Help! Why does my dog lay on top of me?
It’s common for dogs to lay on top of its owner, and there are a lot of reasons why they are doing this.
The main reasons why your dog lays on top of you might either be its need for warmth, it may feel the need of protecting you or it wants to feel safe, it might be demanding of your attention, or laying on top of you is its way to show its affection.
This behavior is entirely normal, but sometimes, too much of it cannot be very enjoyable.
With the crazy things that are going on around us, some of us might find comfort in food, some in shopping, but I believe that there is no problem in life that a dog’s cuddle can’t fix.
That statement might sound very cheesy, but it has been proven by various scientific studies conducted by Allen et al., Banks and Banks between 2002 to 2005.
According to the results obtained, the significant effects of human-animal interactions include lowering heart rate and blood pressure and reducing stress and loneliness. And in fact, this feeling is mutual- since they also benefit from this behavior.
However, it is understandable if you would like to stop this behavior of your dogs. We will not judge you for wanting to do that!
Dogs laying on top of you can surely diminish your level of productivity, especially if you are working from home.
Likewise, some people can develop allergies or skin rashes if their dogs are too clingy on them. If you ever find your dog lying on top of you and are curious about why it does this, continue reading.
9 reasons why dogs lay on top of you
Your dog loves your warmth
Your dog might be lying on top of you because it wants to feel warm. According to Klein’s study regarding a dog’s physiology, a dog’s body temperature depends on a balance between heat inputs from the internal and external environment heat outputs.
If the environment’s temperature is more than the dog’s body temperature, your dog will absorb the heat from the environment.
Therefore, if your dog’s temperature is low, it will tend to go to an environment with a higher temperature, which in this case, is on top of you, so it can absorb the average temperature that its body needs.
Now, if your dog lays on top of you on a rainy evening, make sure to pat their head and let them feel that you can give them the warmth that they need.
Your dog feels the need to protect you
Even if domestic dogs vary from feral dogs in terms of behavior, most dogs still possess their instincts, such as protecting the head of their pack- and that is you.
Your dog might be laying on top of you as a protective action when they do this around other animals or humans that they are not familiar with or if they do this while having their eyes fixed on the door.
Now for those who are still not convinced that dogs are the best pet in the world, let me tell you this: you can never find any act of service in the world that is as loyal and loving as this.
Here is the ten most protective dog breed according to the American Kennel Club, and if your pooch is one of them, this just confirms that them laying on top of your means that you are well-guarded:
• Anatolian Shepherd Dog
• Appenzeller Sennenhund
• Australian Shepherd Dog
• Barbados da Terceira
• Belgian Laekenois
• Bergamasco Sheepdog
• Black Russian Terrier
Your dog feels the need to be protected
The 4th of July just ended, and perhaps your dog has acted weirdly due to the fireworks lit for the occasion. One of the behaviors that it might have shown is laying on top of you.
Now, for some dogs, this might mean them being over-protective, but during this instance, a dog laying on top of you might mean it seeks protection.
Signs of fear in dogs may also be accompanied by panting, salivation, trembling, restless pacing, vocalization, and in extreme cases, urination and defecation (Palestrini, 2009).
If your dog is lying on top of you because it fears something, you should find a way to calm him down. Providing distractions such as butt scratches and belly rubs is proven to be helpful. Still, you can also administer calming remedies such as dog-appeasing pheromones (DAP), which mimic the hormones produced by lactating bitches to pacify their puppies (Mills et al., 2012).
You have a copy-dog!
If your love language is affection, your dog might have copied that too. Dog behaviorists have proved that a dog could mirror its owner’s emotions and behaviors.
If you, for example, love to cuddle and spend time with your dog when you come home from a long day at work, your dog would probably imitate this too.
Some researchers think that this is due to intense cohabitation that dogs could emulate unique human actions, and that’s not a far-fetched idea since how a dog’s mind works are incredibly fascinating.
Your dog wants attention
Owning a dog has taught me many things, but I have learned that they thrive for attention above them all.
They may not be able to verbalize this desire to be noticed. Still, they compensate it with non-stop barking, vocalization, and physical mannerisms like nudging, licking or laying on top of their owner.
Dogs are brilliant and creative in terms of convincing their pet parents to give them what they want, and if getting what they want means laying on top of you while you are peacefully sleeping or just minding your own business, they will never hesitate
Your dog is affectionate
You can look your worst and feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, but you will still be the most beautiful being in your dogs’ eyes.
But not all dogs show their love the same way; other dogs are more affectionate than the other, much like dogs have different ways of showing their owners that they love them.
Other dogs might lick your face, some might stay close to your office chair while you work at home, and others might lay on top of you.
If you know that your dog is naturally affectionate, there is no need to be bothered by this behavior. This is just your dog’s way to let you know that you are loved.
Your dog is clingy
Separation anxiety in dogs is one of the most rampant problems that dog owners have nowadays.
Since a lot of dog owners have adopted or bought dogs during the quarantine last year, they technically grew up with their fur parents always at home.
They are used to all the attention, and they think that the world only consists of the two of you at home.
The problem arises when you start going back to work. Suddenly, you are mostly outside, and most of the time, they have to spend their days alone.
This causes them to feel anxious, which would result in them developing habits that they might not have done before.
If you have a clingy dog and he starts climbing on top of you, they are not in pain or scared; they most probably think that you will be forced to stay home longer with them on top of you.
Your dog is jealous
Have you recently adopted another pet? If your answer to that is yes, then your dog laying on top of you probably means that it is jealous.
