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Why Does My Dog Climb On My Shoulders

Discover why dogs climb on shoulders. Reasons include attention-seeking, seeking a height advantage, exploring new perspectives, seeking comfort and security, and bonding and affection. Learn how to address and manage this behavior effectively.

In this article, you will learn why your dog may climb on your shoulders. It can be quite surprising and even amusing when your furry friend decides to perch on your shoulders like a parrot. But don’t worry, there are a few possible explanations for this behavior.

One reason why your dog may climb on your shoulders is that they are seeking attention or affection. By climbing onto your shoulders, they are positioning themselves in a way that they can be closer to your face and receive more interaction from you. It’s a way for them to show their love and affection for you and to get closer to you. Another possible reason is that they are trying to assert dominance. By putting themselves in a position above you, they are asserting their authority and dominance in the relationship. However, it’s important to note that this behavior is not always indicative of dominance and can also be a playful or affectionate act.

Why Does My Dog Climb On My Shoulders

Have you ever wondered why your furry friend loves to climb on your shoulders? It may seem like a peculiar behavior, but there are actually several reasons why dogs exhibit this unique behavior. Understanding the underlying motivations behind this behavior can help strengthen your bond with your canine companion and create a happier and healthier relationship. In this article, we will explore the possible reasons for this behavior, the instinctual behavior in wild canine relatives, the need for comfort and security, the bonding and affection it represents, as well as how to address and manage this behavior.

Possible Reasons for Dog Climbing on Shoulders

Desire for Height Advantage

One possible reason your dog enjoys climbing on your shoulders is to gain a height advantage. Dogs are naturally curious animals and by climbing on your shoulders, they can get a better view of their surroundings. It allows them to observe and monitor their environment, ensuring that they don’t miss out on any interesting sights or potential threats.

Observing and Monitoring Surroundings

Similarly, dogs may climb on your shoulders as a way to observe their surroundings more closely. By being at an elevated position, they can get a better view of their environment and feel a sense of control over their surroundings. This behavior allows them to stay vigilant and keep a watchful eye on what’s happening around them.

Attention-Seeking Behavior

Climbing on your shoulders can also be a form of attention-seeking behavior. Dogs crave human interaction and climbing on your shoulders can be their way of getting your attention and affection. If your dog has learned that this behavior gets them the desired response from you, they are likely to repeat it in the future.

Exploring New Perspectives

Dogs are naturally curious creatures and climbing on your shoulders allows them to explore their surroundings from a different perspective. By being at a higher vantage point, they can discover new sights, smells, and sounds. It provides them with a unique experience and helps satisfy their natural curiosity.

Instinctual Behavior in Wild Canine Relatives

Tree Climbing Behavior in Wolves

The behavior of climbing on shoulders can be traced back to the wild canine relatives of our domesticated dogs. Wolves, for example, have been observed climbing on rocks and tree stumps to get a better view of their surroundings. This behavior helps them assess potential dangers and locate prey.

Similar Behavior Seen in Foxes and Coyotes

Other wild canine relatives, such as foxes and coyotes, have also been observed climbing on elevated surfaces. They use this behavior to hunt for prey, locate potential threats, and mark their territory. It is an innate behavior that has been passed down through their evolutionary history.

Adaptations for Survival and Prey Hunting

The ability to climb on shoulders or other elevated surfaces has provided wild canines with certain advantages in terms of survival and prey hunting. It allows them to spot potential prey from a distance, plan their hunting strategies, and communicate with other members of their pack.

Role of Territory Marking and Communication

Climbing on shoulders or elevated surfaces also plays a role in territory marking and communication. By being at a higher vantage point, canines can leave scent marks or vocalize their presence to communicate with other members of their species. It helps establish boundaries and assert dominance within their social structure.

Seeking Comfort and Security

Association with Mother’s Back

One possible reason your dog enjoys climbing on your shoulders is that it reminds them of being carried on their mother’s back when they were puppies. Being close to their mother provides them with a sense of security, warmth, and comfort. Climbing on your shoulders can be a way for your dog to seek that same level of comfort and security.

Attachment and Security Blanket

For some dogs, climbing on your shoulders can act as an attachment behavior. It brings them closer to you, their trusted human companion, and makes them feel safe and secure. It becomes their security blanket, especially in unfamiliar or stressful situations.

Creating a Sense of Safety

Climbing on your shoulders can also help relieve anxiety or fear in dogs. By being physically close to you, they feel safer and more protected. It helps them cope with stressful situations and provides them with a sense of reassurance during times of uncertainty.

Relieving Anxiety or Fear

Some dogs may also climb on your shoulders as a way to alleviate feelings of anxiety or fear. The act of seeking physical closeness and contact with you can help them feel more at ease and reduce their stress levels. It’s their way of seeking comfort and support during challenging times.

Bonding and Affection

Sign of Trust and Dependency

When your dog climbs on your shoulders, it is a clear sign of trust and dependency. Dogs are social animals and by seeking physical closeness with you, they are expressing their deep bond and attachment. It shows that they rely on you for comfort, security, and emotional support.

Shared Physical Closeness

Climbing on your shoulders allows for shared physical closeness between you and your dog. It creates a unique opportunity for both of you to bond and strengthen your relationship. The feeling of your dog’s paws on your shoulders and their body pressed against yours can be a mutually comforting and reassuring experience.

Strengthening the Human-Animal Bond

Engaging in activities that promote physical closeness and bonding, such as allowing your dog to climb on your shoulders, can significantly strengthen the human-animal bond. It fosters a sense of companionship, trust, and mutual understanding. It is moments like these that make owning a dog a truly rewarding experience.

