“Why does my dog lay on me?” is probably a question that’s been asked by many dog owners of “velcro dogs” or extra clingy pets. Some dogs may think that almost anytime is a good time for snuggles, but could there be a reason for this behavior? In this article, we will discuss why some dogs lay or sit on their owners.
Why Does My Dog Lay on Me?
1. Breed Temperament
If a dog lays or sleeps on its owner, there’s a chance that its breed is one of the reasons. Your dog’s breed may play a role in certain habits and behaviors that he or she may display.
Some dogs are specifically bred to have qualities that make them suitable for certain types of work or other purposes. As such, certain breeds are predisposed to be more affectionate or clingy than other dogs.
Great Danes, Labrador Retrievers, Shih Tzus, Chihuahuas, and many other dog breeds are known to tend to be lapdogs regardless of their size. It is quite common for these breeds to be very attached to their owners and want to be with them all the time.
That said, all pooches have their own personalities that can be influenced by several social, environmental, and genetic factors.
Some large breed dogs have a habit of leaning on their owners or people that they feel comfortable with. This is a behavior that is similar to laying on top of their owners. Greyhounds and Mastiffs are known to do this. Even the German Shepherd dogs have also been observed to lay or sit on their owners.
2. Learned Behavior
Dogs are quite smart. They will quickly pick up on things especially once they start associating them with rewards. During the first few days of bringing a new puppy or dog into a home, they will naturally get a lot of attention from their humans.
If following their owner around the house usually results in being given treats, they will continue doing this as the behavior is being reinforced by rewards.
Rewards don’t always come in the form of treats. For many dogs, affection is more rewarding than food. If a dog laying on you or putting their head on your lap makes you go “aww” and earns them some extra pets and cuddles, they will learn that it is the quickest way to get what they want.
While seeking affection is normal and is greatly appreciated by us dog lovers and our dogs, too much can result in an extra clingy dog who could get very stressed when their human is not in sight. They can become fearful of being left alone and could develop destructive habits.
3. Seeking Security
Many dogs lay on top of their owners or lean on them when they need to feel secure. They may do this for emotional or physical support in tense situations as being close to their dog owners often gives them a sense of comfort and safety.
Some dogs sleep on their owners' laps or on top of them within a few minutes. This is likely because they feel the safest when they are with their owners. A dog laying on top of its owner makes both parties feel relaxed and at ease. That is why dogs make great therapy animals.
4. Seeking Comfort, Attention, Warmth, Cuddles or Playtime
During the winter months, we can’t really blame our pups for wanting more snuggle sessions under the covers. Seeing their owners relaxing on the couch sure seems like the perfect time for warm cuddles.
The cold can make a dog lay on top of its owner to seek body heat. This is likely to make the dog sleep huddled next to his or her owner as well.
Cuddling with owners is a common position dogs like to sleep in, along with the superman position (also known as the “sploot”), and sleeping back to back with their owners. During the summer months, many pups prefer the cool floor instead of a warm bed.
Some pooches like to lay on top of their owners just for fun or to initiate playtime. Laying on top of you may get you to start a gentle playful match with them – something that they may also do to other dogs in your household.
A dog lays on top of its owner is one example of attention-seeking behavior. You gotta hand it to dogs for their ingenuity to seek attention. It is pretty hard to ignore them if they are laying on top of you.
5. Spreading Their Scent
Another reason a dog lays on top of its owner is to make it known that they are his. He may also sit or lay on areas of the couch or bed that the owner usually occupies. Putting their scent on such areas is similar to dogs marking their territory.
They may feel the need to lay on top of you or sit on your lap to reinforce that scent-marking of sorts. Some dogs engage in this type of behavior when their owners come home smelling of other dogs, or when a new dog is in the house. Doing this kind of reasserts their claim on you.
If you notice this pattern of behavior whenever a guest brings another dog or when you have a new dog in the home, give your dog a bit of extra attention to make him feel confident that he is still your baby and will not feel threatened by the presence of another dog.
