Imagine a scenario where you are comfortably lounging on the sofa, there is ample space to sit around, and your dog chooses to plop right on top of you. As dog parents, we are pretty sure most of you can relate to this situation.
Dogs do not speak the human language, but they display an array of non-verbal behavior to get their needs and wants across. Sitting on you is one such behavior. It could be sitting on your lap, near your feet, or chest.
Certain breeds like the Great Dane have rightfully been named ‘gentle giants.’ It is normal to see the huge dog trying to sit on a tiny lap. It is the way the canine breed bonds with its humans.
Some common reasons a dog might sit on your lap are that it is a representation of love, care, and protection, and it may want to play, cuddle, or mark you as its territory.
The article will explore the answer to the questions, why does my dog sit on me, if the behavior is ok, and methods you can use to stop the dog from sitting on you.
- Should I Let My Dog Sit on Me?
- Why Does My Dog Sit on Me? – 11 Common Reasons
- 1. That is One Way of Showing Love
- 2. The Dog is Trying to Assert Dominance
- 3. It is Spreading its Scent on You
- 4. It Wants to Play
- 5. It is in Protection Mode
- 6. The Dog Wants to Snuggle
- 7. It Wants to Comfort You
- 8. It is Seeking Comfort and Security
- 9. The Behavior Can be Breed Specific
- 10. You Have Encouraged the Behavior
- 11. The Dog Might be Plain Bored
- How Can I Stop My Dog from Sitting on Me?
Should I Let My Dog Sit on Me?
The answer to this question is your personal choice. If you do not mind your dog sitting on you, go ahead and enjoy the cuddles with the pet. This bonding activity can be therapeutic for both you and the dog.
But it would help if you were careful, or the dog may refuse to sit anywhere else but on your lap. This can become uncomfortable, especially if it is a big dog.
The pet will even start sitting on your children’s laps. It does not mean any harm, but it may unintentionally hurt kids or senior citizens.
If the dog displays aggressive behaviors after sitting on you, such acts should be strongly discouraged. It is ok for the dog to be protective of you, but it should not result in hostile behavior towards other pets and people.
Why Does My Dog Sit on Me? – 11 Common Reasons
You may find it adorable every time your dog comes and finds your lap to sit on. But, if you encourage the behavior, it may turn into a habit that would be difficult to break.
Also, the dog sitting on you has positive and negative associations. Understanding the reasons can help you decide if you should let the behavior continue and how to better care for the dog.
Here are common reasons why your furry friend prefers to sit on you.
1. That is One Way of Showing Love
When you are with your favorite person, you may want to sit right next to them, hold their hands or cuddle with them. The same goes for your pet that loves and adores you.
Regardless of the breed, dogs love their human parents. But some breeds will go out of their way to show their affection. For example, Retrievers, Boxers, Bulldogs, and Pugs are breeds that are considered the most affectionate.
So, the dog might sit on your lap, sleep on top of you or sit near your feet. They basically want to be around you at all times.
2. The Dog is Trying to Assert Dominance
This is a reason that you should be wary of. The dog treats your lap as a throne or a position of power. It may sit on your lap to show dominance. Also, to show other pets and family members that it is the one in charge.
If dominance is the reason, you will see the dog always sit on you in the presence of other animals and people. It may bark, snarl or growl to keep everyone away from you. It is rare, but the dog may take the behavior to the extreme by getting aggressive towards anyone trying to get close to you.
Such behavior should not be encouraged. Stand up or place the dog down immediately if it becomes aggressive. Consult a behaviorist or the vet for further action.
3. It is Spreading its Scent on You
A dog likes to mark its territory and resources. It uses its scent to let other animals know they are in its area. All dogs can display this behavior. But some breeds like Doberman Pinscher, German Shepherd, and Rottweiler are more territorial than others.
The dog may sit and roll over the chair or sofa you usually sit on to rub its scent. It may proceed on top of you and try to get its scent all over you. It is the dog’s way of saying, back off, this human is mine.
This behavior is similar to asserting dominance and should be discouraged. The dog may sit on you, especially in the presence of other animals or if you have come with the scent of another animal on you.
Keeping the dog engaged and giving it a healthy dose of attention can make it feel less insecure.
4. It Wants to Play
The dog may sit on you to let you know it is time to play. The behavior is different as the dog will not sit still or cuddle. The pet may nudge, pull and whine for you to get up. For example, it may throw its play ball at you and pull at your sleeve or nod in the direction of the door.
Dogs like spending time with humans. They like to indulge in a friendly game of wrestling, tug of war, or the classic fetch the ball/stick. The behavior is mostly harmless, and it is ok to give into the dog’s request occasionally.
If the dog goes overboard with playtime, you need to look for other activities that can keep it engaged longer on its own – for example, interactive puzzles and chewable toys or treats.
5. It is in Protection Mode
Protectiveness is a trait that is instinctive in dogs. The pack members would huddle up and sleep while some members would stand guard.
Dogs bond with their human family and become their natural protectors. So, if you find your dog sitting on top of you while you are napping, it is pretty normal behavior. It does so because it has a better vantage point from this position. As a result, it can spot threats, if any, quicker and take action.
6. The Dog Wants to Snuggle
Who does not like snuggling with their favorite person? Well, we do and are pretty sure your furry friend does too. On a cold winter night, lounging on the sofa, snuggling with your pet, and watching television, sounds delightful, does it not?
Dogs enjoy physical contact. The mere fact that you are close by can give it a good emotional boost. Studies have shown that when you cuddle with your pet, both you and the dog can show increased levels of the love hormone known as oxytocin. The hormone can make you feel happy and loved.
