Updated Aug 25, 2022
Our dogs often lay on us. They either lay on top of us, or they lay very close up against us. So I did some research, and I thought I would share some interesting information with you.
Why does my dog lay on me? There are a few possible reasons. It could be for comfort and security, for protection, for attention, or just part of a feeling of affection. It is also possible for the reason to be separation anxiety, but this is less common.
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It is interesting — and important to understand why your dog is laying on you, so let's dig a little deeper.
Much of a dog's behavior is instinctive — humans too. The reasons go back a very long way, to times where conditions were very different from today.
Like us humans, these behavioral traits from long ago are just beneath the surface. We no longer need these instinctual behaviors for survival, but we still have the habit.
And it probably gives us a sense of security.
For example, many people like the sound of rain as long as they are indoors and dry. There is a feeling of safety. We get a warm glow, because being sheltered from the weather speaks to our primeval need to provide security for ourselves.
Speaking of a warm glow, it's the same thing with an open fire — it's an almost universal feel good factor. Dogs are naturally seeking the same thing.
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A Dog Is A Pack Animal
A dog is a pack animal. From the moment a puppy is born, his natural behavior is to sleep on top of the other members of his pack, in a pile.
Puppies do this for the basic instincts of security and warmth.
Although circumstances for today's dogs do not really require this behavior, the habit has been built by evolution. And it takes an awful long time to change that.
Domestic dogs still have the instinct of being a pack animal. Today's dog still has a protective instinct and a pack mentality. He is still born into a litter of puppies and spends the early parts of his life in a tight group with his peers. Much of his instinctive behavior is down to what is required to survive in this pack.
Nowadays, with dogs living with human families, a dog's owners and human family members become part of his pack, in his eyes.
So, with the dog owner being part of his pack, laying on their owners, or laying close up against them is both providing comfort and security — and also receiving it.
Sign Of Affection
Dogs lay close to people they have a bond with. It's a sign of affection. We should feel privileged. Encouraging this behavior strengthens the bond between you and your dog both ways.
If you instinctively stroke or pat your dog, when he lays on you, you are reinforcing the behavior. Which is fine if that is what you want to do.
If, on the other hand, you want to discourage this dog behavior, simple positive reinforcement training will help. Make sure your dog has his own dog bed which is comfortable and secure, and reward him for being there.
There are a few possible other reasons behind why your dog lays on you.
These are separation anxiety and jealousy. And general attention-seeking behavior. These characteristics are not so positive. You should keep an eye on this, in case there is an underlying reason that you need to deal with.
Attention-seeking behavior is not only natural in puppies, it is essential.
Without the attention of their mother, new puppies would not survive. But as they become adult dogs, they usually become more secure and independent, and they should not exhibit excessive attention-seeking behavior.
Climbing on top of their owner can be a symptom of this. But it is not the usual reason. And if the underlying cause is seeking attention, you will be seeing other behavior in your dog that indicates insecurity and anxiety. Such as pawing at you, nervous barking, or being clingy or restless.
If you have a velcro dog, it should be for the right reasons. Your dog should be happy and well-adjusted, and staying close to you out of love and affection.
Separation anxiety can be a problem with many dogs. If your dog is anxious, it could be that laying on top of you or sleeping on you reduces that anxiety. It could be that laying on top of the dog owner is a way of preventing him from leaving.
If that is the case, you will see other symptoms of anxiety, particularly as you are about to leave and go out.
It is more likely that the underlying intention is to give you affection, protection and security. Your dog also gets the same benefits — he will also gain security and protection.
Dog sleep is actually quite a large subject. The many variations of dog sleeping position have different underlying reasons. A particular sleeping habit that your dog has can reveal much about his state of mind and well-being.
There is also the history of lap dogs to consider. There is little doubt that this is linked to elements of behavior in today's domestic dogs.
A lap dog is thought of as a small dog, which can fit comfortably in a person's lap, or be held in the arms. But the predisposition to lay on, or close to, the owner is present in all manner of dogs.
According to Wikipedia, 'Genetic analysis reveals that lapdogs are among the earliest specific types of dogs to live with people'.
So the lineage of today's domestic dog can be traced back directly to the lapdogs of long ago. It's likely that the tendency to lay on top of their owner, or lay close to him, has been bred into all manner of dog breeds over a very long period.
The 'lap dog' behavior of our giant Cane Corsos has caused many a smile. Our 130-lb male would frequent jump on the sofa and throw himself on my lap. He didn't entirely fit, of course, but that didn't stop him from trying!
He also managed to get his entire weight on my wife's lap, by sitting upright. His 130 lbs to her 100 lbs meant that she was completely dwarfed.
She was also totally pinned to the sofa. She had to turn her head to the side to breathe, and couldn't move until I got him off her! He was simply expressing his lap dog tendencies, and his affection and wish to be close.
If your dog is lying on top of you, or lying close to you, it is most likely because he is giving and getting affection, security and comfort. For most people this is perfectly acceptable, and is welcomed.
If you don't want your dog to do this, make sure he has a comfortable dog bed, and reward him for using it.
If you suspect that your dog is lying on you for a more negative reason, watch for other behavior which confirms this, and discourage the behavior accordingly.
Why Does My Dog Lay His Head On Me?
As a pack animal, your dog recognizes you as part of his pack. Hopefully, the alpha, the leader. He naturally wants to be associated with the alpha, and stay close. It's also a simple matter of affection. You and your dog have developed a bond, and he is expressing that.
Why Does My Dog Lay On My Feet?
It may be from a need to guard or protect you. It can also be a simple sign of affection and wanting to be close. It can also be a leftover instinct from the pack behavior of a wild dog. The leader chooses a place to lay and the rest of the pack gathers around for safety. The closer to the leader, the better the position.