Pet owners love their dogs, but research shows they’re not always the best at understanding their furry friend's behavior. So it might come as a surprise to humans when they’re eager to cuddle up with their pup, only for their dog to sit and turn away from them rather than toward them.
But pet experts say this doesn’t mean your pet is giving you the cold shoulder. Antje Joslin, a veterinarian for pet daycare company Dogtopia, tells Inverse there are four alternative explanations for your pooch’s behavior.
Dogs were pack animals that evolved alongside humans as hunting and herding companions for protection.
“Over time, their behavior evolved so that they sleep with their heads facing potential threats,” Joslin says.
3. Social Hierarchy
Canines operate in a social hierarchy where body language plays a big role in how animals perceive each other. Some common body language cues for social hierarchy include:
- Eye contact
- Physical touch
- Shoulder, ear, and tail position
“If your dog sees you as their alpha, they may show their respect by giving you your space and not staring you down,” Joslin explains.
If your pup has a history of abuse from a previous owner, they may be unable to make eye contact out of fear, anxiety, or discomfort. Similarly, moving to a new home or being in a place that makes a dog fearful of its surroundings can also trigger the same behavior.
Pets with separation anxiety will lie down near their owners and constantly look them in the eyes, but pets without anxiety will feel comfortable facing away from their humans. So, this behavior may actually be a sign of a well-adjusted pup.
According to Joslin, this position allows dogs “to lie in a relaxed manner yet be ready for action should the need arise.”
Sitting near you but with eyes turned away is a calculated choice. Dogs want to sense your location but also keep an eye on potential threats.
“By lying close to the owner and facing away, dogs express a sense of loyalty and protection,” Joslin adds.