Have you ever had your dog lay on you and wondered why? There are lots of reasons dogs lay on their people. In many cases, they just want attention or are seeking comfort. However, in some cases this behavior can lead to aggression or be a sign that your dog is anxious.
Why Does My Dog Lay On Me?
Your dog may lay on you just because they love you and want to be affectionate, because they’re trying to comfort you or get comfort, because they’re suffering from separation anxiety or resource guarding, or because they want something from you. Regardless of why your dog is laying on you, if you reinforce it, they’ll keep doing it.
Do you want to know all the reasons your dog lays on top of you? Here’s a complete breakdown of all the different reasons dogs lay on top of their people.
How to Figure Out Why Your Dog is Laying on You
When dogs lie on you:
- They may want to show affection, seek comfort, feel separation anxiety, or desire something.
- It can be beneficial for both the owner and the dog, as it builds a strong bond, lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones, anxiety, and sadness.
- It may be bad if the dog struggles with unresolved separation anxiety or resource-guarding.
- They want to seek physical contact, feel protected, warm, or gain attention.
- They feel anxious, worried, or are in pain.
- They may have separation anxiety.
- They may be providing comfort and support during difficult times.
- They might be trying to keep you safe or “claim” you.
- Resource guarding can cause the behavior and lead to aggressive behavior.
Is it Good for my Dog to Lay on Me?
- Lower blood pressure and reduce stress hormones
- Build a strong bond with your dog and make you both less lonely
- Reduce anxiety and depression in you and perhaps your dog as well
- You may both sleep better
- Shared heat in chilly weather
- It’s cute
Why Might it be Bad for my Dog to Lay on Me?
- Your dog is resource-guarding you
- Your dog is struggling with unresolved separation anxiety
- You’re uncomfortable or can’t sleep because of your dog laying on you
- Your partner or family is unhappy with how your dog lays on you
- You just don’t like having your dog on top of you so much
9 Lap Dog Breeds
Want a dog that wants to lay on you all day, and that you’ll be glad to have lay on you? Great Danes may love lying on you, but you may want a smaller option. Here are some of the AKC smaller dog breeds that we recommend as the best lap dog breeds to lay on top of you.
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Breed enthusiasts declare nothing is cuddlier than a Cavvie, and we can’t disagree. With their long soft ears, adorable floppy jowls, and huge endearing eyes, you’ll want them on you 24/7. Since they’re only about 15 pounds and sweet as pie, you won’t mind.
- Chihuahua. This fierce little dog is among the most loyal canine companions out there. Expect chihuahuas to pick a post on your lap, chest, or shoulder, and stay there. Be aware that this breed may be more likely to try to guard you from other dogs or people.
- Chinese Crested. Looking for a real hot water bottle of a dog to cozy up with? This hairless breed feels warmer than dogs with fur, but there’s also a furry version if you’d prefer.
- Havanese. The beloved national dog of Cuba is perky, trainable, and loving. If you’d like a little dog with a spark of independence who also loves the lap life, this is a great choice.
- Japanese Chin. It’s believed that the Japanese Chin was bred by nobles to adorn the laps of fine ladies, and they’re still great at adorning people today.
- Maltese. The magnificent but minuscule Maltese only weighs around five pounds, so if you’re looking for a dog you’ll barely know is laying on you, this is the one.
- Shih Tzu. With their flowing coats and squished faces, these dogs are as distinctive as they are adorable. They’re one of the most popular breeds because of their sweet, low-energy personality and their love of laps.
- Toy Poodle. The poodle is the smartest dog, and the toy is all poodle! If you want a little dog who wants to lay on your lap all day and jump off to do adorable tricks, this is your dog.
- Russian Toy. Looking for something unusual? This dog has only recently been recognized by the AKC in 2022, but it’s a charmer with its long legs, fine bones, and intelligent expression.
Why Does My Dog Lay on Top of Me?
Your Dog Just Loves You
Dogs often show their affection by seeking physical contact with their human companions. Dogs may choose to lay on you because they’re seeking comfort, security, and closeness, which are essential aspects of their social bond.
Dogs are social animals that thrive on human interaction. Some breeds especially, are very cuddly and lovey. Goldendoodles, for instance, love to sleep with you.When you add in a belly rub, it’s no wonder that your furry friend and pack member wants to be next to you, or even better, on you.
Whether your dog just rests their head on you or you’re complaining, “My dog sleeps on top of me every night!” it may be because they just love you and want to stay close to you. Dogs sleep close to pack members, regardless of whether they’re human or canine.
Dogs Have Been Laying Near Us For a Long Time
Dogs are pack animals that have evolved alongside humans for thousands of years. In all those years, domesticated dogs have formed a special bond with us. This bond is built on trust, loyalty, and love.
