Why Does My Dog Sit on Me?

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How many times have you looked at your pup and thought, “Why does my dog sit on me, even though there’s a perfectly comfortable empty spot on the bed or couch?” It’s not just because they love you (though they definitely do), but there’s actually a practical explanation behind it.

Why does my dog sit on me?

Whether it’s a plea for attention or an aggressive display of dominance, here’s why your dog is sitting on you, and when it’s cause for concern.

1. Attention

Your dog will come sit on you, perhaps bringing a toy or showing their belly, when they want some playtime and attention. Dogs are social animals and need displays of love from their owners. Since they can’t verbally ask for affection, this is their way of requesting it.

As long as your pup isn’t being too aggressive (like snapping at you or barking loudly for attention), this is no reason for concern and is perfectly normal.

However, if your dog is doing this frequently or whining, it may mean you need to spend more time with them or give them some belly rubs. You’ll make your best friend happy, and you’ll probably enjoy it, too.

2. Breed behavior

It makes perfect sense for smaller dog breeds to want to sit on you. Breeds like the Shih Tzu, Chihuahua, or Maltese are called “lap dogs” for a reason, they fit right in your lap!

It also gives them added height, which can make them feel safer as well, especially if they feel threatened or insecure.

Sometimes larger dog breeds seem to think they’re tiny lap dogs, though.

Great Danes and English Mastiffs, for example, are known to try to sit in their owners’ laps, despite their large size. These breeds are known as gentle giants and are only trying to show affection the same way a much smaller dog would.

If it doesn’t bother you, let your dog sit in your lap. If they’re too big or you just plain don’t want your dog sitting on you, train them to be okay with sitting nearby.

3. Marking

Dogs like to sit on you to spread their scent, which is a way of marking their territory and showing their ownership of you.

This doesn’t mean they’re trying to dominate you so much as warning others that you’re taken. Your dog may increase this behavior if there are other pets or children around, or if you’ve just returned from somewhere with the scent of other animals on you.

Considering the other ways dogs like to mark their territory, like urinating, sitting on you is relatively harmless.

4. Security

Some dogs will sit on or touch you, especially when they sleep, so that they can know any time you make a move. This is mostly for their benefit, as you’re their main source of food and love, and it guarantees they’ll know if you leave the room or house.

But dogs also like to be aware of your movements for your sake, as they think it’s their job to protect you, and feel like you’re both safest when you’re together.

In some cases, this may be a sign of separation anxiety disorder.

5. Cuddling

Sometimes dogs sit on you because they just want a warm, smelly, snuggly spot for them to feel safe and loved.

Dogs will also cuddle with other dogs or animals for the same reason.

So whenever you or your pup needs an emotional boost, grab some popcorn and your favorite movie, maybe a little treat or toy for your good boy, and snuggle up together for some quality time.

You’ll both feel better, and it will even strengthen your bond.

6. Dominance

One of the only times sitting on you is cause for concern and your dog must be trained out of this behavior is when they’re doing it as a display of dominance over you or others.

If your dog sits on you and starts to show aggressive behavior, such as growling at you or at other people or animals that try to approach you, this is dominant behavior and it’s not cute.

While it’s normal and acceptable for your dog to want to sit on your lap when other animals are around, they shouldn’t be aggressive about it. Don’t encourage or reward any rude barking or snapping.

Having your dog climb on top of you for some cuddles is one of the best feelings, but what happens when it becomes a bit much?

Here’s what you should do:

  • Identify why your dog is sitting on you in the first place. Is it an attention-seeking behavior? Do they feel the need to be close to you? Are they trying to show dominance? Once you’ve identified the cause, you can work with your dog to fix it.
  • Provide an alternative place for your dog to sit. This can be a dog bed or crate where they can feel safe and comfortable. If they’re allowed on the couch, you can even lay a mat or blanket for them to sit on.
  • Stand up whenever your dog tries to sit on you. Dogs learn by association and if they see that sitting on you doesn’t get them what they want, they’ll eventually stop. Just don’t move or push them off, as they may think you want to play.
  • Teach your dog when it’s okay to sit in your lap. Use the words “on” or “up” to indicate when it’s okay to jump up (you could also add a hand signal) and reward them with a treat when they get it right.

If your dog shows signs of extreme aggression toward you or others, you should seek professional dog training advice.

In conclusion

Doesn’t matter if they end up on our lap, at our feet, or on our head or chest — dogs like to be close to us for many reasons, most of which are perfectly normal and are not cause for worry.

While pet owners love this display of affection and attention from their dogs, if your pup is too big or rowdy, or is simply too dominant, you may want to stop this behavior or consult a professional trainer for advice.

Also, if you don’t like snuggling, but still want a pet, perhaps you ought to consider a goldfish?

About the author

Li-ran Bukovza

Li-ran believes that our dogs can teach us more than we could ever teach them. He's fascinated by the dog-human bond and loves researching and writing about new pet trends. With the help of Richie (his trusty Maltese sidekick), he hopes to help as many people as possible understand the beautiful, complex world of canine companionship.