Snuggling is also a good bonding activity. The dog may show such behavior when you are back home after a long work day.
7. It Wants to Comfort You
Does your dog sit beside you when you are upset? Does it try to cheer you up when it sees you crying? Or does it comfort you when you are stressed or anxious? There are high chances of dog parents replying yes to these questions.
Affective empathy is the term used when one can pick and understand someone else’s feelings, especially when it comes to important people in one’s life. And dogs have this ability. It is the trait that helps dogs be there for you when you are in need of emotional support.
Studies have shown that dogs can be empathetic towards people and also have the ability to act on this understanding. So, if you are worried or stressed, your dog may pick on your mood and sit on your lap or put its paws on you to comfort you.
8. It is Seeking Comfort and Security
When you are happy or sad, you want to be surrounded by people you love. You want to share your happiness and also be able to lean on them during tough times.
For pets, their human families mean the most to them. So, it is natural for them to seek you out when they are looking for comfort and security.
For example, if your dog is scared of thunderstorms, it may plop itself on you and refuse to leave until the weather becomes stable. Or, if the dog gets anxious in the company of strangers, it may run and sit on you – the pet’s safe place.
If the dog behaves so once in a while, it should be fine. But if the behavior has become frequent, look for triggers. For example, it could be the doorbell or vehicles zooming by that may have startled your dog. It would be best to see a vet, as stress and anxiety require proper treatment.
9. The Behavior Can be Breed Specific
As mentioned above, some breeds are better at expressing their love and affection. And sitting on top of you is the way they can go.
If we take the example of lap dogs, they are meant to sit on your lap and fit comfortably in your arms. So if you are bringing home a Shih Tzu, Bichon Frise, French Bulldog, or Chihuahua, it will prefer sitting on your lap and snuggling than any other place in the house.
Then we have these gentle giant breeds that have no idea how big in size they are. Sitting with their human family members is their way to bond. Dog breeds in this category are Great Dane, Mastiff, Newfoundland, and Saint Bernard, among others.
10. You Have Encouraged the Behavior
Dogs are not the only ones responsible for all reasons for the question, why does my dog sit on me? In some cases, you are the reason. As a puppy, you would have enjoyed the act of the pet climbing on your chest and snuggling. You may have responded by holding the pet, petting it, playing, or showering it with love.
If you respond to any behavior with positive reinforcement, the dog will continue to behave accordingly. The pet takes it as a sign that sitting on your lap, feet, or chest is appreciated. So, it is you who has encouraged the behavior.
You can let the dog sit on you once in a while, but you also need to train it to get up on command to ensure the behavior does not get annoying for you.
11. The Dog Might be Plain Bored
Every dog breed requires some amount of physical and mental engagement. In the absence of such engagement, the dog will get bored and resort to undesirable behavior, sitting on you being one of them.
It may nudge you to initiate playtime or bring its leash along to tell you it wants to go for a walk.
If the dog stays alone for most of the day, it naturally would want to spend every other second with you once you are home. So, ensure the dog is well-engaged through the day.
How Can I Stop My Dog from Sitting on Me?
If you have decided to train your dog against sitting on you, here are some techniques that can help.
1. Ignore the Behavior
The next time the dog tries to sit on you, simply get up and move to a different sitting area or a room. Do not push the dog or pet it and place it down. The dog can easily misunderstand your reaction as play.
Instead, the moment the dog sits on you, stand up. Keep standing until the dog calms down. The dog will eventually understand that its action is not appreciated.
2. Train to Sit and Get Up on Command
If you do not mind the dog sitting on you but do not want it to become a habit, then you train it to sit and get up on command. For example, you can use commands like ‘up’ and ‘lap.’
You can use positive reinforcements to train the dog to sit on you only with your permission.
3. Make a Routine and Give it Attention
Reasons like boredom, attention-seeking, or initiating playtime are indicators that your dog is not being engaged enough. Give predictability to your pet. Have a fixed schedule for feeding, walking, and playtime.
Also, chalk out time during the day wherein you have a quality bonding session with the dog. This way, the dog will not feel insecure and resort to behaviors like spreading its scent on you.
Instead of leaving the dog alone, consider leaving it with someone you know, hire a dog sitter or enroll in doggy daycare.
4. See a Behaviorist
Suppose the dog has already developed the habit of sitting on you or becomes aggressive towards other animals. In that case, it may be difficult to stop the behavior with the above techniques.
It would be best to see a trained behaviorist, as your dog may need something more than positive reinforcement.
Why does my dog sit on me? There are several reasons behind this behavior. Your dog loves you and expresses the emotion with non-verbal behaviors like sitting on you. It may want to cuddle with you, play, protect or comfort you.
If the dog is stressed or anxious and needs support, it may inch closer to you or station itself right on top of you.
The not-so-good reasons behind this behavior are that it is trying to mark you as its territory, show dominance and keep other animals and people away. In rare cases, the dog can also get aggressive.
If you do not want the canine to be sitting on you, then you could try to ignore the behavior, train it to sit on command and if nothing works, see a behaviorist.
Heather Abraham is an owner of two dogs, one cat, a leopard gecko, and a parrot (who her dad still cannot teach bad words to), and an avid blogger. From the time she was a young girl, she always felt a connection with pets. She brings her love of every type of pet to you, with information on animal nutrition, medication, toys, beds, and everything else in between. Along with newly-on-board veterinarian DVM editor Elena, she puts pups first while offering other various fun tidbits along the way.