Our dogs do so many interesting things. They fetch sticks, run around aimlessly; they’ll eat, sniff, or lye in literally anything. It’s fair to say that they can be hard to understand. And one behavior in particular that often comes up is how and why our dogs seem to go out of their way to sit on our laps! What is this all about? Well, this is what you will want to know.
So, why does my dog sit on me? Your dog could be sitting on you for a variety of reasons. These reasons include showing ownership of you by spreading their scent onto you, showing dominance over other dogs, out of a desire for your attention, a need to feel secure, or even just as a common behavior trait of some smaller breeds.
As you can see – it’s not a straight or direct answer, really.
So, let’s look more closely at all of those reasons and find out what your dog is up to!
What Does It Mean If A Dog Sits On You?
The meaning and reason for your dog sitting on you depend primarily on the context and the dog. In reality, dogs can and will do this for various different reasons.
Oftentimes a dog sits on its owner in order to feel secure in a new environment.
Other times a dog may sit on its owner to show possession of the person or to passively assert dominance over another dog.
Your dog may also sit on you as a way of seeking attention or as a commonly desired behavior in smaller breeds.
Let us now explore some of the main reasons below.
As your dog’s owner and caregiver, you are a source of comfort and stability for your dog.
Dogs are pack animals that rely on their family members for protection and care.
If your dog recognizes you as the leader of its pack, it will want to be close to you when it feels stressed or is worrying.
The easiest way for your dog to feel safe is to curl up as close to you as possible.
This may mean that they try to curl themselves up on your lap and against your chest.
If your dog is scared, it may be shaking or may try to hide its head under your arm.
If you pet your dog as they curl into you, they may feel better and soon leave your lap.
Showing Possession or Dominance
The place where a dog sits sends signals to other dogs in the area.
Dogs use body language as their main form of communication, and sitting on you sends a few messages to other dogs.
Dog noses are drastically more sensitive than human noses.
When your dog sits on you, its scent spreads onto your clothes and body.
This scent lingers after your dog leaves, and even if you can’t smell it, other pooches in the area can.
When other dogs smell your pet on you, they know that you and your dog belong together.
A dog sitting on a human’s lap also sits slightly higher than a dog on the ground. Being in a higher position shows dominance among dogs.
If your dog is sitting on you to show dominance or possession and another dog tries to approach you, your pet may growl or bare its teeth to warn the other dog away.
Looking For Attention
Dogs show affection and initiate interaction by staying close to each other.
Your dog is not able to use words to communicate to you that it would enjoy cuddles and playtime.
It can, however, sit right on you!
It’s definitely hard to ignore a dog that is resting right in your lap – especially if you own a large breed dog.
When your dog sits on you, it knows it can at least expect a good pet or ear scratch in exchange.
Small Dog Breed Trait
Have you ever heard the term ‘lap dog’? That term was coined for a varied selection of small dogs that were bred specifically as lap companions.
Many of these dogs are small and prefer the company of one person. They were literally bred to spend their days sitting on laps.
If you have a smaller breed, chances are it is sitting on your lap simply because that’s what its instincts tell it to do.
Also, small breeds are often allowed to sit and lay on laps as they don’t take up the same space as a larger dog.
Should You Let A Dog Sit On You?
Whether or not to let your dog sit on you depends on a few factors. Is your dog aggressive towards others when it sits on you? Is your dog large and hurting you when it sits on you? Do you enjoy having your dog sit on your lap? Does your dog respect your command to get off your lap when you give it?
With these questions in mind, let us look at when and when not to let this behavior occur.
When You Can Let Your Dog Sit On You
If you have a small dog or simply enjoy the feeling of your dog sitting on you, then you may not need to do anything at all.
It is okay to enjoy your dog sitting on your lap if it makes both of you happy.
Also, you will want a dog that knows to get down when you request it to.
If your dog sits happily on your lap and it is a positive experience for your relationship, then, by all means, let your dog curl upright on you.
We have a medium-sized Rough Collie who enjoys sitting on our eight-year-old’s lap.
My eight-year-old loves sitting with the dog taking over her lap. The dog is never aggressive or rude.
If my child asks the dog to move, she happily adjusts her position.
Therefore we allow the sitting to continue. If our dog showed signs of aggression or making our child uncomfortable, then we would need to seek to end the behavior.
When You Shouldn’t Let Your Dog Sit On You
If your dog is aggressive towards other dogs or people when it sits on your lap, then you should not let the behavior continue.
Even if you enjoy your dog sitting on your lap, a dog that is possessive or aggressive when sitting on you is a danger not only to other dogs and people — but to you as well.
A dog that growls or shows aggression towards those around you will make others very uncomfortable.
Your dog could attempt to snap at a passing dog and hurt you instead.
Your dog may even be surprised to find that another dog follows up on the aggression, and you are suddenly in the middle of an argument.
If your dog hurts you when it sits on you due to sharp claws or being very heavy, you may not want to let the behavior continue.
Your dog can learn a lot of ways to show affection and seek attention that is not sitting on you if it makes you uncomfortable.
So, assuming you want to stop this behavior, let’s examine how we can do so!
How Do You Stop Your Dog From Sitting On You?
Teaching your dog the “off” command is a key element in stopping your dog from sitting on you. This command also comes in handy if your dog lies on you, stretches on you, or gets on furniture you want it to stay off of.
I would recommend that training should be done with help from a certified trainer, but even on your own, the off command is fairly simple to teach.
To teach the “off” command, you must be prepared to firmly (but not aggressively) say the word “off” any time that your dog sits or lies on you.
You can pair the command word with a steady but caring push outward to encourage the dog to move away from your personal space.
Never hit your dog or yank on them to get them to move. Another option is to say “off” and then immediately move to sit somewhere else away from the dog.
By immediately putting an end to any attention you give your dog at the moment, you let them know that this behavior is not enjoyable or going to be rewarded.
After ending the interaction, be sure to soon engage with your dog in an activity that you like to do together.
When teaching your dog not to sit on you, you can also teach it not to sit on furniture in your home.
By teaching your dog to stay off furniture, naturally, you will be keeping them away from your lap for sitting.
Any time that you observe your dog climb on furniture, firmly say “off” and remove them promptly.
You can also move your dog to a dog bed or other spot where you want it to sit and give it praise in that spot.
Even dogs that have been trained with the off command may still try to sit on you from time to time.
It may be a temporary comfort that you allow from time to time.
If your dog is sitting on you out of fear, you can try to find the trigger of the fear.
Removing a fear trigger from a dog’s environment will decrease its need to sit on you for comfort.
And that’s a wrap. Almost.
Hopefully, you can see some parallels and trends with your own dog.
You should now be able to look to see some patterns or other behaviors which can help you to identify why and when your dog is most likely to do this.
Whether this is a problem for you – well, that’s going to come down to context.
Ultimately, your dog sitting on you or being taught to sit somewhere else is entirely up to you.
Besides, you may enjoy the cuddle, and that’s okay as long as your dog is not aggressive or too heavy!
For others reading, you may wish to teach the off command or seek further training assistance to find a sitting location that makes everyone happy.
And this command can be useful anyway or for other times.
So do consider it.
Having a responsive dog can be very valuable.
Have you noticed some other unexplainable behaviors in your dog? The following guides may help to explain them!
- Why Does My Dog Keep Biting Himself?
- Why Does My Dog Lick My Wounds?
- Why Does My Dog Stretch On Me?
- Why Does My Dog Bury His Head In Me?
- Why Does My Dog Look Away From Me?
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.