Dogs have been selectively bred for their ability to form strong emotional attachments with humans. As a result, they have evolved a range of behaviors that express their love and loyalty. Laying on their people is just one of a dog’s behavior developed to appeal to pet owners.
You’re Warm And Comfy
Don’t take it personally, but sometimes our furry companions can be a bit selfish, and that’s okay! Dogs will lay where it’s warm, and if your body temperature is to their liking, expect your dog to lay on you.
Some small dogs and dogs with less hair may struggle to regulate their body temperature themselves and so use your body heat to stay comfortable.
Your Dog Wants Your Attention
You may not realize that you’re giving your dog more attention when they lay on you than when they do other things. Dogs are pretty good at training us humans after all. Many dogs realize that laying on you gets them some quality time.
If you don’t want this attention seeking behavior to go on, make sure that you’re not unintentionally reinforcing behaviors that you don’t want your dog to repeat. The best way to get your dog to find different ways of getting your attention is to show them.
Reward your dog for other behaviors that you want them to repeat, like sitting, coming when called, and playing with their toys. Ask them if they need the water bowl refilled or just some quality time. Dog crate training is a good way to let your dog know you’d rather not have them on you right now.
In time, they’ll perform a desired behavior to ask for things, instead of laying on you.
Your Dog Is Being Protective Of You
Dogs are naturally protective of their pack. When your dog lays on you, they may be trying to protect you from perceived threats. Your dog may lay on you to protect you from an unknown danger if they sense that you’re feeling anxious or stressed.
This isn’t a sign of dominance or ownership, but rather a way a dog who’s attached to you acts out their age-old job of protecting their pack member.
While it’s natural for dogs to want to protect you, it’s essential to establish boundaries and ensure that your dog understands that certain behaviors are not acceptable. Many dog owners underestimate the seriousness of this kind of behavior, especially with smaller dog breeds.
However, the protective instinct can be very strong and potentially dangerous. It’s not just strangers that your dog will likely be challenging; it’s your family too.
If your dog is becoming overly protective or aggressive, it’s important to seek the help of a professional dog trainer or behaviorist. With proper positive reinforcement and socialization, your dog can learn to balance their protective instincts with appropriate behavior around other people and animals.
Your Dog Is Jealous And Reinforcing That You Are THEIR HUMAN
Your dog may lay on you to keep your attention and “claim you” when you give attention to another dog or person. According to a study published by Psychological Science, dogs display clear jealous behavior, putting an end to the old debate as to whether or not dogs can be jealous.
If you notice your dog lays on your when you interact with your other dog or acts perfectly normal until your child or spouse enters the room, it may be jealousy that’s at fault. Jealousy can lead to aggressive behavior, so it’s best to crate train your dog and encourage them to bond with other pack members.
This video is a great example of a dog laying on their person out of jealousy:
You’re Stressed Or Anxious
Dogs are highly attuned to their owners’ emotions. If your dog is snuggling a lot, they may be trying to comfort you because they sense that something isn’t right. Research has shown that dogs are able to pick up on subtle changes in their owners’ body language, tone of voice, and even odor.
Your dog might even notice alternative behavior in you, like increased isolation or a lack of energy. It’s natural for a dog to respond by offering reassurance in the form of physical touch, such as lying on you or cuddling up next to you.
Why Do I Feel Better When My Dog Sleeps on Top of Me?
Your dog isn’t mistaken about their way of comforting you. Dogs are known to have a calming effect on their owners. A dog sleeping with you may make you sleep better.
Petting a dog produces a physiological response that reduces the stress hormone cortisol and increases the happy hormone oxytocin. This is the same hormone a mother and baby experience when they’re bonding.
Petting your dog lowers heart rate and reduces stress, as well as reducing feelings of stress , depression, and loneliness. This may be why a dog’s presence can be particularly comforting to someone experiencing anxiety or depression.
It’s also why therapy dogs and service dogs for psychological conditions are so helpful. Service dogs are even trained to perform “Deep Pressure Therapy”, in which they lay on someone suffering from an anxiety attack in order to calm them.
Your Dog is Stressed, Anxious, or Painful
Your dog could also be laying on you because THEY feel anxious, worried, or in pain. Just like humans seek solace from others during stressful situations, it’s perfectly normal for your dog to seek furry cuddles when they’re sad or worried.
Physical contact can help regulate the dog’s heart rate and breathing. Dogs experience the same happy hormones people get from cuddles, which can make them less upset.
Before you stop your dog from laying on you, take some time to communicate with them. Do they seem to think there’s some danger, or are there are signs of pain and stress?
