- Dogs are affectionate animals — They show love for their owners by snuggling in laps or stretching out on top of them when they lie on the floor.
- Dogs seek comfort from threats — A dog may jump into your lap if they feel threatened or scared.
- Dogs find warmth and security in your bed — You may find your dog prefers to snuggle up with you at nighttime for warmth and security.
Whether your furry friend is large or small, young or old, high-energy or laid-back, they probably occasionally flop down on top of you. You may wonder why this is, especially if your dog has a perfectly comfy bed near your feet. Quite simply, it’s very comforting for dogs to cuddle with their owners. However, there are biological reasons your pup wants to camp out on your lap, stomach, or back. Here are five facts to consider:
- Snuggling is in their blood. Lying with you is part of a dog’s pack mentality. Dogs, after all, are descendants of wolves that lay with their pack members for security and warmth. Dogs consider their owners part of their pack. They want to provide protection and comfort, too.
- They want to show affection. Since dogs sleep so much of the day, lying with you is very common, and typically seen as a sign of affection. Whether sleeping or awake, dogs want to connect with their owners. Encouraging the lounging behavior may even strengthen your bond with your dog or puppy.
- They’re looking for protection. Being physically close to their owners can provide a sense of calm and security to dogs. This is especially important during upsetting events such as thunderstorms or fireworks.
- They’re asserting dominance. If you just added a new pet to your household, your dog may lay on top of you as a way to show dominance. They want to be the top dog, so to speak, and this behavior is how they demonstrate this desire.
- They’re spreading their scent. You may notice your dog lies on you after you’ve had visitors, especially of the furry variety. Your dog is getting close to you to spread their scent, ensuring that you “belong” to them.
Common sleeping positions for dogs and owners
When it’s time for bed, your dog may jump up the minute you pull back the sheets. If you’re cool sharing the covers with Fido, know you have plenty of company. Research from the Sleep Foundation shows that 56% of people sleep with their dogs in the bedroom.
Stephanie Borns-Weil, a veterinary behaviorist who teaches at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, said there is no reason why dogs shouldn’t sleep in their owner’s bed if their owner prefers this arrangement.
If you are in this camp, you may find that your dog snuggles up in some unusual positions. Each position provides something your dog needs:
- In between your legs. A dog may settle down for the night between your legs. This position provides warmth and comfort for your dog and a buffer against loud noises.
- Under the blanket. In general, dogs like to burrow under the covers for a sense of security. However, some breeds with a hunting heritage, like dachshunds, border collies, and Airedale terriers, are more likely to burrow under blankets. This comes from their ancestors digging tunnels and searching for rodents underground.
- Curled in a ball. Some dogs start the night in a ball with their front and back legs tucked in and their head bent forward. It helps them warm up before drifting off to sleep. Occasionally, however, this position can signal anxiety.
- On your neck or face. Some dogs, especially puppies, choose to sleep on your neck or even on your face. This is a way to find both body heat and comfort.
- Next to your head. Your dog may act like your pillow belongs to them, too. Consider this an act of love. Pillows carry your scent and dogs love the familiarity.
Uncovering the real reason your dog likes to lie on you
For owners who have established themselves as the pack leader, their dog is likely lying on them as a sign of affection. However, if a dog lacks discipline and thinks they’re in charge, they are probably lying on their owner as a sign of dominance. If you suspect it’s the latter, you may want to contact a professional dog trainer or dog behaviorist. It’s also important to understand the many ways your dog communicates with you through body language.
Setting boundaries with your dog
Regardless of whether you think your dog’s habit of lying on you is pleasant or a nuisance, you may want to set some boundaries. Maybe you only want your dog to lie or sit on you when called. Or, maybe you want to ensure your dog doesn’t jump on visitors. Try boundary training, which dictates when and where your dog can lie. Like any other training for dogs, this requires patience and consistency. Boundary training will require you to commit to the three Ds of dog training: duration, distance, and distraction.
For owners who love to cuddle with their dog
There is no reason to restrict this behavior or limit it if you and your dog enjoy it. However, if you feel it’s a product of separation anxiety and you’d like to work on the issue, here are a few suggestions:
Set a timer — Try setting a timer for 20 minutes and then gently move your dog off your lap. See how they react and if you can reassure them with your voice and petting.
Understand underlying anxiety — A change in household routine or family members can cause anxiety. Also, dogs adopted from shelters may exhibit signs of separation anxiety.
Try counter-conditioning — This treatment process shifts an animal’s fearful, anxious or aggressive reaction to a pleasant, relaxed one instead. This can include offering your dog a puzzle toy stuffed with food when you leave the house.
For owners who don’t want to cuddle with their dog
Whether it’s because they’re snoring too loud or you’re not in the mood for the extra body heat, you may not want your dog to lie on you. Here are a few tips to get some space without hurting your relationship with your dog.
Gently slide them off your lap — Don’t move them too abruptly or your dog may view it as a sign of rejection.
Scoot them to the side — Make it clear your dog is allowed to sleep next to you, instead of right on top.
Invest in a high-quality dog bed — A comfortable dog bed provides a more natural sleeping position. And it’s an especially good idea if your dog snores.
Offer a toy or treat — If you want some space, offering your clingy dog a toy or a yummy treat can distract them.
Top affectionate dog breeds
If you’re looking for a pooch that loves to cuddle — and you welcome the lap sitting – consider adopting a dog breed known for their affectionate natures.
- Great Danes. Despite their gargantuan size, great danes are babies at heart. They are dogs that love to cuddle. They also require a lot of socialization and affection.
- Retrievers. Both golden retrievers and Labradors are known as family-friendly dogs. This is because they are playful, patient with children, and extremely affectionate.
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. This popular small dog was bred to please. Cavaliers are good sporting dogs, but they’re also highly affectionate and love to curl up in their owner’s lap.
- Brussels Griffon. This tiny breed brims with personality and affection. Rambunctious and sensitive in nature, the Brussels Griffon tends to stick close to their owners.
- Bulldog. A short dog with a perpetually worried expression, bulldogs are big cuddlers and love nothing more than napping with their human. Bulldogs are gentle, docile, affectionate, and become more relaxed with age. So, if you bond with a young bulldog, you’ll have an affectionate companion for years.
- Newfoundland. This massive breed is known for its gentleness and affection. While they require plenty of exercise and training, Newfoundlands are excellent family dogs, watchful, sweet, and loyal.
- Dachshund. These tiny dogs are extremely playful and affectionate. Dachshunds make excellent house dogs as they are very loyal and like to be near their owners, children, and other pets.
- Pugs. Although pugs have a reputation for being stubborn, they are also affectionate and loyal companions. They typically want to be with their owners and will frequently climb into your lap to settle down for a nap.
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Frequently asked questions
Why does my dog lie beside me or between my legs?
Dogs find comfort being close to you. When they lie beside you or between your legs, they’re looking for extra body warmth and a sense of security. If they end up between your legs and under the blanket, they can’t hear as many distracting or scary noises.
Why do dogs lie on you?
Dogs lie on you for a number of reasons, primarily as a source of affection. They also lie on you if they’re feeling insecure or afraid, if they want to show dominance, and to share their scent as a way to claim their territory.
Why do dogs touch you when they sleep?
This may be a sign of protection, especially if other people are around. A dog could also touch you while you sleep to get your attention or to feel more secure.