Why Does My Dog Rub Against Me?

It’s no secret that when your dog rubs against you, it’s trying to tell you something. But what is it trying to say?

There are several reasons dogs rub against their people ranging from displays of affection to attention-seeking behavior. Sometimes, your dog may even be trying to alert you to a health condition you haven’t noticed yet.

In this article, we’ve broken down the most common reasons why your dog may rub against you—so keep reading to find out more!

Why Does My Dog Rub Against Me?

Dogs rub against their humans for various reasons. But they all boil down to your dog trying to communicate with you. Since they can’t speak, they find other ways to make you understand their needs. Here are the most common things your dog tries to communicate when rubbing against you.

Is rubbing against you a way for your dog to show love? Find out!

Your Dog Wants Attention

Often, the answer to “why does my dog rub against me” is that your dog wants attention.

A dog without enough stimulation can become bored. For some dogs, that manifests as destructive behavior like inappropriate elimination or chewing.

Other dogs express that boredom by rubbing against you and disrupting whatever chore you are doing. It’s their way of asking for:

  • Cuddles
  • Chew toys
  • Walks
  • Toileting

Consider when your dog rubs up against you. Is it specific to a time of day? Are they more responsive to particular human responses than others? If the answer is yes, your dog rubs against you because they think it’s the most effective way to meet an immediate need and get the attention they want.

Your Dog Is Being Affectionate

Another answer to “why does my dog rub against me” is less mercurial.

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Dogs are social creatures and go to considerable lengths to keep their place in a pack, which includes showing affection or submission to the person they consider the leader.

For many dogs, the most effective way of doing this is by rubbing against you.

Your Dog Is Marking You

One of the reasons why rubbing behavior is so popular with dogs as a way of showing affection is to do with pheromones. Dogs secrete these from several parts of the body, including:

  • Facial scent glands
  • Anal sac
  • Saliva
  • Urine

When a dog rubs up against you, they ensure you come out of the exchange smelling like them. Even if you can’t pick up on the scent, other dogs can.

That reassures your dog that they belong to you and you to them. But it also leads naturally to another reason why dogs rub against humans. Namely, they are marking territory.

That’s not to say your dog isn’t being affectionate when they rub against you. But simultaneously, your dog lets other dogs know you already have a canine companion.

Rubbing Against Humans Can Be Self-Soothing

Yet another solution to “why does my dog rub against me” is that your dog finds it therapeutic.

As discussed, when a dog brushes against something, they release pheromones. That’s true whether the thing your dog is rubbing themselves against is you, the sofa, or their bed.

Since pheromones are how dogs mark territory, a stressed dog may rub or nuzzle you more than an unstressed one. That’s because, in their anxiety, they worry that they have insufficient ownership of you or the surrounding environment.

Canine stress can be exacerbated by:

  • Moving House
  • New family members
  • Loss of a family member
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If you think your dog’s rubbing behavior is the result of stress, look for other indicators like:

  • Inappropriate elimination
  • Pacing or circling near doors
  • Whining when alone
  • Destructive chewing

If you notice any of these symptoms along with the increased rubbing by your dog, it may be worth investing in synthetic pheromone dispensers. These are an effective way of helping anxious dogs overcome health problems like separation anxiety while decreasing their need to rub against you and the furniture.

Your Dog Has an Underlying Illness

Not all canine health issues are so esoteric. Another answer to “why does my dog rub against me” is that your dog wants to alert you to a health problem that is bothering them.

Typically, these are skin conditions your dog tries to alleviate by rubbing up against things, you inclusive. It might be time to call the vet if you notice your dog:

  • Scratching more than usual
  • Developing hives
  • Has red, irritated skin
  • Loses appetite
  • Drinks more/less than normal

These symptoms could point to several conditions ranging from fleas to sensitive skin. Your vet can help diagnose and treat the problem.

Learn why your dog rolls on a sofa in this detailed video!

Final Thoughts 

By now, you should know there are many answers to the question, “why does my dog rub against me?”

They vary from medical to emotional. Determining what is most applicable to your dog may require consultation with your vet. But at the end of the day, you know your dog best. A good understanding of their temperament and habits will help you decide if you should be concerned about your dog rubbing against you or if it is one of their more eccentric habits.

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Nadine Oraby

My name is Nadine; I am a passionate writer and a pet lover. People usually call me by the nickname “Joy” because they think that I am a positive and joyful person who is a child at heart. My love for animals triggered me to create this blog. Articles are written by vets, pet experts, and me. Thanks for visiting. Your friend, Nadine!

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