6. Illness or Aging
Pups who are older or not feeling well can start to become extra clingy. This is another reason to make a dog lay on top of its owner. Vision or hearing-impaired dogs or those suffering from cognitive decline due to aging may want to be with their owners more as they start to experience confusion and disorientation.
Being close to their owners gives them a sense of familiarity and security. This could make a dog lay or lean on its owner.
7. Stress and Anxiety
Anxiety and stress can cause some dogs to be clingier than usual and may lay or sit on you instead of just sitting next to you. Changes to their environment or their daily routines can cause stress to dogs.
Dogs can also feel if their owners are stressed or anxious. Studies found that dog cortisol (a type of stress hormone) levels seemed to mirror the personality traits of their owners. They may want to cuddle or lay on top of you to offer comfort. Incidentally, it is likely a puppy or dog sleeps better whenever their owners are next to them or nearby.
8. Separation Anxiety
A clingy dog does not necessarily have separation anxiety. However, if they get significantly stressed out when their owners are not around, they probably have separation anxiety.
This type of anxiety in dogs can be caused by major or minor changes in the dog’s daily routine. It is something that numerous pets and pet owners have had to deal with after spending a lot of time at home during the first two years of the pandemic.
Some dogs are genetically more likely to be anxious if their dog parents had anxiety disorders as well.
Possible Causes of Separation Anxiety in Dogs
- Being left alone for the first time
- Being left alone after a long period of constant human companionship
- Previous traumatic event/ experience
- Changes in their daily routine/ schedule
- Change of ownership
- Changes in the household such as death or moving away of a family member or pet; new pets or the birth of a baby
- Moving to a new house
- Inherited anxiety disorders
Your vet or a behavior specialist can help you address this issue by recommending behavioral modifications to reduce anxiety. The following are signs to look out for if you suspect separation anxiety:
Signs of Separation Anxiety Disorder in Dogs
- Excessive barking
- Scratching doors and floors
- Destructive chewing
- Urination and defecation from dogs who are house trained
- Increased heart rate
- Rapid breathing
- Attempting to escape the home or yard
- Self-harming in severe cases
9. Asserting Dominance
Another reason your dog may like to lay on top of you or sit on your lap is to assert dominance. This can happen when a new dog is introduced into the household. Your dog may feel that he needs to show the new puppy or dog that he is the top dog by sitting or laying on top of you.
A telltale sign is if you notice that he also growls at the new dog while sitting on you. Long and direct eye contact between two dogs is another sign of establishing dominance.
10. Protective Instinct
In the wild, wolves which are our dogs’ ancestors, would keep the higher ranking members of their pack in the best cuddling spots surrounded by other pack members. As pack animals, this is done not just to keep them warm, but also to keep them protected from any real threat.
High-ranking members of the wolf pack are seen as vital to the survival of the entire pack, and as such are given extra protection. Wolves have been observed to rest their heads on the neck of a pack member. This is believed to be done not just to protect the other wolf’s vital organs, but also to show affection and make them feel safe.
This protective instinct kicks in some domestic dogs as the trait may have been passed down genetically. This may be why a dog lays on top of its owner’s chest or neck. However, as social animals, social and environmental factors greatly influence the personality and behavior of our pups.
For this reason, laying on top of their owners to protect or show affection may be something that the dog has learned or feels is needed due to other external factors.
Tips to Help Your Dog Be Less Clingy
While being clingy can be sweet, encouraging too much clinginess can progress to separation anxiety or other destructive behaviors. This can make your dog unnecessarily stressed.
Teaching them to become more independent helps them become calm and confident dogs even when you are not at home.
There are several things you can do as a dog owner to prevent your clingy dog from becoming anxious.
By giving them a good amount of physical activity daily, your pups won’t have pent-up energy that they may otherwise release in destructive ways. A very clingy dog may need additional exercise. Going on walks or for playtime at the dog park can give your dog enough exercise.
This ensures that he or she will be content relaxing at home and not take an interest in following you around the house for more playtime.
