Cuddling with our dogs on the couch is the best, but you may wonder, “why does my dog lay on me?”. No matter how squashing the weight is, most dogs seem never to waste an opportunity to lay on their owners. Even the most independent dogs love being close to their humans, so they tend to occupy the closest spaces, including those on you.
Your dog laying on you is perfectly normal unless you’re not always okay with it or the laying has a negative cause, like resource guarding. There’s no harm in getting some furry cuddles from your canine friend, but they’re best within boundaries with your pooch on when the cuddles end.
Of course, the downside of having a dog sleep on you is a lingering doggy smell and probably a whole lot of hair on your clothes. A quality dog cologne comes in handy If you need to eliminate any dog odor from your dog’s fur after snuggling or at any other time. You will also need a lint roller to get that fur off.
But let’s take a closer look at this behavior.
Why does my dog lay on me?
Dogs lay on their humans because they want comfort and attention. Some breeds tend to get more hyper-attached than others. Dogs also instinctively lay on their owners to give them protection and warmth because they view them as pack members. More concerning causes of dogs laying on loved ones are separation anxiety, resource guarding, and physical discomfort.
Let’s break it down further.
7 Reasons that Dogs Lie on You
1. Bonding to get affection
Dogs derive comfort and feelings of safety from being close to their owner. Being by a loved one’s side is a pleasant experience for your pooch, and the feeling is mutual, mostly. Some dogs of considerable size and weight, like Great Danes, are too big to lay on people, but they don’t realize it, and we forgive them.
Essentially, your dog lays on you to show that they love you and can show the relationship a dog has with the owner. However, you need to be sure your dog is laying on top of you for affection, not because they are possessive and show signs of resource guarding.
2. It’s natural pack behavior
From birth, a dog sleeps piled their littermates for warmth and comfort. You are your dog’s new pack when it’s separated from its litter and mother, so your dog sleeping with you or on you is natural dog behavior. Lying next to you is your adult dog’s instinctive way of showing it’ll protect and warm you as its pack member.
Instinctive behaviors aren’t of immediate use in a dog’s life today. Still, some ancient behaviors linger, like protecting you even though there isn’t any real danger in your home or surroundings. Dogs also lay on you because you’re warm. Dogs digging the bed is another temperature control method to warm their beds.
“Dogs mirror and perceive their loved one’s emotions when they’re down. When they lay on you, they want to protect and comfort you from what is hurting you.” Kelvin Liyan, a vet at Westlands Veterinary Clinic.
3. Dogs may be hyper-attached
Some dogs are far more attached than others. If your dog insists on laying on you and follows you everywhere, this is a sign they may be hyper-attached. Hyperattachment is rooted in anxiety about losing you.
Hyper-attached dogs are more likely to develop separation anxiety when their owners leave due to high emotional dependence. Some dogs breeds like the Greyhound, Lhasa Apso, Shiba Inus, and Basenji are much more independent. But breeds like the Cavalier King Charles, or the Yorkshire Terrier are notorious for being hyper-attached to their owners.
Recognizing fear and anxiety in dogs helps dog owners take measures to train and desensitize their dogs so that they are better able to cope without you. This means they should learn to be comfortable in their own spaces through positive reinforcement rather than always be on top of you.
4. To get attention
Dog owners can unintentionally encourage their dogs to lay on them because they get attention. This is particularly true if you can’t spend as much time with your dog due to work or other matters. Your dog feels like you’re spending time with them when they’re so physically close laying on you.
Other signs that your dog is laying on top of you to score your attention include licking your hand or feet, placing their paws on you, restlessness, and stealing food or shoes.
To avoid unconsciously rewarding your dog for laying on you, gently push them off you and reward them for staying in their own space, like dogs sleeping on a dog bed insteads. Your dog may be bored and under-stimulated, causing them to look for stimulation by laying on you. Taking your dog for a daily walk can solve this attention-seeking behavior.
