What Does It Mean When a Dog Rubs Against You?

September 21, 2022by DOGuide0

Dog owners often ask the question: “What does it mean when a dog rubs against you?” The following reasons may explain why your dog is doing it, and if you should be concerned.

What Does It Mean When a Dog Rubs Against You?

Dogs are interesting creations. As dog lovers, we love to figure out what their actions mean. This includes learning what does it mean when a dog rubs against you.

what it means when a dog rubs against you

Reasons Dogs Rubs Against People

The following are the most common reasons dogs rub up against people.


Dogs don’t show affection the same way humans do, but they do create social bonds. A way to bond with humans is to rub them.

Dogs love to run against you because they have scent glands that mark objects when rubbed. Your dog leaving his/her scent on you is how he shows affection.


Dogs are territorial creatures. Rubbing up against you is also a way to mark territory with the scent glands. While there are many different ways to do this, the rubbing behavior leaves behind his/her scent, which then lets other animals know you’ve been claimed.

Medical Issues

When your dog rubs up against you, it could be a sign of him/her not feeling well. Your dog could be coming to you for comfort and help.

Common reasons your dog rubs against you when suffering from a health issue include:

  • Itchy skin from dry skin or a rash
  • Feeling nauseous and wanting you to make him/her feel better
  • Having a wound that hurts
  • Wanting to hide from the pain

If you believe your pup may be having a health issue, contact your veterinarian or reach out to an online vet for just .

Attention Seeking

A great way to get a human’s attention is to engage in physical contact. Your dog’s rubbing behavior may just be a sign that he/she wants your attention for some reason – possibly going on a walk or to the dog park.

Dogs will also bark in your face when they want to get your attention. Read more about that here: Dog Barking in Face


Dogs are often trained to not jump on humans. Since they get so excited when they see their owners after a long day at work, they need to do something to release that excitement. Many times, dogs start to rub their head or entire body on their owners to show their happiness.

D.O.G. Barley will put his head in between people’s legs until they separate them so he can rub his entire body on their legs. We tell people it’s his way of hugging people.

Providing Comfort

Dogs don’t only rub their head on their owner when they want comfort. They do it to provide comfort, too. If your dog rubs his head on you and has eye contact with you, it’s a good sign that he’s trying to make you feel better.

Acknowledging Your Power

Dogs are pack animals and in a pack, there is a leader. Your dog may rub against you because he/she is trying to tell you that you’re the leader. Eye contact again is a good sign your dog is looking to you for guidance and support as the leader of the pack.

Showing Dominance

On the flip side, your dog may be trying to tell you that he/she is the leader of the back. The territorial status may be saying, “You’re mine and you’re with me.”

Requesting Physical Contact

A dog can’t simply say, “Hello. It’s time for belly rubs.” Instead, they have to do different things to get your attention. Always remember, dogs are social animals, so they want to be touched and receive extra attention sometimes. For that reason, they will rub up against anyone who seems to be free for a pat, rub, or playtime with a favorite toy.

Meet a New Person

Dogs are usually taught not to jump on people. That means when a dog meets a new person, he/she has to find another way to say hello. Rubbing the face against the new person’s legs seems perfectly normal to a dog. That’s the way that a dog can smell the person and get his/her scent to really get to know who the person is inside and out.

Clean Up

Do you have a dog that drools… A LOT? It never fails that your pup comes up to you and wipes his/her muzzle on you, right? Well, a dog’s muzzle must stay clean and that’s one unique way to do it. It may not be your preferred way, but it is a common way for many drooling pups.

Mimicking Cats

The sweet behavior of household cats seems nice enough to mimic, which is another possible reason dogs rub against people. When they see cats do it, they want to know what it’s all about and then they may like it.

Communicating Emotions

The pheromone glands are at the roof of a dog’s mouth. When a dog feels an intense emotion, the dog’s muzzle (face) may contain pheromones (a chemical signal) in it. The pheromones are used as an alert to the following emotions:

So, a possible reason a dog rubs against you is trying to communicate an emotion.

when a dog rubs against you

What to Do When a Dog Rubs Against You

If you’re asking the question: “What does it mean when a dog rubs against you?” because it started happening all of a sudden, it’s a good idea to inspect your dog’s body for any signs of a medical issue. If you see dry skin, redness, external parasites, or anything at all, contact your veterinarian or reach out to an online vet for just for advice.

If there isn’t a medical issue causing the new rubbing behavior, don’t worry too much about the new body language. Give your pup extra attention (especially if separation anxiety is a struggle) and take the new sweet behavior as just your pup’s new way to show how much you’re loved.

You may also want to read:

is my dog happy

Is My Dog Happy?

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by DOGuide

Dog Ownership Guide – D.O.G. – launched in 2021 to meet the needs of dog owners and their dogs worldwide. Our website is a place to not only learn, shop, and entertain, but share as well. Leave a comment, contact us, or learn more about the founder.

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