Why does my dog climb on my shoulders? 

The main reasons that your dog climbs on your shoulder could include some of the following reasons:

  • Your dog feels safe being so close to you
  • Your dog is showing you how much they love you
  • They don’t understand space in the same way that we do
  • Your dog wants your attention
  • They are feeling playful and want to get you to play with them

Your dog has some wonderfully cute behaviours that sometimes you can’t help but laugh at. If your dog loves to climb on your shoulders and snuggle into you, it can be really funny to watch them struggle to get into position and wriggle about on top of you.

Of course, the hilarity of the situation is directly related to how big your dog is and how uncomfortable it might be for you!

In most cases, it’s not a cause for concern that your dog wants to get so close to you, and the majority of reasons are good and positive reasons. We will outline some of the most common reasons in more detail in this article below. 

However, if you suspect that there is something wrong with your pet, it’s very important to take note of their symptoms and contact your vet for advice.

As much as it’s important to educate yourself with online resources, your vet is best placed to treat and diagnose your dog. 

 

Your pet loves being close to you 

For your pet, there is nothing that they love more than being close to you, their owner, and pleasing them. You bring them the most joy and happiness and their days are structured around making you happy.

Take note of when your dog wants to climb on top of your shoulders. Is it when they come home all excited from a walk? Is it when you come home from a period of being away? These cues will tell you more about what you need to know about why your dog likes to sit on your shoulders.

That’s why they like to cuddle up close to you on the sofa, lie at your feet, and lick you all over – it’s their way of showing affection. You might sometimes wonder if your dog is capable of understanding your emotions, and you’ll be pleased to know that the research says that yes, your dog does know that you love them

It’s important to remember that, as obvious as it may seem, animals have different reactions to us and won’t show their feelings in the same ways as humans. 

One of the simplest ways that dogs show affection is by slow blinking and eye contact. Similarly, by sitting close to your head, your dog can stay warm and close beside you, fulfilling two of their main goals in life.

Another reason that your pet loves being close to you is because it helps them to settle and feel safe. It’s not a great idea to develop a situation where a dog becomes overly reliant on being close to you at all times.

In the next point, we will discuss how symptoms of anxiety can appear in your pet. 

 

Your dog feels anxious and sits on your shoulder 

Dogs who suffer from separation anxiety can manifest this in multiple ways. This can include following you around the house, not wanting to be away from you for a long time, and sitting as close as possible to you.

There’s a difference between a dog who is healthily attached and just wants to be near, and a dog with the clinical symptoms of anxiety. As a pet owner, it’s important that you can recognise the difference between the two.

In most cases, a dog with real anxiety will display a number of other disruptive symptoms, including whining, barking, walking around in circles, jumping, or scratching/ digging. 

Have you noticed your dog attempting to sit on your shoulder when you get ready to leave your house? Have you found that they are more anxious and clingier when they know you’re leaving? 

If you notice these behaviours, try to make accommodations for your pet so that they can feel happy independently. Ensure that if you’re going away, they have plenty of toys to play with, and when you’re busy around the house, give them lots of stimulating activities to get stuck into so that you don’t become their everything. 

By getting closer to you and touching you, the instincts that your dog has to protect themselves and get themselves to a safe place are calmed and soothed.

For some people, it’s not a problem if their dog wants to sit on their shoulder to feel safe, while for others, they want to discourage the behaviour and give them a different way to soothe themselves. 

Understand what’s best for you and your dog and try to encourage positive behaviours that will leave both of you feeling happy and secure with each other. 

 

Your dog wants to show affection for you

Did you know that oxytocin is referred to as the ‘love chemical’ in your brain, and it can regulate emotional responses and social behaviours between humans. Typical activities that cause an increase in oxytocin include eye contact, hugging, positive communication, and kissing.

It’s an important element of human society which ensures that we bond with our families, and work to take care of each other. 

But did you know that dogs also have oxytocin hardwired into their brains? Studies show that a dog’s brain releases oxytocin in a similar way to a human’s when the dog is bonding with their owner. 

It has been shown that petting your dog, staring at them, and speaking with them results in increased levels of this ‘happiness hormone’ and promotes good bonding, allowing you and your canine companion to live together in harmony. 

Being close to you and touching you is one of the ways that dogs do this. To take it a step further, some dogs have realised that if they sit directly behind your head, they can’t get closer than that to the one they love!

The answer is really quite simple – evolutionary instincts kick in and your happy little dog just wants to show you that, despite all the barking or strange noises late at night, they do appreciate and love you more than anything in the world. 

 

The real reason that your dog wants to sit on your shoulders

There’s usually no single reason why your dog wants to sit on your shoulders, it could be any number of reasons that we have mentioned above. Of course, it’s also possible that perhaps your dog just wants to sit in a certain spot and your shoulders happen to be in the way!

We always advise you to trust your instincts as a pet owner, and if something feels wrong, don’t hesitate to contact a veterinary professional. 

Knowing more about your pet and their individual likes and dislikes is one of the best parts of being a pet parent. It is exciting to be able to watch them grow up and try new experiences.

If you enjoy your pet being so physically close to you, don’t feel as though you have to send them away for discipline reasons. If you are happy with them being so close to you, then there is no documented reason why you need to get them to stop.

As you know, all dogs are different in terms of how close they like to be to their owners and how they show affection. Some owners may wish that their pet would sit on top of their shoulders like a parrot – enjoy your pet and all their individual proclivities without reading into the reasons too much!

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