Why does my dog lay on me?

January 27, 2024 - 5 min read
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding your pet’s care, treatment, or medical conditions.
boston terrier laying on owner on top of couch

Dogs have a knack for finding the coziest spot in the house, and sometimes that spot is you. Pooches both big and small have been known to treat their humans like La-Z-Boys, from the tiniest Chihuahuas (easy peasy) to the largest Great Danes (uh, 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 fulfill 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 behavioral issue.

Why dogs lay on their owners

Old dog

So what’s going through your pup's mind when they decide to turn you into their personal couch? It’s not just about finding a pleasant spot; it’s also about emotional comfort and security. To feel safe, dogs tend to seek out close physical connection with their favorite humans.

Simply put, you are your dog’s world—their pack leader, their source of love and comfort. Actually, neurological research has found that dogs exhibit strong emotional attachments to THEIR humans—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.

When your dog lays on you, they’re demonstrating their trust, security, and affection—and undoubtedly hoping to receive some affection in return.

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

Should you be worried about your dog laying 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 behavior. If your once-solitary pupper suddenly starts sprawling across your belly three times a day, some health or mood issues may be afoot (or at least a-paw).

Dogs often get clingier when they’re not feeling well and need some comfort. Also, dogs who are losing a sense like sight or hearing may be more likely to get clingy, both for comfort during a stressful time and to have an easier time seeing or hearing their pet parent. This is a common reason for clinginess in seniors, in particular.

And aside from any physical health conditions, this behavior can be a sign of anxiety or stress. Dogs are very sensitive creatures, and they can pick up on changes in their environment or routine. If something is making them anxious, they might stick closer to you for reassurance.

Man and dog looking at laptop

They may react this way to a variety of 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. They can also become anxious due to alterations in their daily routine, such as a change in their feeding schedule, a different walking path, or their pet parent's altered work hours, causing 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 behavior 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.

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 any concerns about a potential health issue or mood disorder in your dog, it's always best to err on the side of caution and consult with 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 of reasons.

How to train your dog to be more independent

Dog being fed an apple

While it's certainly 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 own 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.

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

Dalmatian

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

If your dog is physically healthy but showing signs of behavioral changes, they may simply need a bit of time to adjust to changing circumstances in their life. However, a dog behaviorist 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 behavior 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 cozy nap spot (though surely you are that as well). You’re also their go-to provider of affection and comfort. Maybe they’re just looking for some lovin’. 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 


David Teich
Lead Content Editor

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