Why does my dog lay on top of me every chance she gets? I mean seriously, every time I lay down, Juno comes over and insists on putting her head on my chest or neck. It’s super duper endearing, but what’s her obsession with this? It’s not only when I lay on the floor. Anytime she gets a chance she is laying on me. Dunkin, our Great Pyrenees, did this too. What gives?
When a dog lays on top of you they are displaying pack behavior. Your dog is bonding with you and seeking safety! As pack animals, it is hardwired in dogs, as soon as they are born, to seek the safety of the pack. More than safety, it’s how puppies keep warm. That’s why puppies huddle together with their littermates in “puppy piles” when they’re younger.
So, that makes sense for puppies, but you’re probably thinking “my dog isn’t a puppy anymore, what benefit is there outside of the litter?”
What does your dog get out of laying on top of you?
Comfort and Security
Remember, you’re the most important thing in your dog’s life and they want to feel safe. When I think about that, I’m always reminded of the lyrics of a song, “Lord, help me be the kind of person my dog thinks I am.” That always puts a smile on my face.
Anyhow, that is how your buddy sees you. You are everything. You are part of his pack.
If you’ve ever been around a group of dogs who are familiar enough with each other to have formed a pack in their minds, chances are you’ve seen this behavior. When I was younger and still living at home, my two dogs at the time, Nakota and Sophie, did this all the time. It was rare if you ever found Nakota laying without Sophie there with her head on him.
This is completely normal behavior. Your dog is finding comfort and security in the pack.
As I already mentioned, you are everything to you puppers. Dogs can’t tell you that they love you with words, so they have to use physical interaction to display these feelings. The act of laying on you or laying their head on you is considered a sign of affection. Think of it as a doggie hug!
What do you get out of your dog laying on you?
Yep, this works both ways. By allowing your dog to lay on you, you’re both increasing your mutual bonding. This goes a long way with your dog trusting you, which in turn, leads to a better relationship (and hopefully easier training).
It can lower stress and anxiety
According to the National Institute of Health in the article, The Power of Pets, interacting with dogs has been proven to lower levels of cortisol. Cortisol is the hormone our body produces when we’re in a state of stress. High levels of cortisol are also linked to other health issues in the human body, such as lowering your metabolism and immune system.
It’s probably too far of a stretch to say snuggling your pup will help you get sick less and shed a couple pounds, but hey, at the very least you’ll be happier!
Additionally, as I mention in my article, Should My Dog Sleep On My Bed, when you bond socially with your dog your oxytocin levels increase, leaving you feeling happier and loved.
What if I don’t want my dog to lay on top of me?
Even though there are a lot of benefits to letting your dog lay on top of you, maybe it just isn’t for you. Maybe you find their claws dig into you. Maybe your pal is a slobber machine. Maybe you just don’t find it comfortable all the time.
If that’s the case, then here are some things you can do to discourage the behavior.
Find them a comfy spot
There are a ton of awesome bedding options that you can check out. The biggest thing to keep in mind is that your dog is seeking comfort and security. Give them a nice comfy spot to call their own.
A great added bonus would be if you could give them a piece of old clothing or blanket to sleep with that has your scent on it. That way they can still feel as though they are laying in the pack scent. This can help give that feeling of security and comfort they are seeking.
Another avenue is training a different behavior from your pooch. As I stated earlier, this is an instinctual behavior and will probably be a little difficult to break. You need to make sure that your dog is respecting your commands not to lay on you. “Off”, “Down”, or “No” are appropriate commands to train for this situation. Give them an alternative space or area as I mentioned above. Be prepared to repeat yourself quite a few times.
Give them plenty of affection
If you aren’t allowing your dog to lay on you please still make time to show them affection in other ways.
For instance, be sure to play often. Dogs bond very strongly with their people through play.
Make sure you’re giving them lots of petting and praise. This will still serve as well for bonding and gaining attachment with your pup. If you can fill their affection meter this way, it may help with any needy behaviors later.
Allowing your dog to lay on you presents huge benefits to your and your puppy. Making sure you are bonding and earning trust with your oh so special pooch, is a very crucial thing if you want a deeper connection with your canine companion.
Not only is there a huge benefit as far as the health and well being of your dog, but there is a strong benefit for you as a human. I know on the days that I have come home simply beaten from the day – feeling like I just lost at whatever the day threw at me, a quick snuggle or interaction with any of my dogs was just what I needed to snap out of my funk.
Sometimes when I’m feeling down I will go and just love on Juno. It makes any worry or stress just melt away. I don’t know about you, but for me, there are two things in this life that can drastically change my mood – fresh hot coffee and my four four-legged friend Juno.
Remember though, even if you are allowing your dog to lay on you and choose to bond this way – make sure your dog still respects your space. They need to listen if you tell them no. Even in such a loving action, you still need your dog to know that it’s not a free-for-all every time you get on the floor or in your bed. Affection in the pack and displaying respect in the pack are both important for a healthy human-dog companionship.