Your pup may push and lean on you for a variety of reasons—out of fear, as a sign of dominance or simply as a way to get your attention. By petting or reassuring your dog when he does these things, you could be unknowingly reinforcing these unwanted behaviors. If your pup's pushing or leaning on you have become regular and bothersome occurrences, you can encourage your dog not to do these things using positive training methods.
Turn away from your dog when he leans or pushes on you, until he stops. When he stops for at least a few seconds, turn back to him and praise him, giving him a treat. Pretty soon Fido will realize that by not pushing or leaning on you, he gets rewarded, discouraging him from doing these things.
Say "Too bad" in an assertive but calm voice immediately when Fido tries to push or lean on you, and walk out of the room. You can also bring him to another room or put him into his crate. Give him a "time out" of between 30 and 60 seconds. Bring him back out and try again. If your pup leans or pushes on you again, repeat the procedure until he doesn't perform either of these behaviors.
Teach your dog the "sit" command. Say, "Sit" and bring a treat up and over his nose to compel him to sit down. Once he does, immediately give him the treat. Practice the command for 10 to 15 minutes each day until Fido responds to it consistently. When Fido tries to lean or push on you, step away and command him to "sit." Give him a treat and plenty of praise when he does.
Determine what the triggers are for his attempts to lean or push on you and avoid them. If a trigger is something that scares him, teach him to associate it with something good rather than bad. For example, if Fido leans into you out of fear when you bring him to the park, command him to "sit" and then engage him in a game of fetch with a favorite toy. Pretty soon he'll associate arriving at the park with play and fun, not fear.
Items You Will Need
- Dog treats
- Dog toys
- Exercise your dog for at least 30 minutes each day to tire him out and give him plenty of time with you, recommends the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. This helps reduce behaviors like trying to push or lean on you as an attention-seeking measure.
- If your dog is pushing or leaning into you as a form of dominance and exhibits signs of aggression such as growling or stiffening his body when you attempt to ignore or get away from him, seek the help of an animal behaviorist. His aggression could escalate and result in a bite.
- Don't punish your dog or physically push him away from you when he leans or pushes on you. This can lead to aggression in your dog and cause him to fear you, possibly worsening his behavior, warns trainer Victoria Stilwell.
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Canine Body Language
- Caring Hands Humane Society: Body Language of Dogs [PDF]
- Vetstreet: Why Does My Dog...Lean on Me?
- Hilltop Animal Hospital: Dominance Aggression in Dogs: Part 1
- The Humane Society of the United States: Dogs: Positive Reinforcement Training
- Victoria Stilwell Positively: Why Positive Reinforcement (+R)
- David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images