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Top 10 Reasons Why Your Dog Climbs on Your Shoulders

Top 10 Reasons Why Your Dog Climbs on Your Shoulders

Top 10 Reasons Why Your Dog Climbs on Your Shoulders

Why Does My Dog Climb on My Shoulders?

Most of the time, dogs climb up onto our shoulders to get their faces close to our own. They can use this to attract our attention and express their affection. It's highly unlikely that your dog is attempting to assert his dominance when he climbs up on your shoulders. Although research suggests that dogs exhibit some dominance and submission behaviors, they don't attempt to challenge us for control of their domestic living environments.

It is quite common for dogs to climb onto your shoulders. Dogs enjoy their owners' company and playing together. But it's also possible that he's trying to communicate with you by jumping up on your body. Perhaps he's bored or hungry, or he wants you to play with him or feed him. The majority of the time, your dog's desire to be so close to you is for healthy and positive reasons, but sometimes it's to express negative emotions, like fear or anxiety.

Listed below are the top ten reasons why your dog climbs on your shoulders and what to look out for if his behavior is concerning.

1. Your Dog Is Happy

Your dog may simply be expressing how happy he is. If he climbs on you more frequently in situations like when you get back from work or when you're trying to play with him, it is most likely that he is just excited. Dogs are incredibly expressive animals, and by climbing on your shoulders, he is probably demonstrating that he is delighted to see you.

2. They Are Greeting You

One explanation might be that your dog wants to welcome you home when you return and so climbs onto your shoulders as an act of pure affection. Greeting their owners is what usually causes dogs to jump up.

Although many dogs enjoy "face-to-face" greetings, some people find it quite annoying because jumping dogs run the risk of frightening or hurting people. If you prefer your dog to greet you more casually, try teaching him to calm down and relax first. Then, teach your dog the command "give me a hug" to keep the behavior under verbal control and signal when it's okay to climb up.

3. You Encouraged the Behavior

You may not even be aware of it, but you might have encouraged your dog to climb up on your shoulders. Your dog has discovered that if you reward him when he climbs on you with attention, toys, or treats, he will probably keep on doing it.

Consider what might be motivating your dog to jump up and what the reinforcement is for the behavior. If you want to correct the behavior, you may need to retrain him by using positive reinforcement on occasions when he doesn't jump up instead.

You might have trained your dog to climb up on your shoulders

You might have trained your dog to climb up on your shoulders

4. Your Dog Wants Attention

Your dog may be climbing up on your shoulders to get your attention. He might be acting this way because he wants something from you, especially if he does it more frequently at a particular time. For example, when you feed him or take him for a walk. Paws on your shoulders might indicate that he wants to play or that he needs to get outside or is running low on water.

Climbing on your shoulders might be the last resort after barking, whining, and nudging failed. However, it might just be the most effective way your dog has found to communicate a certain need. If your dog jumps up at random times, you might ask yourself why he behaves this way and whether or not you should reward him for it.

5. They Want to Play

Your dog may also attempt to climb up on you because he wants to play with you and needs to attract your attention to do so. He knows you won't be able to resist him for long, so he thinks getting on your shoulder will help him grab your full attention as fast as possible.

6. They Are Being Affectionate

Your dog will do anything to show you how much he loves you. One of those things is climbing up onto your shoulders. Your dog can get to your face and ears because he is curled right around your shoulders. Your dog might want to reach for your face or touch you to give and receive affection, but most importantly, to lick you.

7. Your Dog Is Anxious

If your dog shakes, growls, or pants and then suddenly jumps up on you, he might be terrified of something. A dog can become afraid of many things, such as thunder, fireworks, or other loud noises. Jumping up onto your shoulders provides a haven for him, a place where he can be as close to you as possible.

If this is the reason for his behavior, give him plenty of assurance and lead him to the safety of his bed with plenty of soft toys. If you're concerned about your dog's behavior as a result of anxiety, your veterinarian may help treat him with medications.

Your shoulders provide a safe haven for a scared or anxious dog

Your shoulders provide a safe haven for a scared or anxious dog

8. They Want You to Get Up

When you sit down, your dog might try to climb up on your shoulders to get you up off your chair. Maybe he wants you to get up and give him food or exercise.

If he tries to sit in places higher than you, it may also be the result of some form of dominating behavior, although not necessarily in an aggressive way. However, consultation with a dog behaviorist might be helpful if the behavior is unwelcoming.

9. Your Dog Missed You

If your dog frequently jumps up on your shoulders when you get home but seems more clingy than excited, it could be due to separation anxiety.

Dogs with separation anxiety can show their emotions in a variety of ways. These include getting as close to you as possible, following you around the house, and not wanting to be separated from you for an extended period.

There is a distinction between a dog with healthy attachment and a dog exhibiting anxiety-related clinical symptoms. It's crucial that you can tell the difference between the two as a pet owner.

10. Their Routine Has Changed

Your dog might feel uneasy because something interfered with his regularly scheduled activities. Dogs prefer routine because they know exactly what to expect, unlike some of us who respond favorably to change. When your dog knows it's dinnertime and leaves for walks at the same time every day, he feels secure.

Changes in routine can occur for a variety of reasons, from minor adjustments like arriving home from work a bit later to major ones like moving homes, welcoming a new child into the family, or getting a new pet. When your dog starts acting clingy and jumps up or climbs on your shoulders, consider what might have changed recently to make him act this way.

Make sure your dog is OK with something that changed in his routine.

Make sure your dog is OK with something that changed in his routine.

Final Thoughts

There are many reasons for a dog to climb onto your shoulders. The most plausible reasons are that he's trying to get closer to you and show you how much he loves you as his owner.

But when the behavior is concerning, consider what the circumstances were when your dog first started climbing on your shoulders. If he started doing it suddenly, he might have felt anxious or scared about something. He may have demanded your attention if he suddenly became ill. Gradual repetition of climbing on the shoulders is frequently attributed to realizing that the behavior is being rewarded with more cuddles or treats.

If you have any doubts about your dog's behavior, consult a professional who can help. Choose what's best for you and your dog, and work to promote behaviors that will make you both happy.

Sources and Further Reading

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Louise Fiolek