Might’ve Accidentally Trained This!

Oops!  Did you know that you can accidentally train your dog to do something?

Yep, it’s true!  Usually, when you accidentally train your pet to do something, it’s through positive reinforcement.

What Is Positive Reinforcement?

Positive reinforcement is encouraging behavior by rewarding your dog after the behavior has ended.  Basically, this means that your pup does something, and in some way, you do something positive for them because of that behavior.

Usually, people use this technique on purpose!  For exapmp[le, when you call your dog and they come back to you, you say, good job!  Or, when you ask your pup to sit and then you give them a treat.

However, sometimes this technique is used without the intention of training a behavior, or even without the trainer knowing that they’re doing it!

Take begging at the table as an example.  Most people don’t like their pets to beg when they are eating.  But, the reason that the pets beg in the first place is because they were rewarded for doing so in the past.  Maybe a guest gave them a treat or maybe you gave them scraps at the end of a meal.  Now, you have a dog who thinks they get a treat every time you sit at the table.

This is the same way it would work with rewarding your dog for climbing on your shoulders! Maybe, the first few times they did it, you thought it was funny and so you decided to make them do it again to show your family.  Or maybe, when it started to become annoying, you gave your dog a treat every time they jumped off of you!

The problem with this is that your dog starts to associate the “good dogs” and the treats with the act of climbing on your shoulders.

So while it wasn’t on purpose, you may have encouraged this behavior all on your own!

Reason 7: Your Dog Just Wants To Look Outside.

If your dog specifically climbs on your shoulders when you’re near a window, or when you’re sitting on this couch, this could be why!

Some dogs, like cats, like to get to the highest point in the room and get a good view of their surroundings.  If you are sitting on your couch and that seems to be the time when your dog climbs on you, they might be trying to see something.

This is especially true for smaller dogs who might not be able to see out of a window otherwise!  Imagine not being able to see outside unless you climbed on your owner’s shoulders.  They just want to be up high and get a good look at what’s going on.

If you have a dog climbing on you, think about if it only happens in a certain area of the house.  If so, they might just be using you as their own personal stepstool.

So, Why Is Your Dog Really Climbing On Your Shoulders?

Odds are if you have a dog constantly climbing on your shoulders, your furry friend is trying to communicate something to you!  They could be telling you that they’re excited, or that they want to play!  They might be asking for attention, or telling you that they feel a bit of separation anxiety.  It’s even possible that you trained them to do this behavior.

Hopefully, by now you can think of at least one reason why your dog keeps climbing onto your shoulders.

If you’re worried that your pet is acting aggressively when they jump on you, go ahead and keep reading!

Your Pet Probably Isn’t Trying to Scare You.

After reading this article, we know how important body language is for dogs to communicate with each other and with people.  Aggressive body language usually looks very different from a dog climbing onto your shoulders.

This video might be helpful if you’re not sure how to identify aggressive behavior in dogs.

There are so many different ways a dog can show aggression!  But if you watched the video, jumping up onto the shoulders of the other dog or person is not one of them.  Growling, barking, freezing, and staying low are some ways dogs show aggression.

Odds are, your dog jumping and climbing onto your shoulders is not their attempt to intimidate you!

Do You Need To Worry?

In our opinion, the most threatening aspect of this behavior is how it could be annoying for you!  While your dog might have a great time up on your shoulders, you might not enjoy it so much!  And, if you ever have guests come over who are older or smaller than you, they might get knocked over by your dog!

The best way to solve this behavior puzzle would probably be to do some training with your dog!  One great way to start training your dog to stop climbing on you is to reward them when they aren’t doing this!

It sounds simple. we know!

But, the important part of this equation is that when you say no to your dog as they are about to climb on you, you need to pay attention.  As soon as your pup stops the behavior you should reward them for listening by giving them a treat or y playing with them!

This should help to start to break the climbing habit!

If you are worried that your dog could be suffering from separation anxiety, we recommend consulting your local veterinarian to discuss solutions!

Our Final Thoughts

Hopefully, your pup isn’t spending too much time climbing on you.  But, if they are, we also hope that you were able to find the solution here.  And, if this behavior is a problem for you, make sure to put a little extra work into training this out of your dog as much as possible!  Good luck!