Positive Reinforcement and Encouragement

If you enjoy your dog climbing on your shoulders and find it endearing, it is important to provide positive reinforcement. Praise, petting, and treats can be used to encourage and reinforce this behavior. It reinforces the bond between you and your dog and encourages them to continue engaging in this behavior in a controlled and desired manner.

Training and Behavioral Management

Teaching Alternative Behaviors

If you prefer your dog not to climb on your shoulders, it is essential to provide them with alternative behaviors to engage in. Teach them commands such as “sit,” “stay,” or “lie down” that redirect their behavior in a positive and desired way. By providing them with suitable alternatives, you can redirect their energy and focus onto behaviors that you find more appropriate.

Use of Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool when it comes to training your dog. Reward them with praise, treats, or playtime whenever they exhibit the desired behaviors and refrain from climbing on your shoulders. This positive reinforcement encourages the development of alternative behaviors and strengthens the bond between you and your furry friend.

Discouraging Unwanted Shoulder Climbing

If your dog’s shoulder climbing behavior becomes problematic or unwanted, it is important to discourage it in a gentle but firm manner. Use a verbal cue such as “off” or “down” to signal to your dog that you do not want them to climb on your shoulders. Redirect their attention to an alternative behavior and reward them when they comply.

Setting Boundaries and Consistency

Consistency is key when it comes to training and behavior management. Set clear boundaries with your dog and enforce them consistently. If you allow your dog to climb on your shoulders sometimes but not others, it can confuse them and lead to inconsistent behavior. By providing clear rules and reinforcing them consistently, you can effectively manage their behavior.

Why Does My Dog Climb On My Shoulders

Ensuring Safety and Comfort

Maintaining Physical Health

When your dog climbs on your shoulders, it is important to ensure their physical health and well-being. Dogs vary in size and weight, and it is crucial to consider your own physical limitations and comfort when allowing them to climb on you. If your dog is too heavy or you have any physical discomfort, it may be necessary to discourage this behavior for your own safety.

Avoiding Potential Risks

It is essential to be mindful of any potential risks or hazards associated with your dog climbing on your shoulders. Ensure that you are in a safe environment and that there are no objects or obstacles that can cause harm to either you or your dog. Safety should always be a top priority when interacting with your furry friend.

Ensuring Proper Physical Support

If you choose to allow your dog to climb on your shoulders, it is crucial to provide them with proper physical support. Make sure your posture is stable and your balance is secure to prevent any accidents or injuries. Always be aware of your surroundings and ensure that both you and your dog are comfortable and safe.

Providing Comfort and Cushioning

To enhance the comfort and safety of your dog climbing on your shoulders, consider providing them with additional cushioning or support. You can use a blanket or a soft pad to provide them with a more comfortable perch on your shoulders. This ensures that their experience is enjoyable and reduces the risk of discomfort or injury.

Addressing Unwanted Climbing Behavior

Identifying Triggers or Cues

If your dog’s shoulder climbing behavior becomes excessive or unwanted, it is important to identify any triggers or cues that may be contributing to this behavior. Observe your dog’s body language and the context in which they engage in this behavior. Identifying the underlying reasons behind their desire to climb on your shoulders can help address the behavior more effectively.

Behavior Modification Techniques

Once you have identified the triggers or cues for your dog’s unwanted climbing behavior, behavior modification techniques can be implemented. These techniques involve redirecting their behavior, providing alternative behaviors, and reinforcing positive behaviors. Consult with a professional dog trainer or behaviorist for personalized guidance in addressing the specific needs of your dog.

Consulting with a Professional Trainer

If you are struggling with managing your dog’s climbing behavior or if it becomes a safety concern, it may be beneficial to seek help from a professional dog trainer or behaviorist. They can assess the situation, provide expert advice, and tailor a training plan to address the specific needs of your dog.

Implementing Effective Training Strategies

Consistency, positive reinforcement, and effective training strategies are key to addressing unwanted climbing behavior. Through clear communication, patience, and understanding, you can teach your dog appropriate and desired behaviors. Training should always be based on positive methods, ensuring the well-being and trust of your canine companion.

Why Does My Dog Climb On My Shoulders

Importance of Communication and Connection

Understanding Canine Body Language

Building a strong connection with your dog requires understanding their body language and communication signals. Pay attention to their facial expressions, tail wagging, and body posture, as it can provide valuable insights into their emotions and intentions. By understanding their body language, you can strengthen your bond and respond appropriately to their needs.

Building Strong Communication Skills

Effective communication is essential for a healthy and loving relationship between you and your dog. Practice clear and consistent verbal cues, hand signals, and reward-based training methods to convey your expectations to your furry friend. With time and dedication, you can develop strong communication skills that foster mutual understanding and trust.

Emotional Bond and Connection

The act of climbing on your shoulders represents an emotional bond and connection between you and your dog. It is a testament to the trust and affection they have for you. By nurturing this bond through shared activities, positive reinforcement, and quality time together, you can further strengthen your relationship and create a deep and meaningful connection.

Individual Dog Personality and Needs

It is important to recognize that every dog is unique and has their own personality and needs. Not all dogs will exhibit the behavior of climbing on shoulders, and that is perfectly normal. Take into consideration your individual dog’s preferences, limitations, and comfort levels when engaging in any activity. Always prioritize their well-being and happiness.


Understanding why your dog climbs on your shoulders can provide insights into their behavior and deepen your connection with them. Whether they are seeking a height advantage, attention, comfort, or bond, this behavior has both instinctual and emotional reasons behind it. By addressing any unwanted behavior, setting boundaries, and ensuring safety, you can foster a healthy and loving relationship with your canine companion. Cherish these unique moments and embrace the joy and companionship that dogs bring into our lives.