Are you wondering: “Why does my dog lay on me?” Are you concerned about whether this is something you should encourage or discourage? For starters, it’s perfectly normal to worry about your dog’s behavior, especially if you are new to owning a pet. After all, it’s not like you can just ask your dog whether or not something’s wrong.
But to put your mind at ease, the main reason why your dog could be laying on you is ― you have an empty lap! This is completely unacceptable in your dog’s eyes! To be honest, why would you want to sit alone when you can cuddle with your best friend?
But, since you’re interested in the why of it all, here are 8 reasons that will answer the question of why does my dog lay on me.
Why Does My Dog Lay on Me? Most Common Reasons
1. You Make Your Dog Feel Safe
To your dog, you represent a safe haven. You are the person it looks to for everything, so you’re a sort of “hero” in your pup’s eyes.
If your dog constantly seeks shelter in your lap when it hears thunder, or strange footsteps coming through the door, there’s a good chance it’s doing so because it’s looking for a safe, familiar place where it will feel most comfortable.
Typically, dogs will “hide” in their owner’s lap when they hear loud noises such as:
• A blender
• A car backfiring
• Loud music
• A vacuum cleaner
2. Your Dog Wants to Keep You Safe
If you own a fearless pup, then it probably won’t feel the need to seek refuge in your lap. Instead, your dog may be laying in your lap in order to protect you.
Dogs create a strong bond with their owners. What’s more, the older they get, the stronger is their need to protect you. In fact, your dog considers you a part of its pack. But what’s interesting is that some breeds are more protective than others.
For example, you would think that larger breeds would be more protective of their owners than smaller breeds, but in reality, it’s the other way around! Although there’s no doubt that your German Shepherd will protect you when you’re in danger, a Chihuahua will rush to your defense even when you’re perfectly safe.
Less Commonly Known Reasons
3. Your Dog Wants to Cheer You Up
Even though dogs can’t differentiate between all human emotions, don’t think for a second that your dog cannot sense when you feel blue.
Ultimately, when you’re sad, worried, or stressed, your pup will notice. Moreover, it will probably jump onto your lap in an attempt to cheer you up and offer you some comfort. But, get this; dogs have an amazing sense of smell. So, if you’re upset about something, your pup will know that your mood has changed through its sense of smell!
In fact, it’s so powerful that dogs are able to smell the production of various brain chemicals and hormones. Certain breeds can even sense a rise or fall in blood sugar levels.
Similarly, your furry friend can smell it when your serotonin falls and when your cortisol level rises.
Note: Decreased serotonin can be a sign of depression, whereas high cortisol levels can indicate anxiety.
So, if your dog tends to jump in your lap whenever you’re feeling sad or anxious, your pup is just trying to make you feel better.
4. Your Dog Can Smell Its Scent on You
Like cats, dogs like to brush up against objects, other dogs, and people, depending on their pack characteristics. It is your pet’s way of marking territory (like peeing on a tree, fire hydrant, etc.). This also keeps other animals from entering their turf.
Ultimately, your dog knows it can count on you to take care of it, feed it, give it shelter. That’s one of the reasons why your dog loves and respects you. So, by laying on top of you, your pup is basically transferring its canine scent onto you and marking you as its “territory”.
But another interesting fact about the whole scent thing is that your dog can also keep laying on you because it can smell its scent on you!
5. It’s Just Your Dog’s Natural Instincts
As you probably know, dogs evolved from wild canines and wolves thousands of years ago. When it comes to laying on top of their owners, some dogs are inclined to do this because of their natural instincts.
You’ve probably seen how dogs like to make a “puppy pile” when they’re sleeping. Ultimately, if your dog considers you a part of its pack, it’s going to want to “pile” with you, which is incredibly sweet!
On the other hand, your dog’s instincts will also depend on its breed. For example, small breeds such as dachshunds are quite territorial, so they will lay on their owners in an attempt to claim them. Large breeds such as German Shepherds aren’t as inclined to lay on their humans due to their territorial instincts.
Behavior That Leads to Aggression
6. Your Pup Is Jealous of Your Other Pets
Wouldn’t you know it, dogs can get jealous too! Typically, when there is more than one dog in the household, the Alpha will assert its dominance over the other dog by laying on top of it.
But, in some cases, the Alpha dog will lay on top of its owner (you) in order to tell the other dogs that you are their “property”. Not only that, but by doing so, it will transfer its scent onto you. This is meant to warn other dogs not to come close.
