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why does my dog lay on me

Why Does My Dog Lay On Me? Is Something Wrong?

Dogs lay on people for many reasons. While some of these may indicate a problem, the overwhelming majority of them are nothing to worry about.

For dog lovers and dog pet owners, cuddling with your beloved dog might be one of the highlights of your relationship with them. However, you may have noticed your dog laying across you or on top of you when you sit on the couch or relax in bed.

Dogs lay on you for a number of reasons including their desire for comfort and security, to ease anxiety, for physical warmth, for attention, to protect you, and to show affection. If you don’t mind your dog laying on you, it is generally okay to let them.

If you’ve ever wondered why your dog lays on you, the various answers from anxiety to warmth might surprise you. Continue reading to learn more about dog behaviors and why your four-legged pal lays on you.

Dogs and Their Instincts

One of the main reasons that your dog might lay on you is because of their instinctual causes. These causes are personality traits embedded into the genes of dogs as they evolved from wolves and wild canines thousands of years ago. The instincts of your dog might also depend on the development of its breed. 

Small hound dogs like dachshunds, for example, tend to have territorial instincts and lay on their owners to keep their territory, or human, all to themselves.

Comfort and Safety

If your dog is laying on you, this might be because they are either seeking comfort and safety from unusual events or sounds such as the following:

  • Fireworks
  • Explosions
  • Parades
  • Loud music
  • A car backfiring
  • Blender or grinder
  • Shouting

They could also be laying on you in an attempt to offer you a sense of comfort of safety. If you are crying, upset, or even worried, your dog can tell your change in mood through the scent of hormones that are released as well as hearing and distinguishing subtle nuances in your vocalizations.

When the dog senses that you are sad, they come to you for comfort, often laying across you to show that they are there for you.

Feeling Anxiety

Another reason that your dog lays on you could be that they are feeling stress or dealing with an anxiety disorder. Many dogs that come from rescue homes, shelter facilities, puppy mills, or have once been stray dogs tend to exhibit signs of trauma and PTSD. PTSD, also known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, affects both people and animals after a difficult, taxing, and traumatic event or hard childhood or puppyhood has occurred.

Dogs with anxiety are commonly prone to violent outbursts, anger toward specific traits like tall people, hats, or loud noises, or even other dogs. They also seek shelter, cool and calm spaces, and physical attention from their main caretaker to soothe their anxiety.

If your dog is laying on you regularly and you worry that they might have an anxiety problem, consider taking them to their veterinarian as soon as possible. Many dogs with anxiety benefit from antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication prescribed by their vet.

Looking for Warmth

A dog that lays on you mostly at night, in the very early morning, or during the Fall and Winter seasons might be looking for warmth. If your dog is simply cuddling to gain some warmth from your body, this is nothing to worry about unless they are also shaking or shivering uncontrollably.

When you see that your dog is laying on you for warmth and find yourself wondering, “why does my dog lay on my legs?” just enjoy the cuddle! You can also offer them a blanket to cuddle under and consider turning up the heat to create a more comfortable atmosphere for both of you.

A Sign of Initiation and Respect

If you are wondering, “why does my dog lay his head on me?” it could be because they want to honor you. When wild dogs, street dogs, or even domesticated pet dogs are initiating people or other dogs into their pack, laying on each other is seen as a sign of respect. 

dog lays on man's head

If a dog is laying on you in a calm and docile way, it means they have accepted you and are showing you their love. Some signs that a dog is lovingly laying on you are:

  • Their head down or resting on you
  • The tail is very slowly wagging or completely still
  • Ears are relaxed rather than pulled back or perked up
  • Eyes are either closed of half-closed
  • The dog is breathing slowly and heavily or is even snoring
  • You notice your dog dreaming or twitching in their sleep

If a dog is laying on you constantly and calmly, and eventually ends up falling asleep, this means that they love or trust you enough to let their guard down around you. They feel protected and can relax when feeling your physical presence.