5. Separation anxiety
Dogs with extreme separation anxiety may want to be side-by-side with their owners whenever possible. Dogs with varying levels of separation anxiety appoint themselves as their owner’s shadow, following them everywhere they go. They also bark excessively, chew on items, and lick their paws excessively.
Breeds that get hyper-attached to the owners, like the Cocker Spaniel, Bichon Frise, Border Collies, and Jack Russel Terriers, are likely to follow and lay on their owners. Any dog can get separation anxiety regardless of the breed. Some rescues also have a fear of abandonment, causing separation anxiety.
6. Resource guarding and jealousy
Some dogs lay on their owners to claim ownership over them. These dogs get aggressive when someone or another pet approaches the said individual. This behavior is called resource guarding, which occurs when dogs want to protect what is theirs from other household members.
Sometimes people confuse their dog’s behavior with being protective and think it’s cute or even encourage it. This is often the case with smaller breeds like Chihuahuas. The truth is that a dog that is resource-guarding you is in a constant state of anxiety. So other people coming close to their resource (you), is extremely stressful).
Secondly, dogs who resource guard are the number one reasons people get bitten.
7. They’re trying to communicate
Your dog may lay on you because they want to tell you something like they want to play or go for a walk and potty. They may also be hungry or thirsty and want to catch your attention, so they hop on you. This can often happen if you’re distracted by something like your phone, and you miss your dog’s other cues.
Dogs can also lay on you to cope with negative feelings like anxiety because you’re their comfort. Your dog may also be ill and feels better equipped when laying on top of you. Other signs like lethargy and a decreased appetite accompany this increased need for physical contact.
How to Stop Your Dog from Laying on You
If you want to stop your dog lying on you, you can follow these basic steps.
- Crate training, where you teach your dogs to lay on their bed or crate instead of on you
- Place training so your dog goes to their mat instead of on you on command.
- Teach them to get off and reward obedience with treats
- Don’t encourage lying on you by giving attention or food
- Teach an alternative behavior like lying beside you or placing their paws on you
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why does my dog lay on me in bed?
Dogs lay on you in bed for affection and because you’re warm and comfortable. Additionally, your dog instinctively wants to protect you as a member of their pack even though you’re not in danger. Other dogs do it due to separation anxiety to stay as close as possible.
Why does my dog lay on me every morning?
Dogs lay on you in the morning to show affection or want something from you, like food or a toy. Dogs love close physical contact with their owners, whom they view as members of the pack, to protect them. Laying on you gives your dog comfort and security, especially for those struggling with anxiety.
Why is my dog laying on me all of a sudden?
Your dog may lay on you suddenly because they derive safety and comfort from you, especially if they feel nervous, like if there is a thunderstorm. They also lay on you suddenly to gain your attention because they want to spend time with you, especially if you’re away for long periods.
Why does my dog lay on me and lick me?
Your dog lays on you and licks you to show you affection. These behaviors are dogs’ ways of showing love, like hugs for humans. You’re part of your dog’s pack, so they lick you to soothe you like they would lick another dog.
Why does my dog lay his head on me?
A dog lays its head on the owner to express love because they consider you their family. Wild dogs lay their heads on each other to bond, and that behavior remained even in domesticated dogs. It’s important not to push your dog away during these precious bonding times.
Why does my dog lay on his back?
Dogs lay on their backs because they feel safe in their environment. Laying on their backs exposes the belly, a part with vital body organs, showing that the dog trusts the people in the surroundings. Dogs also lay on their backs to show submission to their owners or their loved ones.
Dogs lay on their owners to express their love for those they consider part of their family, their pack. Unless your dog’s size hurts you when they lay on you for a long time, the behavior is perfectly harmless. Dogs also want to protect and keep you warm by laying on you as a pack member. Other dogs lay on you because they have separation anxiety and don’t want to be far from you.
A dog laying on you becomes harmful when they do it to resource guard. These dogs get aggressive when other dogs, and even people, get close because they view you as their possession. If this is the case, establish dominance with your dog, and teach them verbal commands like “quiet” when they get reactive.
Tamsin De La HarpeAuthor
Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions.
Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.