With that in mind, if you have more than one pet at home, and your dog keeps laying on your lap whenever the other pet(s) are around, you’ve got a jealous pup on your hands.
You’ll likely notice it acting stand-offish toward your other pets, or your dog may even growl at them if they get too close to you. While this isn’t exactly model behavior, you shouldn’t punish your dog when it acts this way. But that also doesn’t mean you should allow it to growl or attack your other pets.
The best solution is to seek out a dog trainer that specializes in dog aggression. This will prevent any disastrous situations from happening in the future.
7. Anxiety and PTSD
Yes, It’s incredibly sad to discover that your pet can experience anxiety and depression or even suffer from PTSD. In most cases, dogs that come from rescue homes will feel stressed, insecure, and anxious, especially if their previous owners were neglectful or abusive.
While some pups will act aggressively toward their new owners until they get to know them, others will seek shelter or crave attention. With that in mind, if your dog seems frantic when it’s trying to lay on you, it may be due to anxiety or even PTSD.
If you’re worried about your dog’s mental health, the best thing to do is to take it to the vet. Many canines can benefit from taking antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication, but only if prescribed by a vet.
8. Separation Anxiety and Depression
Your pet can suffer from separation anxiety regardless of whether it’s a young pup or a senior dog. For example, when you separate a puppy from its mother and pack, there’s a good chance it will feel anxious for a while. Sometimes puppies will isolate themselves from you or your other pets, whereas sometimes they will lay on top of their favorite human for comfort.
Furthermore, if you have more than one dog, and they get separated (one dog dies or is rehomed), your other dog will likely sleep on you because it feels depressed. Separation anxiety and depression often go hand in hand. That’s why it may be best to consult a medical professional on the best approach.
Discouraging the Behavior
Although having your dog lay on top of you won’t do you any harm, there is a matter of comfort. Obviously, small pets don’t take up a lot of space, nor are they too heavy for a person to handle. But, if you own a larger breed, you’ve likely had the circulation in your legs cut off more times than you can remember!
And the thing is, no matter how big your dog is, if it’s used to laying on top of you, its size isn’t going to deter your pup from its mission.
Luckily, there are a few ways you can teach your dog to respect your boundaries. Just keep in mind that your dog won’t immediately stop jumping into your lap every chance it gets. It will take plenty of time, patience, and doggy treats to accomplish your goal.
Step 1: Observing the Behavior
In order to answer the question, why does my dog lay on me, first consider when does your pup like to lay on you? For instance, does it start jumping onto your lap before you take it outside or after? Does your dog do this at a certain time throughout the day or every chance it gets?
Also, think about what you are doing when your dog starts jumping on your lap. Are you just lounging around, or are you doing chores around the house? All of this will help you determine why your dog is behaving the way it is.
Step 2: Determining the Cause
Once you determine the “when” of it all, you will have a somewhat clearer picture of why your pooch keeps laying on top of you. For example, if your dog likes to jump onto your lap when you’re lounging around, it could either be behaving this way because it wants to cuddle in your lap, or it could be fishing for some attention.
Namely, if your pup jumps in your lap and immediately curls up and goes to sleep, that means it just wants to cuddle with you. On the other hand, if your dog lays on top of you and keeps staring at you, it’s likely looking for some attention. Your dog may want:
• food or water
• a treat
• to play with you
On the other hand, if your pup is adamant about laying on top of you even when you’re not sitting down, there could be several reasons for this behavior:
• anxiety, depression, PTSD
• separation anxiety
• protection (it wants to protect you)
Step 3: Dealing with the Behavior
If you’ve determined the cause for your dog’s behavior, you can finally start dealing with it. For starters, if your dog is just looking for attention, and you want to teach it to stop jumping onto your lap, maybe you will need to start with some discouragement tactics.
Whenever your pup jumps onto your lap, gently move it away from you. Make sure not to be aggressive when you do this, as your pup will feel as if you’re rejecting it. At first, your dog will likely try to climb back on top of you, but keep repeating the process.
Another good idea is to introduce positive reinforcement into the mix. When you move your pup off your lap, tell it to “stay”. If it obeys your command, make sure to give it a treat. Repeat this each time your dog listens to your command. It’s also important to never punish your pet for not obeying your command.
On the other hand, if you think your pup keeps laying on you due to stress, anxiety, PTSD, fear, or some other physiological issue, your only option is to take it to the vet for a checkup and consultation. When it comes to psychological issues, trying to deal with them on your own can end up doing more harm than good.