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Why Does Your Dog Lay On You? Hint: It’s More Than A Snuggle

At A Glance

Dogs lay on their owners for various reasons, mostly because it’s an instinct. Dogs often view their humans as part of their pack and may want to stay close to them for mutual protection, affection, and warmth, lying down on them.

There are also other reasons why dogs do this:

  • They’re seeking attention, feeling anxious, or are scared
  • They can sense an oncoming sick or anxiety

Last Updated on: August 15, 2023

Dogs do many things, like intently staring at us or snoring very loudly, that make us go “Why?” In most cases, it’s just normal canine behavior and can be ignored. However, that’s not always the case.

You have noticed that your pooch often joins you when you nap and wondered, “Why does my dog lay on top of me?”

I’ve had this question, too, especially because Dex has plenty of room to stretch out but doesn’t use it. So, I did a little digging, and the findings might surprise you.

Why dogs lay on their humans:

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Residual Instinctive Behavior

Today’s dogs are descendants of wolves. And despite being domesticated, they still retain many instincts from their ancestors.

For example, newborn puppies sleep beside members of their pack, on top of each other, or on their mother for warmth and security. Jonathan Lyons, who studied at Florida State University, explains, “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.”

So, even after dogs wean, socialize, and become pets, they lay on you because they consider you a part of their pack. It gives them a sense of familiarity and makes them feel safe.

“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.

For Comfort And Safety

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Dogs often seek comfort from their pack. In a domestic setting, that’s you and your family. Your canine companion seeks comfort in your presence, primarily through physical touch. So, when it plops on you, it is its way of “recharging.”

You might especially notice this when your dog is tired or sleepy. Even though it’s not an imminent threat, it may do this so it feels protected.

Anxiety or Fear

Things that may not bother humans can be scary for dogs. For instance, fireworks, thunder, and other loud noises.

When they hear such sounds, they anxiously scamper toward you and lie on you to feel secure. Additionally, rescue dogs, repeatedly exposed to scary situations, may suffer from anxiety and approach you for comfort.

If you notice your dog often laying on you and acting scared or anxious, you can also consider consulting a veterinarian or a canine behavioral therapist. They can help you find ways to help your dog overcome its triggers.


Dogs are prone to separation anxiety if their humans are away for long hours. This particularly holds for canines who were born during the pandemic. Because they have spent almost every second with their owners as puppies, staying alone gives them anxiety.

“Separation anxiety in pets is very real, especially for those adopted during the pandemic who didn’t get much socialization”, shares Savannah Sicurella, an NPR journalist.

Some pre- and post-pandemic canines face anxiety, too. It could be due to various reasons, including an unfamiliar schedule or environment. Your pet, like you, needs an adjusting period and may be prone to anxiety until it learns to do so.

So, if your dog is lying on you every morning before you go to work or after you return, it could be because it wants some cuddles and it misses you.

Lying on you may make it feel less lonely and reduces anxiety. Whenever you return, even after a long day, give your pooch some belly rubs and attention. Your dog will thank you for it.

Lack of Exercise or Stimulation

why does my dog lay on top of me - lack of exercise or stimulation

Dogs need plenty of sleep and adequate exercise to keep them healthy. Change things up if your dog just sits and lies on top of you (or beside you) all the time. But if your dog seems unusually sluggish, it’s also best to err on the side of caution by taking them to the vet. In most cases, though, boredom is an easy fix through walks and mentally stimulating games.

Fun Fact: On average, puppies sleep 18-19 hours a day, while adult dogs sleep 12-14 hours a day.

Breeds like Huskies, Border Collies, and Greyhounds are active and are hardwired to want a lot of exercise and stimulation. A lack of exercise can cause them to become destructive as well. This is why experts suggest having a routine for your dog. It will help keep it healthy and happy and prevent boredom and laziness.

It’s Bonding With You

While most dogs are affectionate to all humans, they imprint only on their primary caregiver – the one who gives them food, takes them for walks, plays with them, and trains them.

Being physically close to 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 or any other member?” Now you know.

Showing Affection

Research shows that dogs and humans feel a rush of oxytocin, the brain’s feel-good chemicals, through eye contact but more so with physical touch. This same hormone strengthens the bond between a mothers and their newborns.

Dogs love their humans and want to express affection, and laying on you is one of their ways to do so. People with extreme anxiety, stress, and blood pressure also calm down when dogs do this.

“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, an animal enthusiast and relationship specialist.

Sign of Respect

You may have woken up to your dog’s wet nose pressed against your ear. I sure have!

Funnily enough, dogs do this not to disturb you but when they hold you in higher regard and want to show respect. As pack animals, dogs recognize hierarchy and acknowledge the pack’s leader.

They may lay their head on you and expose the vulnerable parts like the neck and belly as a sign of respect and submission. Your dog shows it trusts and respects you by laying its head on yours.

It Can Sense Sickness, Sadness, or Anxious

why does my dog lay on top of me - it can sense sickness, sadness, or anxious

Dogs have highly sensitive noses that can sense your moods and even the presence of bacteria and viruses. So, they lie on you all of a sudden, it’s probably because they are attempting to make you feel better.