Dogs Detecting Illness

A rather unlikely but possible reason that your dog is suddenly beginning to lay on you can possibly be due to its ability to detect illness in humans. While not all dogs have this ability, researchers have found that if a domesticated dog has a strong bond with its human, its sense of smell becomes attuned to them. 

Therefore, it is possible that the dog can detect the following ailments:

  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Malaria
  • Parkinson’s disease

Some dogs are also able to detect seizures before they happen, and are trained to alert their owner so they can find a safe place before it occurs.

While this is a true marvel in animal-human research, don’t be too alarmed if your dog begins to lay on you. While going to the doctor is always a good idea, the chances that your pup thinks something is wrong with your health are very low.

Why Do Dogs Lay On Other Dogs?

Dogs tend to lay on other dogs for some of the similar reasons that they would lay on a human being. These reasons can include any of the following:

  • Their instincts lead them to seek physical attention and affection
  • They are looking for warmth in cold weather
  • They are comforting another dog
  • They feel anxiety and are looking for a safe space or dog friend to keep them feeling secure
  • They are exhibiting signs of respect and comfortability with the other dog

When your dog lays on another dog, it can also mean that they are trying to play. Dogs like to throw their weight around with each other and play tackle, similar to how some human children enjoy playing.

Dogs laying on each other can also be a way to exhibit their dominance. If a big herding dog such as a sheepdog, retriever, or even a guard dog like a German Shepherd decides they want to show dominance to another dog, they may try to mount them by getting on top of them or physically restrain and lower them by laying on top of them.

Encouraging Your Dog to Lay Elsewhere

If you are not a fan of physical touch, cuddling, or having your dog lay on you, it is okay to tell them to lay elsewhere as long as you do it respectfully. Since there is typically nothing wrong with having your dog lay on you, you don’t need to punish your dog or command them aggressively if they choose to lay on their human caregivers.

There are, however, a few reasons that would make it inappropriate, poor behavior, or even unhealthy for your dog to lay on you. These include:

  • If your dog faces extreme anxiety and can only feel comfortable when laying on you
  • If your dog is aggressive and showing extreme dominance while trying to lay on you
  • If your dog is breathing irregularly or showing signs of other illness
  • If you are constantly thinking “why does my dog lay on my back?”

If you notice any of the above conditions occurring when your dog tries to lay on you, consult your veterinarian or behavior specialist as soon as possible as their professional help can assist you and your dog in dealing with this problem.

dog lays on top of man

How to Keep Your Dog from Laying on You

For anyone who has a dog that loves to lay on top of them and has decided that you don’t like it, there are ways to encourage your dog to lay elsewhere. If your dog is trained, consider using the following keywords, tactics, and rewards:

  • Gently telling them “no” or “no thank you”
  • Point towards the ground until they hop off
  • Relocating a smaller dog by placing them elsewhere and giving them a treat
  • Enticing your dog to lay somewhere else with food
  • Gently telling your dog to get “off” or go “nearby” if you want them to sit next to you instead of on top of you

You can also train your dog to go to a specific place like a mat, a bed, or their crate (a good behavior to teach regardless of whether they are laying on you or not). Once your dog reliably listens to your command to do this, you can then direct them to this place when they are laying on top of you against your wishes.

Remember that dogs are like children. They are sensitive and emotional creatures that seek the love and attention of those around them. Treating them kindly and with empathy will always supply you with the best behavioral results.

Why Does My Dog Lay On Top of Me?

For any dog owner that is noticing that your dog has started laying on top of you and is wondering why, the most likely reason is that your dog is just seeking attention.

Make sure that your dog is not experiencing a medical problem or signs of anxiety, and then go ahead and enjoy the cuddle! After all, one of the great benefits of having a dog is being able to snuggle up with them and enjoy a relaxing evening curled up together on the couch.

Superb Dog Editor

Superb Dog Editor