NotABully.org is reader-supported. We may earn a small commission through products purchased using links on this page.
You walk in through the door after a long day of work and suddenly your dog is at your legs, rubbing their entire furry body against you like a cat!
Dogs can do things that we find strange all the time, but why does your dog rub against you?
Your dog might rub their entire body on you (like a cat) for various reasons such as wanting to show affection, trying to greet you, feeling itchy, or because it makes them feel secure. Unless it is because of separation anxiety, there is usually no need to worry about this behavior.
These are just a few reasons for this behavior, but let’s take a deeper dive into these and other reasons why your dog rubs against you.
A dog’s strong sense of smell is one of their most prominent characteristics. Many dog owners know that dogs love strange scents (like your breath) and can definitely sniff out their owners.
If your dog rubs against you after sniffing you for a little bit, it is most likely that they are trying to give you their scent or take up your scent.
But why would my dog want to share scents with me?
Did you recently go somewhere or see someone familiar to your dog? They might have noticed and thought, “Wow! I love that place!” or “I know who’s scent that is!” and want to take up that scent because it makes them happy.
Similarly, if you had played with another dog, your dog may want to either take up that scent or give you their scent as their way of being protective, depending on your dog’s relationship with the other dog you were with. Rubbing against you is a great way to really get a good whiff of the scent.
Reason 2: Your Dog Wants Attention
Many dog owners consider their dogs their fur babies. Sometimes, dogs even do things kids do such as seek attention!
Your dog might rub their body against you as a way to grab your attention if they feel like you haven’t spent enough quality time with them. Our lives can be busy so we end up not spending as much time with our pups as we’d like.
Some things you could do with your dog to prevent them from constantly wanting attention is to do activities with them.
If you find yourself not having enough time to set aside for your pup, try incorporating ways to be together into activities you already do such as going for your daily run (even if you have two dogs) or try some more unique ways of entertaining your dog that doesn’t require toys!
Reason 3: Your Dog Is Showing Affection
We love our canine babies and they love us!
We humans have our own ways of showing affection such as a hug, but dogs also have their own ways!
Just as why dogs might sleep with their bum towards you, they are usually not fans of eye contact or hugging. Many people know a dog’s lick is their way of kissing us, but rubbing against your leg is often compared to being their own way of hugging you.
If you’re coming home from school or work and your dog runs up to you and starts rubbing their body against your legs while their tail goes wild, it is most likely your dog is trying to show their love for you.
Interestingly, dogs aren’t the only animals known to rub against their owners to show their love. If you or someone you know has a cat, you are probably used to having cats rub against their owners as well!
Reason 4: Your Dog Is Greeting You
Did you just come back home after a few hours out?
Your dog might come running at the door to you and decide to rub against you with their tail wagging and doing a little happy wiggle dance as a way to greet you!
Dogs can’t tell time so any time away from you can feel like an eternity! They also don’t know how long you’ll be gone for even if you tell them!
Not only is it an exciting moment for your dog, it can feel nice to have someone adorable greeting you at the door after a productive day.
Check out this video showing the different ways dogs greet their owners:
Reason 5: It’s Comforting to Them
Depending on your dog and the situation they are in, they might be anxious or nervous sometimes and being close to you can be comforting to them.
Like humans, dogs do different things to comfort themselves when a little stressed out. Similar to your dog laying on you, your dog might rub against you as a way for your dog to find comfort.
Your dog trusts you with their own life and also cares about you. Being around you can be compared to a baby seeking the touch of their mother for security.
As mentioned before, dogs can definitely commit to the role as our kids!
Reason 6: Your Dog Is Itchy
An itch can be annoying no matter who you are!
When there’s an itch that’s hard to reach, dogs might try anything to scratch it like rolling in their food or on the carpet. Sometimes, you could help them out by just standing there and letting your dog rub against you.
Rubbing against you could be a convenient way to get that itch. You could have just been the closest thing next to your dog when they go the itch and thought, “What a great back scratcher!”
If you notice your dog does this often along with trying to reach a specific spot, they are most likely rubbing against you to scratch.
However, if the itch seems to be bothering your dog, contact your veterinarian to find what the cause of the itch could be and how to help your pup get rid of it.
Reason 7: Your Dog Is Consoling You
Dogs are amazing at detecting when their owners are happy or sad.
In this article from the American Kennel Club, dogs can sense our emotions by using sight and sound. Dogs can tell the difference between a laugh and a cry and use these traits to notice when their owners are feeling a bit down.
If you’re not feeling your best and are showing physical signs of it, your dog might rub against you as a way to console you.
As mentioned before, rubbing against you is often compared to a hug. Your dog could have noticed that you’re not feeling like your normal self and decided that you looked like you needed a hug.
Reason 8: You May Be Encouraging The Behavior
Without knowing it, you are your dog’s #1 cheerleader!
Everything your dog does, they look to you for a reaction. If you give your dog more attention than usual when they are rubbing against you, you are providing positive reinforcement.
Positive reinforcement is something you give that encourages a specific behavior. Training dogs is a great example of positive reinforcement: giving treats in exchange for following a command.
Giving your dog a lot of attention when they are rubbing against you is giving positive reinforcement and encourages your dog to do it more often. Acting normal when they do it or simply ignoring the rubbing can prevent your dog from being motivated to continue.
Reason 9: Your Dog Is Being Submissive
Although our canine companions love showing us affection, they also show respect for taking care of them.
When your dog rubs against you, it could be their way of being submissive. Being submissive does not mean being frightened, but rather, they trust you and can be vulnerable around you.
Oftentimes, your dog’s rubbing against you is followed by them rolling over and waiting for belly rubs. Both indicate submission.
Other ways dogs show submissiveness is by laying with their belly up, flattening or holding back their ears, and laying down when being approached.
Reason 10: Your Dog Has Separation Anxiety
It’s normal for dogs to miss you when you’re not home, but when you come back and they seem like they don’t ever want to leave your side or stop rubbing against you, it can be a sign of separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety is when your dog feels helpless without you. Dogs with separation anxiety feel stressed and anxious and appear like they can’t function without their owners.
How do you know if it’s separation anxiety or if your dog just misses you?
Other signs such as peeing inside the house when they don’t normally do, being destructive, or even trying to sleep as close to you as possible. A combination of these signs most likely indicate separation anxiety.
One of the ways to help dogs be more comfortable being alone and combat separation anxiety is by leaving them for small increments of time and gradually increasing the time. Providing ways to keep your dog busy, like puzzle toys, while you’re away can also help.
Is This Behavior Something To Worry About?
Most of the time, the only thing you have to worry about when your dog rubs against you is getting a lot of dog fur on your clothes!
Unless you suspect separation anxiety or a reoccurring itch, your dog’s rubbing is usually nothing to worry about.
If you still have any questions or concerns about your fur baby’s behavior or actions, contacting your veterinarian is the best option! They are always there to help strengthen your bond with your dog so they’re always willing to answer any concerns.
If your dog rubs their body against you, it is more often than not, a sign of how much they care about you!
Watching your dog’s behavior is an important part about being a dog owner. By watching your dog’s action, you can better your understanding and communication with your dog.
Overall, understanding each other can lead to a happy life for you and your dog while allowing you both to trust each other.