Dogs can detect severe illnesses, such as diabetes and cancer, and even alert their human of an imminent seizure. This is why some dogs are trained as service dogs to help people with various illnesses and mental health conditions.

Seeking Attention

Dogs also lay on you when they want attention. But how can you tell the difference between a snuggle and attention-seeking behavior?

I would say look for additional signs, such as pawing at your hand, bringing their face close to yours, frequently licking your face, or clinging to you.

Do not let your dog “train” you into getting what they want through bad behavior. Disruptive behaviors, like excessive barking, chewing, and scratching, should not be encouraged. So stand your ground and be firm.

It’s Hungry, Thirsty, or Has To Go Potty

Your dog may sit or lay on you if you’ve forgotten to feed it, refill its drinking bowl, or take it out. However, establishing a routine can help get rid of this behavior.

Some stubborn dogs may try to push their luck, just like kids who ask for another cookie. It’s essential that you don’t reinforce negative behavior by giving in to your dog’s demands. Instead, use positive reinforcement to reward good behavior.

It Needs Grooming

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

A friend of mine has a Golden Retriever that points out to a drawer that contains all of its grooming supplies when it wants some paw balm reapplied. It took him a few guesses until he realized what the pet needed.

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.

To Protect You

why does my dog like to lay on me - to protect you

Some pet owners don’t need an alarm anymore. Their pooches are happy to wake them up with some heft and friendly wet nose attacks.

This is because dogs wake up more often than humans. And when they notice you sleeping, their first instinct is to protect you by laying on top of you. Breeds like German Shepherds, Dobermans, and Mastiffs have strong instincts to protect their humans and are more likely to do this.


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 refuse to share you with other dogs in the household.

Dogs also do that to leave their scent on you. They are marking their territory and informing other dogs that you belong to them. 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 over-possessiveness.

For Warmth

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 colder than other parts.

So, if the weather is cold or if your dog is too small to produce sufficient body heat, it may lay on you to seek some warmth.

How To Stop Your Dog From Laying On You?

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

Start Behavioral Training

Dogs are creatures of habit. What you may have intended to be a once-in-a-lifetime exception is perceived as a lifetime offer to them.

For instance, as a puppy, you may have let your pet lay on you for a quick cuddle. However, even as an adult, it may still want to do this, irrespective of its size. Anticipating such situations can help you work on basic behavioral training to reinforce appropriate behavior.

Crate Training or Creating a “Go-To” Spot

A practical method to set boundaries for your dog is crate training or creating a designated spot. Crates or cozy corners reserved for your dogs should ideally be where they can see you while still comfortable.

This training should begin when they are young, but even adult dogs with consistent training can adapt to this method. Start by offering them treats beside their crate, and work your way towards positive verbal reinforcement until they listen to you to go to their spot when told.

Frequently Asked Questions


Is It Their Instinct To Do It To Other Dogs?

Yes, dogs lay on other dogs, which is where the term “dogpiling” comes from. They instinctively do this to feel safe and secure, even as puppies. After all, dogs are pack animals, and laying on each other makes them feel less vulnerable and more protected.

Why Is Having Your Dog Lay On You Good?

Allowing your dog to lay on you (within reason) comforts and gives it a sense of security, and reduces stress levels. It will also help strengthen the bond between you and your dog, as it releases oxytocin, the feel-good hormones.

Why Is Having Your Dog Lay On You Bad?

A dog laying on you is mostly good unless you fail to set boundaries. Certain dogs may be possessive of their owners and exhibit signs of aggression toward others.

On the other hand, a heavy, adult dog may plop on you, causing you to suffer from back aches and painful hips. It is best to teach and train your dog boundaries.

Why Does My Dog Lay On Top of Me When I Lay Down?

Your dog may lay on top of you for several reasons, such as to show affection and respect. It may also do that to feel comfortable and safe or ward off feelings of stress and anxiety after spending time away from you.

It’s mostly harmless, except when it’s causing you physical pain or discomfort. Consider training your dog to obey commands so it knows when it’s okay to snuggle.

Why Does My Big Dog Lay On Top of Me?

Large dog breeds like German Shepherds and Huskies have strong protective instincts. They may lay on top of you while you’re asleep because they consider you part of their pack and are protecting you.

Big dogs also lay their heads on yours to show affection and respect.

Why Does My Female Dog Lay On Me?

Gender has nothing to do when it comes to this type of behavior. Both male and female canines lay on their humans as a sign of affection or to seek comfort and safety.

Dogs also know how to sniff out chemical changes in our bodies, so they also lay on us when we feel down, sick, or stressed.



Meet Paul, a devoted dog dad to the delightful French Bulldog, Cofi. With a flair for humor and a deep understanding of Frenchie quirks, Paul brings a lighthearted touch to his writings. His relatable stories and practical insights are a blend of laughter and valuable advice and resonate with fellow dog owners.

Through his words, Paul aims to celebrate the joys and challenges of being a dedicated pet parent, reminding you that life is simply better with a four-legged, snorting sidekick by your side.