If your dog seems to like standing on you, then you might be wondering why this is? After all, standing on someone doesn’t seem to be the most respectful thing to do. While it’s probably tolerable if you have a small dog like a chihuahua, it’s a different matter if your Labrador is doing it! In this article, we look at the reasons why your dog might be standing on you and what you can do to help discourage the behavior.
Why does my dog stand on me?
There are several reasons why your dog might stand on you – let’s look at each of them in turn.
1. They want to be close
Your dog may simply want to get as close to you as possible. Standing on you could just be his clumsy way of trying to stay very near to you. If he is feeling scared because of fireworks or a thunderstorm he may be trying to stand on you so that you can help to look after and protect him.
Some dogs suffer from a type of stress disorder known as separation anxiety, which means they get worried when you aren’t nearby. This can become increasingly difficult if your dog feels like he needs to always be right at your side, even following you to the bathroom.
Dogs with separation anxiety can become extremely distressed when left on their own in the house. This could cause them to be restless, pace back and forth, vocalize (barking and howling), and become destructive. Some of these dogs will dig, scratch, and chew things, as well as toilet inappropriately.
So, if you start to notice some of the signs of separation anxiety, it is important to seek help from a qualified behaviorist. You can try and prevent the issue by training your puppy to be comfortable in his own company from an early age. To begin with, try leaving him for very short periods, then build this up gradually over time.
2. They want cuddles
Some dogs may stand on you because they want to make physical contact. It’s just their way of trying to cuddle you!
Your dog may accidentally stand on you, particularly if you are sat on the floor. This especially happens when they are trying to lean in close to lick and nuzzle you. Dogs will often stand right in front of you to get your attention initially, so taking this further would be to stand on your lap to reach right into your face.
3. They want to comfort you
Dogs are very perceptive to our moods and feelings. If they notice that you are upset they may try to comfort you. Standing on you to get close may be their way of doing this. They may lick and nuzzle you, in an attempt to cheer you up.
4. They’re in pain
Some dogs might stand on you as a way of telling you there is something wrong. It’s effective as it is quite hard to ignore a dog that is standing on you. They might be seeking some comfort or looking at you for help in some way.
Keep an eye out for other signs that something might be wrong such as a reduced appetite, lethargy, vomiting, or diarrhea. If you are worried that there is something the matter with your pet then get them checked over by a veterinarian.
5. They want to play
Some dogs stand on you as their way of playing. If you aren’t engaging with them then they will try and get your attention by standing on you so that you can’t ignore them! Some dogs may even put their paws up on your shoulders to get you to start having fun with them!
Many puppies will do this to their mother and siblings, stand looking down on them if they are lying down, and ignoring their more subtle requests to play.
6. Possessive behavior
Your dog might stand on you if they are protecting you or being possessive. While you might initially see this as quite endearing, with your dog seemingly caring about you so deeply, it is worth keeping an eye on this behavior.
It can escalate with your dog showing signs of aggression. Some dogs may growl or bark at approaching family members, warning them away from you. If you think your dog is becoming more possessive or showing signs of aggression, then seek help from a qualified pet behaviorist.
How to discourage your dog from standing on you
If your dog standing on you is starting to become a nuisance then you may want to try and tackle the behavior. Here are some things that you could do to try and help.
Crate train using positive reinforcement
You may find that your dog benefits from having access to a dog crate, somewhere cozy and secure they can go to. This may help with any underlying anxieties that could be contributing to your dog wanting to stand on you. For example, if your dog suffers from separation anxiety, feeling that his bed is a safe place to be will help him feel happier about being left alone.
The crate you choose must be the right size for your dog. Make sure that it gives them enough space to stand and sit up in, as well as lie down and stretch out. The crate must never be used as a place of punishment otherwise your dog could develop an aversion to it.
When introducing your dog to a crate you should do it gradually using the following steps:
- The crate should be welcoming with comfy soft bedding and his favorite toys inside it. Make sure that you position the crate somewhere draft-free.
- Ensure that the door is secured open so that it doesn’t swing shut and scare your dog while he is getting used to the crate.
- Begin by throwing treats inside it, and praise him lots if he enters it.
- You could start to increase the amount of time he spends in the crate by feeding him his meals in there.
- Once your dog is happy to go into his crate, try gently closing the door for very short periods. If he becomes distressed, stop and let him out. Build up the amount of time gradually.
- It is useful to teach your dog to accept the crate door being shut, as you may wish to transport him in it from time to time (e.g., on car journeys). Otherwise, it is likely the crate door will just remain open at home so that he has free access in and out as he pleases.
- Remember, the crate is your dog’s safe space so don’t allow people to bother him when he’s in there or climb in there with him. Small children will be particularly tempted to do this, so set boundaries early on.
Don’t reinforce the behavior
You may not realize it but you could be subconsciously reinforcing the behavior, which could encourage your dog to keep repeating it. If you fuss your dog or stroke them while they stand on you then they will be receiving positive attention.
However, shrieking or shouting may also inadvertently give your dog attention, albeit negative. Positive or negative attention is better than no attention in the eyes of some dogs.
It is best to use a firm command word like “down” and reward your dog when he does the right thing. If he persists in his antics, get up and leave the area quietly, ignoring him until he’s calmed down.
Consider what was going on when the behavior started
Try and think back to when the behavior first started. If it began when your dog was feeling particularly anxious about something like a thunderstorm or fireworks, then they may have an underlying anxiety issue. If it began when your dog noticed that you were upset, they may have just been trying to comfort you and if you cuddled them in return you may have rewarded the behavior.
Reduce separation anxiety
If your dog is showing signs of separation anxiety, and you think this may be the cause of your dog standing on you, then you should seek help. A qualified behaviorist will be able to help you work through this so that your dog becomes more comfortable about being left on his own for short periods and doesn’t feel the need to be so close to you all the time.
There are several reasons why your dog might stand on you. If you own a small breed dog it may not be too much of an issue, but you might want to address things if the behavior is becoming annoying or if you have a large dog. If there is an underlying behavioral issue then you may want to seek help from a behaviorist. Always contact a veterinarian if you are worried that your dog may be unwell in any way.