Your Dog Has Separation Anxiety
Dogs with separation anxiety often exhibit behavior that is associated with anxiety and distress when they are separated from their owners or left alone. One of the behaviors that a dog with separation anxiety may display is seeking physical contact with their owner, which can include lying on you.
When a dog has separation anxiety, they may feel scared and anxious when left alone. Some dogs suffer so much they can’t stop barking, licking, or destroying furniture. Your dog might feel protected from the fear of losing your companionship by laying on you. They may also be trying to stop you from leaving.
These issues can be hard to overcome on your own, and your dog laying on top of you is the least of the problems that are likely to develop without intervention, so it’s crucial to get professional help before it gets worse. Ask your vet what medication or training they think will work for you.
Your Dog is Resource Guarding
Resource guarding is when dogs protect objects, places, or people that they consider valuable or important. In some cases, a dog will resource guard their owner. Laying on you is a way for your dog to say, “Look, they’re mine!”
While a sweet dog could certainly resource guard you, your dog’s behavior may change a lot when they are laying on top of you. When a dog resource guards their owner, they may become possessive and defensive, which can result in aggressive behavior.
Smaller breeds like chihuahuas are particularly susceptible to this behavior, and frequently aren’t taken seriously.
To prevent resource guarding behaviors, it’s important to establish clear boundaries and teach your dog to respect your personal space. The first step is to stop your dog from lying on you.
You may worry it will hurt the close bond between you, but your dog will be much better off and love you just the same. Alowing a dog laying on top of you to behave aggressively encourages the behavior.
You’re Reinforcing the Behavior
When a dog lies on you, you may unconsciously provide reinforcement. For example, if you’re watching TV and your dog lays on you, you may absentmindedly pet them while engrossed in the program. Or, your dog could be stealing food you’ve dropped without you noticing.
Allowing your dog to lie on you reinforces the behavior, regardless of why it started. If you allow the behavior, the dog might come to associate laying on top of you with rewards and do it even more.
It’s essential to be mindful of these unintentional reinforcements. Only pet your dog or allow them to lie on you when it’s appropriate and desired.
How to Teach Your Dog Not to Lay on You
Teaching a dog to lay somewhere other than on you can be a challenge, especially if they have been used to this behavior. However, you can teach your dog alternative behaviors, even if they’ve been spending time laying on you since an early age.
- Consistency is key when training a dog. Make sure that all family members and visitors follow the same rules to avoid confusing your dog.
- Give your dog a comfortable and cozy bed where they can rest and relax. Encourage them to use this bed instead of laying on you. Dog treats when they go in the bed are a good idea. Crate training may be necessary if your dog is laying on top of you at night or when you can’t correct them. Some dogs will stay in their dog bed instead of on you without needing the crate.
- Dogs love and need affection. If your dog is particularly fond of cuddling, create a designated cuddle time where you can snuggle up together on your terms. This way, your dog will know when it’s okay to lay on you and when it’s time to lay elsewhere.
- Reward your dog when they show desirable behavior, such as sitting or staying off you. Use treats, praise, and attention to reinforce good behavior. Refrain from giving attention to your dog when they lay on you.
- When your dog lays on you without permission, use a command or a sound to signal that the behavior is undesirable. You can also gently push your dog off you or stand up to discourage the behavior.
After a hard day of work, coming home to your adorable pup, you may have a harder time, but stick to it. Is your dog lying on you without permission? Do something about it!
It may help to take your pup to the dog park or provide enough exericse and mental stimulation that they’re tired enough to lay in their bed. If you’re patient and consistent with your training your furry friend will soon learn to respect your personal space while still enjoying plenty of warm and cozy snuggles.
Why Does My Dog Sleep on Me and Not My Husband or Wife?
Sometimes a dog will choose to lay on one family member over another, even if both people are equally familiar and affectionate with the dog. There are a few reasons this might be.
Your dog may perceive you, and not your partner, as being “theirs”. This leads to resource guarding. It may also be that you simply have more body heat or are snugglier.
If your dog spends more time bonding with one pet parent, they may feel secure with them and prefer to spend more time with them. This is more common in some breeds than others.
Reinforcement can also play a role. If one individual consistently rewards their dog for laying on them, the dog might learn that this behavior is desirable. If the other doesn’t reinforce this behavior, or isn’t encouraging to the dog, the dog may be less likely to lay on them.
Finally, your dog could lay on you more because your dog feels you are anxious or depressed. If your partner isn’t, your dog may have no reason to comfort them.
There are lots of reasons dogs lay on their owners, from just reinforcing the bonding process after a long day, to attention seeking behavior because your pup wants to play, to potentially dangerous resource guarding.
Regardless, if you want to stop your dog from laying on you, the right combination of crate training, routine, and consultation with your vet if necessary will get you there. If you don’t mind, enjoy your pup blanket!
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