Our dogs like to keep us guessing. They just behave in such strange ways at times that can be difficult to understand. Stretching is one such example. But why do they do this, and is it something to be concerned with? Let’s take a look.
So, why does my dog stretch on me? A dog will often stretch on their owner as a means of communicating. Often, this is used for greeting. Although, your dog may also do this to get your attention, such as when they are bored and want to play. Other times stretching simply feels good, and they would rather do it on your than move away to stretch.
There are certainly a few different reasons behind this behavior – and it does somewhat depend on circumstances.
That’s why it’s important to look at the context.
How is your dog behaving generally, what have they been doing, and what kind of state are they in?
Have they been away from you for a while, recently been running around, or are they an older dog that tires quickly?
These are the kinds of questions to ask and things to consider.
That way, you may be able to identify the underlying reason quite accurately.
Nevertheless, let us now break down the reasons in greater detail before turning to how you can or should respond.
Why Do Dogs Stretch On Their Owners?
Dogs stretch on their owners for a few reasons, but the most common motivation is to get their companion’s attention. The main reason a dog stretches on or near its owner is actually as a form of greeting. This may happen after you have been apart for some time or even as your dog enters the room you are in after venturing somewhere else.
A greeting stretch is often described as looking like the dog is performing a bow for you!
Your dog may even yawn or toss their head as they stretch on or beside you.
The more your dog wants to be sure to get your attention, the closer they are likely to perform their stretch.
Which, of course, means that sometimes they are stretching right on your feet or lap!
Desire To Play
Another reason a dog may stretch on its owner is that your dog wants to play.
A play bow is often performed by a dog stretching out its front legs and wagging its tail and hind end high in the air.
If a dog is feeling extra playful and you are sitting down, the dog may press their paws one at a time into your legs.
They are hoping you will respond by standing and initiating more play or tossing them their favorite toy.
Stretching Feels Good
Sometimes a dog stretches on its owner simply because they were already next to them, and a good feeling stretch was needed.
Just like people may stretch when they rise from sitting for a period of time or after a rest, dogs perform the same behavior.
Dogs have a different sense of personal space than humans and lack the verbal skills to ask us to move out of our way.
As a result, if your dog is next to you and needs to stretch, they are likely to move in right on top of you if need be!
Is Stretching On You A Cause For Concern?
A dog stretching on you is not an immediate cause for concern if it isn’t hurting you. Your dog is likely not stretching due to pain or illness and therefore is in no significant danger.
A dog stretching on you can cause concern if your dog is large, has sharp claws, or you simply don’t like the dog stretching on you.
While we have to adapt to many things for our pet companions, it is also important that we teach our dogs to honor our boundaries as well.
A large dog that stretches on you can cause issues by accidentally causing you pain.
Also, if the dog makes a habit of stretching on a child, it can be painful and quite scary for them.
Dogs do not understand their own strength, and a dog pushing on you mid-stretch can be uncomfortable.
Along the same lines as being large, a dog with sharp claws can end up accidentally scratching its owner’s feet, legs, or arms during an attention-seeking stretch.
Owners who find tears in their clothes or scratch marks on their skin may be concerned about their dog’s behavior for good reason.
There is also something to be said for a dog doing a behavior you simply don’t like.
Perhaps the dog also sheds on your clothing a lot as it stretches on you, or you want more personal space.
When your dog stretching on you causes safety or comfort concerns, it may be time to consider training options for redirecting the behavior.
What To Do When Your Dog Stretches On You?
What you choose to do when your dog stretches on you depends a lot on how you feel personally about this behavior. Now that you know your dog stretching on you is a sign of attention-seeking affection, you may want to respond positively to this behavior. If the stretching is an unwanted or harmful behavior for your family, then you will want to take steps to redirect your dog’s behavior.
If you don’t mind your dog stretching on you, then you can respond with a warm voice, scratch behind the ears, or a hug if your pup enjoys it.
When my own dog stretches on or next to me, I pick up his tennis ball and give it a throw. He is always excited for a game.
Some people know that when their dog stretches on them or makes a move for their attention, the dog wants a walk or to be given a fresh drink of water.
The best thing to do is think of what makes your dog most happy and give that a try in response.
If you have a very large dog stretching on you, it can be a nuisance.
Other times a dog stretching on people can be a problem as well.
In this case, you will want to take steps to redirect this behavior.
When the dog stretches on you, you will want to turn and walk away or redirect the dog with an “off” command.
This will teach your dog that you want your personal space, and the best way to get positive attention isn’t through a close contact stretch.
Let’s look more closely at how to stop our dogs from stretching on us.
How To Stop Your Dog From Stretching On You
One of the most effective ways to stop your dog from stretching on you is to teach your dog the “off” command. While all training should be done under the supervision of a skilled trainer, the off command is fairly simple.
Any time that your dog jumps on stretches on or invades your space when they shouldn’t, you say “off” with a firm voice.
You can also use a hand to reach out and gently but firmly push the dog off of you. Another alternative is to say “off” and then immediately turn away from the dog.
By ending the attention you give your dog in the moment, you send the signal that this behavior is not enjoyed or rewarded.
Do not be harsh with your dog; just be firm.
Be sure to soon engage with your dog in an activity you both enjoy.
The “off” command can also be taught to dogs who get on the furniture.
By teaching your dog to stay off furniture, you will be keeping it further away from human laps to stretch on.
Any time that your dog begins to get on furniture, firmly say “off” and remove your dog from the furniture.
For a small dog, this may simply mean picking them up and placing them on the ground.
For a larger dog, a leash can help you encourage the dog off of furniture and away from unwanted spaces.
All dogs stretch during their daily routine, and you are unlikely to stop a dog from stretching both for comfort and communication entirely.
What you can do is teach your dog to respect your space while it stretches.
This will help keep both of you happy in the long term. For extended behavior issues, your best option is to look into local, reputable trainers.
So there you have it.
Regardless of whether you like it or not, this is a behavior that some dogs just do.
And some will do it more than others – whether it is learned or innate.
Either way, how you respond will largely dictate whether or not it continues going forward.
But now you know what your dog could be meaning – you should really try to turn this into an opportunity for positive interaction.
Responding to your dog’s stretch with enjoyment and enthusiasm will let your dog know that you understand his communication and need for attention.
Dogs want to be heard.
Have you noticed some other unexplainable behaviors in your dog? The following guides may help to explain them!
- Dog Keeps Stretching Neck And Looking Up [Why & What To Do]
- Why Does My Dog Keep Biting Himself?
- Why Does My Dog Lick My Wounds?
- Why Does My Dog Sit On Me?
- Why Does My Dog Bury His Head In Me?
- Why Does My Dog Look Away From Me?
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.