Dogs and cats show their affection in similar ways.
I’m sure your doggo has often rubbed themselves against you on your couch.
Like cats, they have their reasons for doing so.
In this article, you’ll read about:
- What to do when they rub against you.
- How to reciprocate, but regulate the affection.
- 7 reasons why your dog rubs against you like a cat.
- And a lot more…
Table of contents
- Why does my dog rub against me like a cat?
- 7 reasons why your dog rubs against you like a cat
- #1: They want affection and comfort
- #2: They want to spread their scent
- #3: They have separation anxiety
- #4: They want to form a bond with you
- #5: They’re being submissive
- #6: You’re enforcing the behavior too much
- #7: They’re communicating with you
- #8: They have a rash
- #9: You also have cats around the house
- 7 tips on what to do if your dog rubs against you like a cat
Why does my dog rub against me like a cat?
Oftentimes, your dog rubs against you like a cat for affection. They could also be communicating or forming a bond. This close contact is submission. They want to guard what’s important to them with their scent. Having cats around is a reason too. But it may be that you’re enforcing the behavior.
7 reasons why your dog rubs against you like a cat
#1: They want affection and comfort
For a simple reason, they like the feeling of rubbing against you.
It makes them feel loved and safe.
Has your dog ever fallen asleep with their back against you?
Well, this comfort-filled connection affects their hormone levels.
For cats, this feeling provides them with an extra coat of protection.
It can bring both of them to a level of total calmness to the point that they can fall asleep.
They can often rub against you like that when they see you’re lying or sitting down.
For dogs, they can even hint at you to do other things like rub their head, belly, or pet them.
They’d tell you by exposing their bellies.
So at times, all they want is a good cuddle!
You might also be interested in: 15 reasons why your dog always touches you
#2: They want to spread their scent
When you think about them spreading their scent, you may think it relates to dominance.
But that’s not the case.
Dogs and cats have their way of resource guarding.
They want to guard an object, territory, or even human they know is important to them.
Cats send pheromones for marking their territory by rubbing their head on your body.
For cats, they often use their head for rubbing on you.
This is because they produce pheromone glands on their forehead, cheeks, and around the mouth.
And for dogs, they scent mark by rubbing their entire body on you.
This is so that their smell would be evident.
And also it’s so other dogs would know that you belong to another dog.
This can lead to overprotectiveness, but don’t worry!
It’s something you can manage with proper regulation and training.
Fun fact: Cats and dogs have scent glands on their face. This makes their scent transfer when they rub themselves on you.
#3: They have separation anxiety
Separation anxiety is the most common problem when it comes to our pets.
Cats deal with this anxiety by excessive meowing, crying, or even excessive self-grooming.
Dogs would pace around, bark, or go to areas in your house where they can get a hold of your scent.
If you notice from the way they cope, they need some form of substitute for your presence.
Now, if it’s also a habit for them to rub their back or body against you, your physical presence is always needed.
Because when they feel your warmth, it makes them feel safe
So when you come home after a long day, your dog would immediately need your physical touch.
Take the time to give it to them.
A study explains separation anxiety syndrome (SAS) between dogs and cats
It mentions how cats and dogs experience 3 responses due to SAS:
It’s focusing on domesticated pets, who are more prone to this syndrome.
#4: They want to form a bond with you
Rubbing their body on you, or any form of physical contact is their way of forming a bond.
The feeling of being side by side acts as some sort of a “glue” between you and your dog.
You can also relate this to the way dogs and cats self-groom themselves.
They lick themselves, stroke their face, ears, or even pick on their tails.
This helps relieve anxiety, stress, and even pain in some areas.
Here’s something to think about:
When your dog or cat rubs themselves against you, they may even groom themselves on top of you.
This strengthens the bond for they trust you to watch over them while they’re busy doing their business.
Another thing, ever notice that while they’re rubbing against you, they place their paw on your leg?
Or even rest their head on your lap?
This cute and loving gesture shows that you belong to them and vice versa.
This is not dominance, instead, it produces a feeling of importance and protection.
#5: They’re being submissive
Dogs have their submissive moments when they either feel scared or calm.
But this also means total trust.
They know that you’ll take care of and protect them.
For instance, dogs rub against your body and even squeeze themselves closer to you.
They would even move their ears back or expose their bellies, facing you.
For cats, it’s common that they’d curl their body up against your legs.
These behaviors tell you that they’re submitting themselves to you.
This type of connection also fosters companionship.
If they place their back against you, this is a vulnerable position.
They trust that you won’t attack them from behind.
Understanding the body language of your dog is important.
It tells a lot about how they want to communicate with you.
#6: You’re enforcing the behavior too much
Did you know that there’s such a thing as over petting?
For cats, they can be prone to petting-induced overstimulation.
And for dogs, you may not be reading their body language.
So if you start to pet them, they could get angry or uncomfortable.
A dog’s overstimulation is more on emotion.
This is why giving them immediate attention should be regulated.
Another reason you should remember is the habit of enforcing the behavior.
If you pet them the moment they’re by your side, they’ll end up getting used to it.
This can bring a major effect on their separation anxiety.
Remember: You have to let them come to you when they feel like it.
You can’t always carry them to stay by your side on the couch.
Enforcing this too much might end up making them uncomfortable, or even too dependent on you.
#7: They’re communicating with you
Your dog could also be telling you something.
