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Wondering Why Dogs Bury Their Heads Into You?

Have you ever found your dog trying to bury their head into your lap or nestling their nose beneath your arm and wondered what drives this endearing behavior? While it’s a common display of affection in many dogs, understanding the ‘why’ behind it taps into the depths of canine psychology and their way of communicating with us and each other.

Recent insights from a study highlighted by Arizona State University News show that our dogs’ behaviors are more complex than we might have thought, revealing that these displays of affection stem from a combination of genetic makeup and the environment they’re raised in. This mix of influences shapes their actions in fascinating ways, offering a glimpse into the intricate world of how and why our dogs express their love and loyalty.

Let’s take a look at some of the factors that influence a dog’s affectionate nature.


Our canine companions inherit a vast array of behaviors that are influenced by their genetic makeup. This doesn’t mean that specific actions, like burying their heads into us, are hardwired into their DNA, but rather that their capacity for such behaviors can be influenced by their genetic predispositions.

Puppies cuddled together


The surroundings and conditions in which a dog is raised and lives can significantly impact its behavior. A nurturing, affectionate environment may encourage more displays of affection, such as head burying, or sleeping on top of you, as a means of seeking closeness and comfort.

Individual Experiences

Every dog is an individual, with its own set of experiences that shape its behavior. Dogs that have had positive interactions with humans from a young age may be more inclined to seek out physical closeness.

Why Dogs Bury Their Heads Into You? - title picture with women and dog. Dogs head is laying on women's lap.

Exploring Dog Socialization: The Role of Physical Contact

Dogs are not just pets; they are members of a complex social world that mirrors their wild ancestors’ pack dynamics. Physical contact plays a pivotal role in how dogs interact with one another, serving as a foundation for communication, socialization, and the expression of affection.

Let’s take a look at the multifaceted nature of dog interactions, to see how simple actions like rubbing against each other are integrated into their social fabric.

1. Greeting and Social Bonding

Dogs often use physical contact as a way to greet each other and strengthen their social bonds. Rubbing against each other can be a sign of familiarity and comfort, similar to how humans might hug or pat each other on the back.

2. Scent Marking

Dogs have scent glands in various parts of their bodies, including their faces and tails. When they rub against each other, they can be exchanging scents or marking each other as part of their “pack”. This behavior helps to establish and maintain social hierarchies or to communicate their presence to other dogs.

Why Dogs Bury Their Heads Into You? - Two dog playing

3. Play Behavior

Rubbing against each other can also be part of play. Dogs often use body contact as a way to initiate play or during play as a form of interaction. This can include bumping, leaning, and rubbing against each other.

4. Affection

Dogs seek out physical closeness to other dogs through physical contact. Rubbing against each other can be a way for dogs to show they are comfortable and enjoy each other’s company.

5. Warmth

Dogs cuddle for warmth as their body heat helps to keep each other cozy, especially in cooler environments. This natural behavior is a survival instinct that helps them maintain their body temperature.

6. Protection

Being close to one another can make them feel safer and more secure, offering reassurance against threats or when they’re feeling vulnerable.

Puppy in the arm of a person

9 Reasons Why Dogs Bury Their Heads Into You

Building on our understanding of how dogs interact with their canine companions, let’s explore how they show similar behaviors with us, especially when they bury their heads in our laps or against our arms. It’s interesting to see that many of the reasons behind this behavior are similar to those we’ve seen in dog-to-dog interactions.

1. Affection and Bonding

This behavior can be a sign of trust and affection. Dogs often use physical contact to express their love and loyalty to their owners. By burying their head into you, they’re showing a desire to be close and to strengthen the bond between you.

2. Anxiety or Fear

In some cases, a dog may bury its head into its owner when it’s feeling anxious, scared, or stressed. This can be a way for them to seek reassurance and comfort from you, their trusted companion, in a situation that they find distressing.

3. Attention-Seeking

Dogs are social animals and may sometimes use behaviors like burying their heads into you to get your attention. This can be their way of asking for petting, playtime, or even treats. My dog uses this trick often.

4. Scent Marking

As we mentioned above dogs have scent glands in their faces, so when they bury their head into you, they could also be marking you with their scent to claim you as their own. This is more about them saying, “You’re part of my pack.”

Black dog laying in persons lap

5. Attracted to your Scent

Dogs explore the world through their senses, and smell is one of the most important. Burying their head into you allows them to pick up on your scent, which is comforting and familiar to them.

6. Seeking Comfort and Security

Dogs may bury their heads into their owners as a way to seek comfort or security. This behavior is reminiscent of their puppyhood, where they would snuggle with their mother and littermates for warmth and safety. By burying their heads into you, they may be trying to recreate that sense of security and comfort.

7. Sensing Owner’s Distress

Dogs are highly attuned to their owners’ emotions and may bury their heads into their owners when sensing distress or discomfort, offering comfort and support.

8. Seeking Warmth

Just as they cuddle with each other for warmth, dogs may also bury their heads into their owners to share body heat and stay cozy.

9. To Keep Tabs on You

I am pretty sure my dog lays her head on us to stay close and monitor our movements, ensuring she is always part of the activities and nearby for any interaction.

Each dog may have its own unique reasons for burying its head into you, influenced by their personality, past experiences, and relationship with you. It’s always important to pay attention to the context of the behavior and other body language cues to fully understand what your dog might be trying to communicate.

Why Dogs Bury Their Heads Into You? Pinterest Pin title with pic of women and dog. with dog's head in womens lap

Do All Dogs Want to Cuddle?

Not all dogs like to cuddle. This behavior can vary widely among individual dogs due to factors like breed, personality, upbringing, and their current environment or mood.

Some dogs may naturally seek more physical closeness and show affection through actions like burying their heads in their owner’s lap, while others might express their fondness differently, such as through tail wagging, following their owner around, or sitting close by.

Cold weather breeds like the Bernedoodle or Bernese Mountain Dog tend to run hot so they are more likely to lean on you than actually cuddle with you.

Why Dogs Bury Their Heads Into You – Resources