Harris, CR in 2012, has actually studied the feeling of jealousy in dogs. It involved 36 dogs that were individually tested and videotaped to monitor their reaction when their owner ignored them.
There were three conditions imposed during this research: The first is when the owner treated a stuffed dog as if it were a real dog, to know if they get jealous over other dogs; the second is when the owners focused their attention on a jack-o-lantern pail which tested if jealousy in dogs is stimulated by its owner through an appropriate stimulus.
In the third condition, the owner was tasked to read a children’s book with pop-up pages and playing melodies in the hopes of knowing if the dog is feeling jealous over the owner’s affection to the book or due to the sadness that they feel due to the loss of owner’s attention.
This study has proven that dogs get jealous because they didn’t react negatively towards the inanimate objects; however, they felt jealous and aggressive even towards the fake dog.
You reinforce the behavior
Reinforcing a dog’s behavior means you are not saying ‘no’ to what it’s doing. You might not realize this, but the slightest reaction you make to your dogs’ actions molds their behavior.
If they crawl on top of you the first time and you didn’t do anything about it, they would think that laying on top of you is fine.
This is why Victoria Stillwell, in her show “It’s Me or the Dog,” emphasizes the need for clear boundaries between you and your dog. Dogs are impressionable, so if you don’t want your pet lying on top of you, put him down gently and tell him ‘away.’
Do not pet it when it is on top of you because this will just confuse the dog but not stop this behavior.
In general, there is nothing wrong with your dog crawling on top of you. But if you don’t want that, do not reinforce that behavior.
When would you consider this a problem?
Dogs laying on top of you is a cute, cuddly, and comforting experience for both of you. However, keep in mind that there might be some reasons that you might want to avoid reinforcing this behavior. For instance, you might find yourself very unproductive, especially if you need to do online tasks or household chores.
Consultations with your local vet are necessary if you do not want your dog to infect you with transmissible diseases.
Also, you and your bed might be infested with ticks or fleas if you forget to address your dogs’ grooming needs.
If you overlook it, this might be a problem for you, especially if your dogs love laying on top of you for extended periods.
Other than health concerns, an underlying behavioral problem might also be a problem that you need to address.
Firstly, your dogs might be anxious about something. If dogs get anxious, they go to you, their pack leader, to get some sense of security and comfort.
Some dogs get the need to dominate you! You can consider this a problem because sooner or later, another more problematic concern might inconvenience you.
It would be best to make sure that your dog knows that they live in your home in which you are the boss!
An obvious sign that this behavior becomes a problem is when you are very uncomfortable with your dog on top of you.
You will feel this problem especially if you have a large dog! If they are just puppies, it can still be tolerable.
But as they grow into adult size, you might want to find ways for them to stop laying on top of you.
How can you stop this behavior?
Here are some tips that you can follow if you are interested in stopping your dog from lying on top of you:
Teach your dog to stay somewhere else
Teaching your dog to lie or stay somewhere else might be the least complex solution. You can try commanding them with “sit” or “stay.”
This way, you can ensure that your dogs listen to your word and you avoid spoiling them in doing what they want. This tip will be successful if you have a comfortable bed or place where your dog can stay.
Hence, you have established that this space is for you and that space is for your beloved pet.
Do your best to avoid encouraging them to lay on top of you
There are times when you might be unconsciously “rewarding” your dog when it lay on top of you.
For example, you might be cuddling, kissing, or patting them in the head once they get on a position on top of you. Some dogs might find this rewarding; hence, they repeat the behavior.
You can try to do positive reinforcement training
Positive reinforcement training pertains to a training method where you encourage your dog to do something by giving them rewards or treats after successfully following you.
In conjunction with the previous tip, avoid rewarding them when they get on top of you, and reward them when they don’t.
Arrange a comfortable spot for them to sleep in. You can begin the positive reinforcement training by asking them to stand in their designated comfortable space. Reward them if they accomplish this.
Then, give a treat every time they lay there. All you need to do is be patient, as this process needs to be repeated multiple times a day.
Soon, you will realize that your dog does it on its own, even without the treats!
Your dogs’ new space must be very comfortable!
All the previous tips to stop your dog from laying on you would be unsuccessful if you made their new space very uncomfortable. If humans want their bed to be as cozy as possible, then dogs would love that as well!
Their new spot must be cool and not too humid. It is preferred not to be under direct sunlight as your dog might find that too hot and avoid the space on their own.
Likewise, fix the area in a way that your dog can fit on it. Take note if it is too small, especially if you have big dogs with you.
Reduce your dogs’ separation anxiety
One of the possible reasons for having your dogs constantly lay on top of you might be due to separation anxiety.
If you traced that this is the cause of their behavior, here are some tips to help your dog alleviate it. Try giving it enough exercise, feed them well, and provide reassurance.
Consult a professional if things get out of hand
As previously mentioned, dogs might have an underlying behavioral problem. So, they tend to lay on top of you.
If these tips do not work with you and your dog, an underlying issue might need to be uncovered and addressed. A professional’s help is highly recommended at this point.
Dogs are very affectionate pets. You will indeed find them as part of your family! We all have different ways to show our affection.
Since some dogs want to show their affection to you by laying on top of you, some might have other motives.
Hopefully, this article helped you get an idea of possible reasons why your dog does this to you!
Do not feel guilty if you want this behavior to stop. It would be best to follow our tips to ensure that your relationship with your dog will not be harmed.
Remember, dogs are amazing creatures, and we surely cannot live without them!