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General

Help! My Dog Thinks I’m Its Bed!

At A Glance

Dogs lay on their humans for various reasons, the most significant being that this behavior is simply part of their instinct. Other reasons include:

  • They’re showing affection or seeking attention
  • They’re feeling anxious or scared
  • They’re being protective

Last Updated on: December 30, 2022




Ever took a nap on the couch only to wake up with your very warm, furry, four-legged friend sprawled across you?

Getting snuggles and cuddles is arguably the best highlight of having a dog. But is there more to this affectionate behavior?

Why does my dog lay on me? I’ve had this question often, especially when there’s plenty of room around for my pup to stretch out instead of on my legs. But if you don’t mind it, there’s no cause for concern.

Most of the time, this behavior’s perfectly normal, although some other reasons might surprise you.

Residual Instinctive Behavior

Our domesticated dogs are descended from an unknown, now-extinct species of wolf. And despite the stark differences between our cuddly dogs and the wild wolf, dogs retain many instincts from their wolf ancestors.

One such survival instinct is evident in newborn puppies that sleep side by side, on top of each other, or on their mother for warmth and security. Thus, the word “dogpile” in the dictionary.

“Because they lay all over each other. It’s why they call it a dog pile. If they lay on you, they are claiming that you are part of their group”, quips Jonathan Lyons, who studied at Florida State University.

So, once a puppy is weaned, socialized with humans, and becomes someone’s pet, it would think its human owner is a strange, two-legged leader of the pack. Dogs also miss their litter, and laying on you gives them a sense of familiarity.

“He loves you and wants to be near you. He can feel your heart beating and this will remind him of being a puppy snuggled near his mum”, opines Graziella Sara Cacace D’Albrizzi, Large Predator Specialist.

infographic image

Seeking Comfort And Safety

Dogs are pack animals. And now that you’re members of their pack (or… they are now members of yours), your dog will seek comfort and safety in your presence and companionship. One way to do so is through physical touch.

You will notice this behavior, especially when your dog is tired or sleepy. In this state, dogs can’t quickly protect themselves (even if there probably aren’t any imminent threats), and they feel safer when they are closest to their pack members — which is you.

Feeling Anxious or Scared

Things that may not bother us humans can be scary for dogs. Fireworks, thunder, and other similar noises not only startle them but may also instill fear in your pup. So, if your dog has ever anxiously scampered toward you and you’ve wondered, “Why is my dog laying on me all of a sudden”, this is probably why.

It may also be the answer to why does my dog always lay on me. Rescue dogs who have been repeatedly exposed to scary situations may suffer from anxiety. If you notice your dog lying down on you while acting scared or anxious, consider consulting a veterinarian or canine behavioral therapist if needed.

Separation Anxiety, Loneliness, And Isolation

Many dogs suffer from separation anxiety. Dogs get anxious and stressed when their humans are away for long hours. So, if you’ve been questioning why does my dog lay on me every morning, it could just be a way for your dog to get in some cuddles before you leave for the day. Your dog’s anticipating your going to work and knows it would feel lonely while you are away.

Similarly, once you are back from a long day, your dog feels relieved it won’t feel isolated from their human anymore. That’s your answer to why does my dog lay on me and lick me. Your pup’s just happy to see you and wants to greet you when you come home.

Lack Of Exercise or Stimulation

Many dogs come from active breeds. For example, breeds such as sled dogs (huskies), shepherding dogs (border collies), or sporting dogs (greyhounds) need adequate exercise because they have a lot of energy.

What the Fact?! On average, puppies sleep 18-19 hours a day, while adult dogs sleep 12-14 hours a day.

Dogs sleep a lot. But they also need adequate exercise to keep them healthy. So, why does my dog sit and lie on me? It could be a signal that it needs to go for a walk or needs mental stimulation via play and training.

Having a routine in place for your dog’s daily activities is essential. It’ll help keep it healthy and happy and prevent boredom and laziness.

It’s Bonding With You

Most dogs are affectionate with all humans, but they will typically bond with the person who is their primary caregiver — the one who gives them food, takes them for walks, play with them, trains them, or spoils them. And being physically close to or laying on that person is one way in which they bond.

So, if you’ve been all this and more for your dog and are questioning, why does my dog sleep on me and not my husband, there’s your answer.

If your husband or other family member were the primary caregivers, your dog would’ve snuggled on them instead.

Showing Affection

Research shows that both dogs and their humans feel a rush of oxytocin – the brain’s feel-good chemicals – with mere eye contact but more so with physical touch. The same hormone helps creates that strong affection between a human mother and her baby.

Dogs who love their humans want to express their affection. So, why does my dog lay on top of me? It’s one of the few ways for them to show their affection. Dogs also have a way of calming people and reducing their stress and blood pressure.

“It’s probably a way of calming down and relaxing and is actually good for your health as it is scientifically proven that being close to an animal actually lowers your blood pressure as well as a calming effect”, shares Natalie Bierman, Animal enthusiast, relationship specialist.

It’s A Sign of Respect

Have you woken up to your dog’s wet nose pressed against your ear and wondered, “why does my dog lay his head on me?”

As pack animals, dogs recognize hierarchy and acknowledge the leader of the pack. As a sign of respect and submission, they may lay their head on you and expose their necks and bellies — vulnerable parts of their anatomy, especially when fighting off predators or other dogs.

By laying its head on you, your dog shows that it trusts and respects you.

You Are Feeling Anxious or Sad, or You Might Be Sick

Dogs have highly sensitive noses that can sense your moods through the subtle scents of your hormones or even the presence of bacteria and viruses.

