Why Does My Dog Climb on My Shoulders? Understanding Your Pooch’s Behavior

Have you ever settled down on your couch only to have your furry friend clamber and perch on your shoulders? You’re not alone if you’ve wondered, “Why does my dog climb on my shoulders?”. While puzzling to some, this behavior can be attributed to various reasons ranging from evolutionary instincts to personal temperament.

1. Historical Evolution & Ancestry

We should dive into their ancestral lineage to truly understand some of our dogs’ quirks. Many of today’s dogs descend from wild animals like wolves. In the wild, higher vantage points provide an advantage to spot potential threats or prey. While your living room is far from the wilderness, some of these ingrained behaviors persist. A shoulder perch might be your dog’s way of channeling its inner wolf, seeking a better view of its surroundings.

2. Seeking Attention & Affection

Let’s face it; dogs are attention seekers. One undeniable truth is that dogs are experts at grabbing our attention. By climbing onto your shoulders, your dog knows it will get a reaction, be it laughter, surprise, or just a loving pet. It’s a clear message: “Look at me!” And when we respond positively or give them the attention they’re craving, we inadvertently reinforce this behavior.

3. Establishing Dominance

In the dog world, height often equates to Dominance. The tallest or highest-placed dog is usually perceived as the leader or the alpha. When your dog climbs on your shoulders, it could be an attempt to establish Dominance or to feel more in control. However, while this might sound imposing, it’s not necessarily a sign of aggression. It can merely display confidence or comfort around its human companion.

4. Mimicking Behavior

Dogs are observant creatures. They keenly watch and often mimic our behaviors or those of other pets. If you have a cat, you might have noticed that they love high places like shelves or the back of couches. Dogs may simply be mimicking this cat-like behavior. Plus, if they’ve seen you react positively when they climb, they’ll likely do it again.

5. Comfort & Security

Just as some humans find solace in wrapping themselves in a blanket, dogs might find comfort in snuggling close to you. The warmth and familiarity of being close to their human can provide a sense of security. Your shoulder could be their preferred cozy spot!

6. Playfulness & Curiosity

Dogs, especially puppies, are innately playful and curious. They explore the world with their paws and noses. Climbing on your shoulders can be an extension of this playfulness. They’re simply exploring their environment and trying out new things.

Tips for Managing This Behavior

While this shoulder-climbing act can be endearing, it might not always be safe or convenient, especially with larger breeds. Here’s how you can manage this behavior:

  • Positive Reinforcement: When your dog exhibits behaviors you approve of, reward them with treats or praise. This can redirect them from climbing onto your shoulders.
  • Training Commands: Use commands like ‘off’ or ‘down’ to discourage unwanted behavior. Be consistent with your orders and provide treats for obedience.
  • Safe Spaces: Create a safe, high perch for your dog, such as a raised bed. This can satisfy their desire for height without them resorting to your shoulders.
  • Engage in Play: Sometimes, your dog must burn off some energy. Regular play and exercise can minimize restless behavior.
  • Consult a Professional: If shoulder-climbing or any behavior becomes problematic, don’t hesitate to consult with a dog trainer or behaviorist.


The reasons why your dog might be seeking out the high ground of your shoulders are varied. From age-old instincts to simply seeking warmth and affection, observing the context in which the behavior occurs is essential to truly understanding its cause. Regardless of the reason, one thing’s certain: life with dogs is never dull. Embrace these quirks, but ensure you and your pet remain safe and happy.

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