Is it bad for a dog to always want to lay on top of you? The reasons may be more negative than positive.
In this article, I will tell you:
- When to encourage and when to discourage the behavior.
- 3 tips you can use to stop your dog from laying/sleeping on top of you.
- 7 reasons why your dog always wants to lay on top of you (even while you sleep).
- And many more…
Table of contents
- Why does my dog always lay on top of me?
- Why does my dog sleep on top of me?
- 7 reasons why your dog always wants to lay on top of you (even while you sleep)
- 3 tips to stop your dog from laying/sleeping on top of you
Why does my dog always lay on top of me?
Your dog always lays on top of you because they are either protective or want your attention. Their protective instinct kicks in when they perceive threats against you. You might also have unwittingly reinforced the behavior. When rewarded, your dog will repeat a behavior.
Why does my dog sleep on top of me?
Your dog sleeps on top of you because you’re comfortable or as a sign of their affection. Dogs like being on top of you because your body heat warms them. Or they just want to show their love by licking your face. However, be wary if your dog lays on top of you due to separation anxiety.
7 reasons why your dog always wants to lay on top of you (even while you sleep)
#1: Your dog finds you comfortable and warm
Where it’s comfortable, there your dog is. Even if it’s on top of you.
This is more likely if you and your dog spend a lot of time together. They’ll want to climb on top of you because they don’t want you to be apart.
Alternatively, your dog might find you more comfortable than their own bed.
This is especially true for small breeds of dogs that have less hair. Your body heat makes you an inviting pillow for your pooch.
You’ll notice more of this instance when it’s wintertime. Your dog will want to cuddle with you more to feel warm.
#2: You reinforce the behavior
Imagine coming home from a long day at work. Or school.
It’s tiring and you want to chill watching TV before dinner.
While on the couch, your sweet dog crawls on top of you to lay on your chest. You instinctively reach out to rub their ears.
Or to kiss their head and give them cuddles.
These things are reinforcing for a dog. You don’t ask them to leave, so they think it’s okay to lay on top of you.
Plus they get petted for doing so.
Note: Your reactions are like rewards for laying on top of you. And every time they do it that you don’t stop them, the behavior gets reinforced.
#3: Your dog is protective of you
Over the years you develop a strong bond with your dog.
They see you as part of their pack. Thus, they feel the need to protect you against perceived threats.
Not all dogs are the same, though. Some are more protective than others.
Protective dog #1
A pet owner shares on a forum about his two dogs. One, a Goldendoodle (Golden Retriever Mini Poodle mix). Another, a German Shepherd.
You’d think that between these dogs, the German Shepherd is more protective. No, it’s the other dog.
The Goldendoodle protected the owner and even the German Shepherd on many occasions. For example, the Goldendoodle bit a man that the owner had an argument with.
On another occasion, the Goldendoodle protected the German Shepherd from a Husky.
The German Shepherd, on the other hand, is also protective but avoids physical attacks. He would just stare somebody down until the other backed down.
Protective dog #2
Another pet owner shares his own experience with his Pug. He recounts how one day, he was outside with his Pug asleep on his lap.
A Great Dane, which you know is a giant, came by. The Pug jumped down from his lap and barked, lunged, and growled at the Great Dane.
See? These dogs have different protective instincts. But I’m sure we can all agree that dogs have this protective instinct in them.
Their instinct is to protect their owners and to care for them in their own ways.
Protective out of jealousy
But could it be that they protect you out of jealousy? When you have many dogs at home, one of them might ‘protect’ you from the others.
For instance, they would growl at a dog that tries to come to you. Or they would throw a fit when you give attention to your other dogs.
Dinky is one such dog:
Interestingly, dogs do get jealous. That’s according to a 2014 research published on PLOS One.
There were 36 dogs of different breeds in the study. The owners were instructed to ignore the dog and interact with other objects.
The objects were a fake dog, a children’s book, and a plastic jack-o’-lantern.
The results showed that dogs were jealous. But only when the owners petted and talked to the fake dog as if it was real.
They did not act like this toward the children’s book and the jack-o’-lantern.
In addition, 86% of the dogs sniffed the butt of the fake dog. This suggests that these dogs saw the fake dog as real.
Upon reading this research, it reminded me of a video I saw one time. It was Sadie the Golden Retriever that got jealous of a stuffed toy.
#4: Your dog wants attention
Sometimes, a dog’s attention-seeking behaviors can become too much.
In puppies, this is normal. Their survival depends on the care of their mother.
But when they become adults, their tactics to get attention can be annoying.
Here are some common things dogs do to get attention:
- Being restless.
- Climbing on top of you.
- Putting their face next to yours.
My friend’s dog, Oreo, barks if ignored after asking for attention. Her owners find it annoying because Oreo has a loud bark.