Have you spent enough time with them today?
They could be trying to tell you that they want attention.
The way dogs and cats nuzzle their body or back against you are alike.
It’s also a way of telling you that they’re playful.
As crazy as it may seem, talking to them helps.
They can recognize the tone of your voice, its playfulness, or seriousness.
They’ll answer back with facial expressions or body language.
So the next time they rub against you, try to communicate right back at them!
#8: They have a rash
Like cats, dogs can rub against you if they’re feeling itchy.
They could also be rubbing their back against you because of a feeling of discomfort.
At times, they can take it a step further by rubbing themselves on top of you.
This could be their way of telling you to help them scratch a spot or check on them.
As a dog parent, you have to notice when their rubbing or scratching gets out of hand.
Next thing you know, they could have small red spots on their bellies.
That’d be your sign to take them to the vet to prevent it from getting worse.
Keep in mind: Inspect your dog’s body regularly to see any changes or the need for a check-up.
#9: You also have cats around the house
I know this sounds odd, but feline-canine friendship can also be the reason.
I experienced going to a home gym where 8 adopted cats live.
And there was one dog.
I was talking to the keeper about their relationship.
And I was told that at times, the dog would hop on the refrigerator like the cats.
It made me laugh, but it showed me how dogs can acquire cat-like behaviors.
Your dog may notice what your cat does.
And they’ll notice that you like it.
So one day, they’d give it a go to see how you’d react.
7 tips on what to do if your dog rubs against you like a cat
#1: Reciprocate, but regulate the affection
You shouldn’t ignore them because that would make them sad.
But you also shouldn’t give them immediate attention.
Sounds confusing, right?
I get you.
So what should you do?
When they rub against you, don’t immediately pet or cuddle them.
You could wait until they’re falling asleep to massage them.
Doing this will make them not expect too much the moment they sit closer to you.
This would help prevent an attention-seeking dog.
Keep this in mind: Always return the affection, but make sure to manage the attention.
#2: Spend more time with them throughout the day
Remember when I talked about resource guarding?
Your dog could be rubbing themselves against you because you weren’t with them the whole day.
To them, this means that their source of comfort, protection, and happiness is gone.
So you should expect that they’ll want all your attention and physical touch the moment you get back.
To fix this, take some extra time off to focus on your dog.
Time spent rubbing against you could even be replaced with training or even exercise!
Get your dog more active and less dependent on your physical presence.
Keep in mind: It’s important to spend quality time with your dog. By doing that, they’ll get the physical and mental stimulation they need. It’ll also prevent destructive behaviors.
#3: See ways to lessen their anxiety
Dogs and cats are both sensitive to sound.
Loud sounds could be the cause of their trauma and stress.
Here are some quick signs to notice if your dog’s stressed:
- Panting behavior.
- Whining or barking.
- They’re trying to hide from you.
- They’re having excessive drooling.
But understand that sometimes, it’s also not because of the sound.
They could feel uncomfortable around a specific person.
When your dog rubs against you, you have to think of the reason why they did so.
This is so you could limit the source of their stress one day at a time.
Although, here’s something you should keep in mind:
Your dog could rub against you when they hear the doorbell or the sudden bang of a door.
When this happens, you shouldn’t comfort them right away.
This will show them that it’s something to be afraid about when in fact it’s completely normal.
Note: Give your dog time to adjust to sudden sounds and even the people living in your house.
#4: Set boundaries
We all need our space, even our lovable furry friends.
If your dog rubs against you too much, it’s time to set some boundaries.
The best way to do that is through assertiveness in your decisions and setting cues.
You and your dog could establish a time to relax and cuddle.
Showing them a cue when they can rub against you sets boundaries and teaches obedience.
You can even set a designated area where the two of you can cuddle or where they’re allowed to rub against you.
Sooner or later, your dog will understand these cues and be patient to wait.
Remember: Help each other in setting boundaries. If you want your dog to be patient, you have to be patient too.
Watch how Zak teaches Rosho how to set boundaries:
#5: Train them basic obedience
Basic obedience can go a long way.
Teaching a simple “sit” or “lay down” can introduce many good traits.
This can teach them to get on or off of you at the right time.
When your dog keeps rubbing against you, you could use what you’ve taught to make them stop.
Doing this will create a routine.
These signals can even be used in bigger situations, so it’s best to start as early as now.
A reminder: Don’t forget to regulate how much treats you give during training.
#6: Offer their favorite toy
This is the best way to divert their attention.
Their favorite toy, or a new toy, would always do the trick!
Playing with their toy instead of rubbing against you will even add more active playtime.
You can even use this toy to remind them that they’re not supposed to rub against you.
You could often place the toy in a certain area of the house.
Taking the time to do this will make them understand that that’s the only place where they can play with the toy.
And also that they aren’t allowed to rub against you during that specific time.
Remember: Don’t dump all their toys on them at one go. This could make them think that they could get away with anything they want.
#7: Calmly call their attention
An angry voice or punishment won’t help your dog.
Raising your voice when they’re trying to rub against you will make them sad.
It’ll even make them scared to approach you.
What’s more, they may not want to rub themselves against you anymore.
All because you reacted badly when they did.
At times, all they want is to express their love.
And I get it, you may not be in the mood sometimes.
But you can always use a calm voice to know they should stop.