Toys and Mental Stimulation
Encouraging our canine companions to play with toys is a great way to keep them preoccupied. There are numerous options for interactive dog toys that you can get to keep your clingy dog busy. Chew toys, treat dispensing toys, and food puzzles not only keep them from getting bored but are also rewarding experiences for them.
Providing Your Dog His or Her Own Space
Give your dog her own space where she can settle or play with her toys. Train her to go to this space at a moment’s notice by giving a command and reinforcing it with a reward when she goes to that area. This will teach her to associate this area of the house with something positive like treats, toys, or extra pets.
Crate training can help establish your dog’s own space. After successfully crate training your dog, they will go there on their own to settle.
Get Them Used to Certain Routines / Household Activities
If your dog follows you to the kitchen at all times, chances are he or she is expecting to be given treats because that is what usually happens when you are in that area of the house. Try getting your dog used to such activities by switching things up and not giving her treats in the kitchen.
Eventually, they will learn that following you does not mean it is snack time and will no longer associate such with rewards. Obedience training at an early age also helps prevent dogs from developing bad habits.
Helping Aging Dogs
If you’ve got an older dog, you may have observed that they are starting to become clingier than usual. They may do it because the dog’s eyes/ eyesight or hearing are no longer as sharp as they used to be, or they feel the need to cling to someone familiar to them.
It’s possible that an older dog finds something as simple as moving furniture to a different spot enough to cause confusion and possibly disorientation.
There are ways we can help our aging dogs cope with the decline of their senses and cognitive function.
Give Them a Nutrient Boost
Adding more nutrients by way of vegetables, fruits, and supplements can help improve your aging dog’s overall health including his or her brain function. Foods rich in antioxidants can help reduce free radicals produced in aging brains. They promote cell function and durability.
Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids from fish, fish oil, flaxseed, and other whole foods also promote a healthier cognitive function. Not to mention, these healthy fats also give dogs better skin and coat health.
Giving them interactive toys can help stimulate their brain function. Their reduced energy levels do not have to mean reduced brain activity as well. Toys can also help keep bored senior pups busy and entertained.
Load food puzzles with high-value, naturally healthy treats that your dog loves. This will motivate him or her to play with the toys. There are lots of high-quality dog food and treats that won’t give your mature dog empty calories that only contribute to weight gain.
Reinforcing simple commands or tasks that your dog knows gives them brain stimulation and helps them retain those commands in their brain. Simple ones like “sit”, “stay”, or “fetch” may be forgotten if they are no longer being practiced.
Even a short walk outside your home can help give your senior dog some stimulation. It can also help improve mobility and strengthen their muscles and joints.
Consult Your Vet
We highly recommend consulting your vet if you feel like your dog’s brain function s starting to show signs of decline. Your vet may recommend specific medication, supplements, or prescription diets to help address the issue. A combination of different types of therapies can also be recommended depending on the case.
As you can see, there are many reasons why our pups lay on top of us, sit on our laps, or just want to be as close to us as possible. Such attention-seeking behaviors are not always causes for concern. More often, it just means that dogs love us and crave our touch and attention.
We love dogs, and the domesticated dog has evolved to be more inclined to seek out humans. This trait has given pups the ability to have a close bond with humans better than any other animal. That said, not all dogs have the habit of laying on top of their owners. If your dog is not one of them, it does not mean that he or she is not wholeheartedly devoted to you.
Like us humans, canines have different ways of showing that they love and care for us. Some pooches like Labrador Retrievers like presenting their owners with gifts like toys or random objects. Great Dane pups don’t care that they are one of the largest dog breeds. They are known to like being lapdogs and sitting on their owners.
In contrast, certain dog breeds are a bit more independent. Tibetan Spaniels are known to have cat-like personalities. They will come when called if they feel like it. There are also pups regardless of breed that don’t like being hugged. These dogs tend to be uncomfortable when hugged but enjoy getting pets and belly rubs that trigger the leg kicks.
It’s important that we not only provide our dogs with their basic needs but also ensure that they are happy and thriving. Observing their behavior or changes in their behavior can help us address certain issues such as illnesses or stress. Seeking advice from our vets can help us understand our dogs better and ensure that they are given what they need.
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