Why does my dog lay on me?

7 March 2024 - 5 min read
boston terrier laying on owner on top of couch

Dogs have a knack for finding the cosiest spot in the house and sometimes that spot is you. Pooches both big and small have been known to treat their humans like a pillow, from the tiniest Chihuahuas (easy peasy) to the largest Great Danes (good luck with that).

But have you ever wondered why your dog chooses to lay on you instead of that dog bed in the corner? Whether it's for warmth, comfort, or to fulfil some deeper psychological need, knowing why your dog treats you like a bed can strengthen the bond you share with them—or maybe even help you address an illness or a behavioural issue.

Why dogs lay on their owners

Old dog

So what’s going through your pup's mind when they turn you into their couch? It’s not just about finding a pleasant spot; it’s also about emotional comfort and security. Dogs want a close physical connection with their favourite humans to feel safe.

Simply put, you're your dog’s world—their pack leader, their source of love and comfort. Dogs form strong emotional attachments to their owners-not just any humans. So when your dog lays on you, they’re demonstrating their trust, security, and affection—and undoubtedly hoping to receive some affection in return.

There’s another, more practical reason your dog lies on you: warmth. Dogs love to be cosy! In the wild, they (and their lupine cousins) instinctively huddle together for warmth. But in the confines of home, you make for a perfectly acceptable, warm body.

Should you be worried about your dog lying on you?

Great dane sleeping

A cuddly doggo is usually something to be desired, but do watch out for any sudden or unexplained changes in behaviour. If your once-solitary dog suddenly starts sprawling across your belly three times a day, they may have some health or mood issues.

Dogs often get clingier when they’re not feeling well and need some comfort. Also, dogs losing a sense of sight or hearing may get clingy, both for comfort during stress and to have an easier time seeing or hearing their pet parent. This is a common reason for clinginess in older dogs.

Aside from any physical health conditions, this behaviour can be a sign of anxiety or stress. Dogs are sensitive and can pick up on environmental or routine changes. If something makes them anxious, they might stick closer to you for reassurance.

Man and dog looking at laptop

They may react this way to changes or disruptions, such as loud noises from thunderstorms or fireworks, unfamiliar guests, a move to a new home, or changes in the family dynamic like a new baby or a family member moving out. Changes to their feeding schedule, a different walking path, or their pet parent's altered work hours can cause separation anxiety.

If your dog’s newfound clinginess coincides with some stressful life developments—or if it simply seems too out-of-the-blue to be normal—then take note of any other changes in behaviour or appetite. Look for signs like reduced interest in food, unusual lethargy, excessive licking or grooming, or changes in potty habits. These can be indicators of stress or illness.

If you have concerns about a potential health issue or mood disorder in your dog, it's always best to consult your vet. A thorough exam can help identify any underlying issues. With the right care and treatment, your vet can help your dog get back to lying on top of you for only the happiest and healthiest reasons.

How to train your dog to be more independent

Dog being fed an apple

While it's heartwarming to have your dog snuggle up with you, it's also perfectly reasonable to crave some boundaries. By all means, teach your dog when it's appropriate to leap into your lap (like when you’re on the couch) and when it’s not (like when you’re driving).

Start by deciding when and where it's all right for your dog to lay on you, then use positive reinforcement training techniques to teach these boundaries. If your dog lays on you at an inappropriate time, gently guide them to their bed or a designated spot and reward them for staying there.

Consistency is everything when it comes to dog and puppy training. To avoid confusing your pup, make sure everyone in your household understands and follows these rules.

Finally, consider the size and breed of your dog. Larger dogs are more likely to unintentionally hurt someone by laying on them. (Have you ever tried to double as a Mastiff’s pillow? If so, congrats on surviving.)

Also, you should be mindful of who your dog is interacting with, especially if you have children or elderly people in your home. Just because you can tolerate a Saint Bernard leaning against your ankles doesn’t mean your grandma or your 5-year-old will fare as well. 

Setting boundaries doesn't mean you love your dog any less. Training is about creating a safe and comfortable environment for both you and your furry friend. Plus, it helps your dog understand their place in your world, which, in the end, is just another way of making them feel secure and loved.

Dog too clingy? When to seek professional advice


Well, there are different kinds of professionals. Again, your vet can assess whether your dog's behaviour is linked to a physical ailment and provide the necessary treatment or recommendations. Health issues can sometimes manifest as changes in behaviour, so it's important to rule out any medical problems first.

If your dog is physically healthy but showing signs of behavioural changes, they may simply need a bit of time to adjust to changing circumstances in their life. However, a dog behaviourist or a professional trainer might be the next step when problems persist for no obvious reason. These pros can offer insights into your dog's behaviour and provide strategies to address issues like separation anxiety, clinginess, or other displays of stress.

How dog insurance can help

When your dog lays on you, you’re not just a cosy nap spot (though surely you are that as well). You’re also their go-to provider of affection and comfort. On the other hand, maybe they're in dire need of all that affection and comfort because they’re feeling unwell.

And if a health issue is involved, dog insurance can ease the financial burden of treatment, helping you to seek the care your dog needs when they need it. That way 

A person high fiving a dog

Get £15,000 lifetime vet fee cover with our Complete policy.

A person high fiving a dog

David Teich
Lead Content Editor

David Teich is Lead Content Editor at ManyPets. He loves pets, Scrabble, Oxford commas, and typing loudly.