Why Do Dogs Climb on Top of Each Other? Reasons

Dogs are fascinating creatures, full of quirks and behaviors that often leave us scratching our heads. One such behavior that has piqued the curiosity of dog owners and enthusiasts alike is the tendency of dogs to climb on top of each other. 

Whether it’s two dogs playfully stacking themselves like a canine totem pole or a larger dog seemingly trying to assert dominance by perching on another, this behavior raises many questions. 

In this article, we will delve into the reasons behind why dogs engage in this unusual behavior, exploring both the social and instinctual aspects that drive them to do so. By understanding this behavior, we can gain insight into the complex world of canine communication and behavior.

The Pack Instinct

To comprehend why dogs climb on top of each other, we must first look back to their evolutionary history. Dogs are descendants of wolves, and many of their behaviors can be traced back to their pack mentality. 

In a wolf pack, there is a clear hierarchy, with an alpha wolf at the top. Subordinate wolves often display submissive behaviors, such as lowering their bodies or allowing the alpha to stand over them. 

In the world of domestic dogs, this instinctual behavior still exists to some extent. When dogs climb on top of each other, it can be a way of expressing their position within the pack. 

The dog on top may be asserting dominance, while the one on the bottom may be showing submission. However, it’s essential to note that this behavior is not always about dominance and submission; it can also be a form of play or affection, as we will explore in later sections.

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Playful Stacking

One of the most common scenarios in which dogs climb on top of each other is during playtime. Dogs are naturally playful creatures, and they often engage in rough-and-tumble play with one another. 

When dogs play, they use their bodies to communicate and interact, and climbing on top of each other can be a part of this play.

Playful stacking can serve several purposes. It can be a way for dogs to test their physical strength and agility, much like a human child might enjoy climbing on top of a jungle gym. 

It can also be a form of social bonding, as dogs that play together often form stronger bonds. This behavior is usually reciprocal, with both dogs taking turns being on top, reinforcing their playtime as a positive and enjoyable experience.

Seeking Comfort and Security

Dogs are social animals that thrive on companionship and seek comfort from their fellow canines. When they climb on top of each other outside of play or dominance displays, it can be a sign of seeking comfort and security. 

This behavior is often seen in puppies who feel safe and content when snuggled up with their littermates or older dogs.

Climbing on top of each other in a cozy pile can provide warmth and a sense of security. It’s a way for dogs to bond and share body heat, especially during colder weather. 

In multi-dog households, you may observe dogs piling on top of each other when they nap, demonstrating their close-knit relationships and their need for physical closeness.

Communication Through Body Language

Dogs communicate primarily through body language, and climbing on top of each other is one of the ways they convey their intentions and emotions. While it can be related to dominance or play, it can also signal other messages.

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For instance, a dog may climb on top of another as a way of seeking attention or expressing affection. It can be a way of saying, “I want to be close to you” or “I trust you.” 

The dog on the bottom might reciprocate by licking the face or ears of the dog on top, reinforcing the bond between them.

The Importance of Socialization

Understanding why dogs climb on top of each other underscores the significance of socialization for dogs. Dogs that have been properly socialized from a young age tend to exhibit healthier social behaviors and are more comfortable in various situations.

Socializing your dog with other dogs allows them to learn appropriate behaviors and boundaries. They can develop a better understanding of when climbing on top is appropriate and when it’s not. 

If you notice that your dog’s climbing behavior is becoming aggressive or causing stress in other dogs, it may be time to consult a professional dog trainer or behaviorist for guidance.

When to Be Concerned

While climbing on top of each other is a common and often harmless behavior among dogs, there are situations where it can be cause for concern. If you notice any of the following signs, it’s essential to monitor the situation closely:

Aggressive behavior: If the climbing is accompanied by growling, snarling, or biting, it may be a sign of aggression rather than play.

Fear or anxiety: If one dog is consistently trying to climb on top of another in a fearful or anxious manner, it could indicate a problem that requires attention.

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Injury or discomfort: If a dog suddenly starts climbing on top of others when they haven’t done so before, it could be a sign of pain or discomfort. In such cases, consult a veterinarian to rule out any medical issues.


The behavior of dogs climbing on top of each other is a multifaceted aspect of their social and instinctual makeup. While it can be related to dominance, play, affection, comfort, or communication, it’s essential to assess the context and body language surrounding this behavior to understand its true meaning.

As responsible dog owners, our role is to foster positive interactions and socialization among our dogs, ensuring they feel safe, secure, and comfortable in their interactions with each other. 

By understanding the reasons behind this behavior, we can strengthen our bond with our furry companions and provide them with the love and care they deserve.

In the end, the sight of two dogs stacking themselves like a canine totem pole may be a reminder of the remarkable complexity and depth of the canine world, where every action has a purpose, and every interaction is an opportunity for communication and connection.