You may have had a bad day at work or just caught a common cold and haven’t noticed. Your dog is on it, though, and on you.

Why is my dog laying on me all of a sudden? That’s why. Your dog probably detected that something’s off with you and is trying to make you feel better.

Dogs that have a strong bond with their humans are more attuned to their scents. They can detect severe illnesses, such as diabetes and cancer, and even alert their human of an imminent seizure.

Seeking Attention

A thin line separates dogs engaging in this behavior because they need something versus they want something. This is a line straddled by attention-seeking behavior.

Let’s admit it; some dogs are just attention seekers. Although more common in puppies than adult dogs, attention-seeking behavior can get annoying quickly.

But how do you tell whether your dog’s snuggling up on you just to get your attention? You can look for additional signs, such as pawing at your hand, bringing their face close to yours, frequently licking your face, or clinging to you.

They Are Hungry, Thirsty, or Want To Go Potty

Dogs sometimes try to get your attention to remind you of something. This is different from attention-seeking behavior. This time, your dog is just trying to communicate.

Your dog may sit or lay on you if you’ve forgotten to feed your dog, refill its drinking bowl, or take it out to do its business. Establishing a routine to ensure your dog’s needs are met is important.

However, just like kids who ask for another cookie despite already having their share, some dogs try to push their luck with another walk around the block or one more delicious treat.

Exercise good judgment, or you might end up reinforcing bad behavior.

They Want You To Groom Them

Matted coats, chipped nails, or cracked paw pads can be quite uncomfortable and even painful. If your dog is laying on you and you’ve ruled out the need for exercise, food, water, or potty time, check whether it’s time to groom them.

Regular grooming, including brushing their hair, clipping their nails, and bathing them, is crucial to ensure your dog’s health. If you’re struggling to find enough time to groom your dog, consider finding a reputable dog groomer.

It’s Protecting You

Has your sweet pup replaced your morning alarm, leaving you wondering, why does my dog lay on me every morning?

Dogs have very different sleep cycles. They wake up earlier and more often than humans. However, they do notice that you may still be deep asleep and feel the need to protect you as you look vulnerable to them. And one way to protect you is to lay down on you.

Many dog breeds, like German Shepherds, Dobermans, and Mastiffs, have a strong instinct to protect their humans.

Unfortunately, this behavior may wake you up earlier than intended, but that’s the price you pay for having an adorable four-legged protective detail.

Jealousy & Resource Guarding, They Are Leaving Scent

Why does my big dog lay on top of me? Well, the size really doesn’t matter.

Big, small, or medium-sized, all dogs are territorial animals. They may lay on top of you because they think you are their source of food and don’t want to share with other dogs in the household.

Another reason is your dog is leaving its scent on you. It’s a form of marking their territory and informing other dogs that you are their human. However, if left unchecked, this behavior can get aggressive. It’s best to work with a reputable dog trainer if you notice any signs of aggression or possessiveness.

Stealing Your Body Heat

Did you know that dogs regulate their body temperature through their fur? Of course, their coat helps keep them warm, but since their bellies don’t have as much hair, it gets much cooler.

So, when the weather is cold, or if your dog is too small to produce enough body heat, it may lay down on you because you are warm.

Conversely, you probably won’t find your dog crawling up on you when the weather gets hot.

dog inside the crate

Ways To Keep Your Dog From Laying On You

Why do dogs lay on you? For the most part, dogs laying down on their humans is a harmless, if not positive, behavior. However, if you have bad back or joint pain, or if your dog is just too big, you may want to set appropriate boundaries.

Stop Encouraging The Behavior

Dogs are creatures of habit. You allow them something once, and they’ll expect it to be allowed every time.

So, if you allowed your dog on your lap as a puppy or lay down on your chest and received pets as an adult, it’ll think this is something it can do anytime it likes.

It’s important to anticipate such situations and work on basic behavioral training to reinforce appropriate behavior and discourage unwanted behavior.

Crate Training, Teaching “Go To” Spot

An effective method for setting boundaries for your dog is crate training or teaching them that they have a spot. Crates or spots reserved for your dogs should ideally be in an area where they can keep an eye on their humans while still giving them enough space to comfortably spend time on their own.

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This training should begin when they are young but can also be done with adult dogs with consistent training. Start by offering them treats when they sit or lie beside their crate or spot, and work your way towards positive verbal reinforcement until they go to their spot or crate when told.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is It Their Instinct To Do It To Other Dogs?

Yes, remember “dogpiling”? Dogs lay on other dogs as puppies and even as adults when they’re playing around or resting.

Why Having Your Dog Lay On You Is Good?

Allowing your dog to lay on you (within reason) not only comforts your dog and gives it a sense of security but can also help reduce your stress. It will also help strengthen the bond between you and your dog.

Why Having Your Dog Lay On You Is Bad?

You may have health issues like a bad back or painful hips, or your dog is too big to support, or you don’t want them to get any dirt or germs on you or the furniture. Perhaps you need some personal space, are busy, or just want to relax. In such situations, it is best to teach your dog boundaries and teach when such behavior is allowed and when it isn’t.

 

Paul Andrews
https://www.linkedin.com/in/paul-andrews-172490189/

A digital marketing expert by profession, Andrews is a gifted writer and animal lover at heart. A self-confessed "pawrent", Andrews is well-versed in all things dogs. He uses his years of experience of raising puppies into show-quality dogs to help guide first-time pet parents. He believes in spreading the joy that comes with being a dog dad and advocates more families to adopt pets.