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Why does my dog like to sit on me?

Most of us love nothing better than when our pup chooses to sit on our lap, or right on top of our feet. But have you ever wondered “why does my dog like to sit on me?” From showing love and affection to seeking comfort when stressed, here are the top reasons why your pup likes to get close to you…

Your dog is seeking attention

Most dog parents naturally reward their pups for sitting on them by giving them pats and cuddles. This quickly becomes a learned behavior as your pet realizes sitting on you means attention for them.

In most cases, this is simply quality bonding time for both you and your pup. But it can become a problem if your pooch is constantly demanding attention.

If you’re working at your desk, for example, and aren’t available for lap-time cuddles, the best thing to do is ignore your pup (stand up and leave the room if you have to). When sitting calmly, reward them with praise and a pat, or offer them a toy instead. Your pup will soon come to learn that you aren’t always available to give them your undivided attention, as much as we’d like to be!

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Your dog wants to feel safe

If your dog is feeling anxious or stressed, they may respond by getting as close to their human as they can to feel safe. This often means sitting on your feet or on top of you. You will often notice other signs that your pup is feeling anxious such as:

  • Panting
  • Drooling
  • Pacing
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Yawning or licking their lips
  • Cowering
  • Whining or barking

Common stressful situations for dogs may include thunderstorms, fireworks, construction, house parties, new family members, and visits to the veterinarian or boarding kennels.

It’s important to remember that not all dogs respond in the same way and your dog may prefer to hide or take shelter during stressful situations. If your dog prefers to cope this way, make a safe space or den for them, and don’t force them to come out for a cuddle. If your pup is struggling with anxiety, including separation anxiety, the best thing to do is speak to your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist.  

Your dog wants to play or show affection

When your pup chooses to sit on you for cuddles, it can be one of the most rewarding bonding behaviors for many pet parents as it’s their way of showing love and affection. It can also be physically comforting for them to feel close to you, not to mention warm and cozy!

You might find your pup also enjoys a bit of a roll or some playful wrestling while sitting on your lap. While this is all in good fun, if you find your pup is getting too hyped up or rough, ignore the behavior by standing up gently and leaving the room. Instead, reward them with praise or treats when they are calm or playing nicely with you.

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Your dog wants you to feel comforted

Dogs can be highly sensitive to our feelings and emotions. In fact, many pet parents believe that their dog can tell when they’re feeling upset, stressed, or anxious – and they’re right!

Our pups pick up on our body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, and even our smell when we’re stressed or upset. As a result, your pup might respond by choosing to be close to you at this time to provide a little extra comfort.

Your dog is “marking” you with their scent

The sense of smell is crucial for dogs to communicate and understand their surrounding environment. Familiar scents provide a sense of security, so when your dog sits on you, or their favorite spot on the couch, they’re spreading their scent and marking the place as safe or familiar.

This is a natural behavior and should only be of concern if your dog is urine marking inappropriately inside the home. If your dog is urinating indoors, make sure to visit your veterinarian to rule out a medical problem (like a urinary tract infection) and begin a behavior modification plan.

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Behavior of different breeds

Whether your dog likes to sit on your lap or your feet may also come down to their DNA…

Dogs bred to be lapdogs include the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Pug, Papillion, Maltese Terrier, or Shih Tzu. Though these are traditionally small or toy breeds, giant breeds such as Great Danes and English Mastiffs are also known for being highly affectionate towards their parents and trying to sit on their laps!

Remember that each dog is an individual and their behavior is influenced by many environmental factors and not just genetics. So if your dog prefers not to be close to you, it doesn’t mean they don’t love you. They’re just showing their love in a different way, whether it’s an enthusiastic greeting at the door or a friendly lick!

Conclusion

In most cases, your pup is choosing to sit on you because they enjoy the attention and affection that comes with this interaction. Certain breeds and individuals are more likely to sit on their parents than others, and if your dog doesn’t show affection this way there’s no reason to be concerned. If you’re worried that your pup is showing other signs of anxiety or stress, and that’s why they’re sitting on you, it’s always best to speak to your veterinarian or a qualified veterinary behaviorist.

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