But this pooch right here, he ends up laying on top of his owner for some attention:
Why dogs engage in attention-seeking behaviors
Dogs are social animals. They crave attention and interaction with their humans on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, sometimes owners unwittingly encourage the behaviors they don’t want. For instance, you reach out when your dog brushes against your leg.
Another reason for attention-seeking behaviors is boredom. This is more likely to happen if:
- They lack mental stimulation.
- They don’t get enough exercise.
- They are fearful and lack confidence.
What about your own dogs? What do they do to get your attention?
#5: Your dog is affectionate
Your dog lays on top of you as a sign of affection.
They want to interact with you, particularly after you’ve been gone the whole day. Laying on top of you is a convenient way to ask for your time and attention.
Besides, if your dog isn’t close to you, they wouldn’t go near you. But they do because the two of you share a close bond.
If you let them on top of you, it further strengthens your bond.
Not to mention, being this close affords your dog a way to give you licks! Which, you know, is also a sign of affection.
Here’s J.J., a Bernese Mountain dog. He wakes up his owner by going on top of him and giving him kisses.
J.J. has no idea how bone-crushing his weight is. But his owner doesn’t seem to mind:
It makes dogs happy
Apparently, laying on top of you makes your dog happy. You should thank oxytocin for that.
Oxytocin is a hormone that enables both owner and dog to feel good. This study says that oxytocin is released through touch, warmth, and stroking. Pet owners do all of these things to their dogs.
Further, oxytocin is released through eye contact. That’s responsible for the way your heart bursts when looking at your dog’s eyes.
The study furthers that oxytocin has anti-stress effects. In particular, glucocorticoid levels in both humans and dogs are decreased. Glucocorticoid is a stress hormone.
In addition, oxytocin improves social interactions. How?
Oxytocin increases eye contact, face memory, and decreases depression. What’s more, oxytocin counteracts aggression.
Check out also: 15 Reasons Why Your Dog Is (Suddenly) Overly-Affectionate
#6: Your dog has separation anxiety
It’s difficult for pet owners to leave their dog home alone.
This is also difficult for the dog. Especially ones that suffer from separation anxiety.
According to this study:
Separation anxiety is distress when the person of attachment is absent. Dogs simply cannot cope well when their owners are not around.
The study says that the following are the most common destructive behaviors:
- Excessive vocalization (whining and barking).
The less common behaviors are:
- Attempting escape.
- Inappropriate elimination.
Separation anxiety intensifies immediately after the owner’s departure. And dogs show excessive excitement when the owner returns.
They might show their excitement by laying on top of you.
#7: Your dog wants something from you
Dogs may not be able to talk. But they can communicate their needs and wants in many other ways.
Humans just need to be better at decoding these communication cues.
If they want something, they could lay on top of you to relay the message. According to one pet owner, there are times when his dog just wants to be close to him.
Other times, the dog has ulterior motives. For instance, the dog wants to play with him. Or the dog wants a rawhide chew.
Another pet owner says that a dog may be asking for food or water. Or to be let out.
3 tips to stop your dog from laying/sleeping on top of you
#1: Crate train using positive reinforcement
The best way to stop your dog from laying on top of you is crate training. That is, using positive reinforcement.
Instead of sleeping on you, train them to sleep in their own bed. Or crate. Here’s how you can do it:
- Make sure that the bed is comfortable. They should love laying on it.
- Put their crate in a corner away from foot traffic. It should be somewhere where they can have a quiet time. But also where they can observe the family. A corner of your living room is a perfect spot.
- Have your dog stand by their crate. Reward them with a treat.
- Encourage your dog to lay down on their bed by giving them a treat.
- Keep training them until they learned that resting in their crate gets them rewarded.
Here’s another huge benefit of crate training your pooch:
It’s a way to solve separation anxiety. By constant training, they’ll see that their crate is a safe place.
#2: Avoid encouraging the behavior
Dogs are clever creatures. They keep doing something if they get rewarded for it.
The next time they try to lay on top of you, deter them. Doing so teaches your dog their boundaries.
When deterring your dog, do it gently. No shouting. No abrupt pushing. Otherwise, they’ll feel that you’re rejecting them. And this could be confusing for them.
Allow them to remain close to you. But only where you want them.
For instance, by your feet. Or next to you if they’re allowed on the couch or bed.
Note: Be consistent. Do not allow them on top of you when you’re on the couch. In the same way, don’t allow them on top of you while you’re on the bed.
#3: Encourage the behavior… only for the good reasons
A dog laying on top of you is not bad all the time.
Thus, it doesn’t hurt to allow your dog. But only for the right reasons and under your terms.
If you find it comfortable, then, by all means, allow your dog. After all, this could promote bonding between the two of you.
If you allow your dog, train them under your own terms. They should follow your command if you say ‘off’ or ‘no.’