Why does my dog sit on me? It can be flattering when your furry friend runs to you every single time you sit down, but, in certain situations, sitting on you can be inappropriate, or down right annoying.
If you wonder why your dog is always trying to sit on you, you are certainly not alone. Many dog owners find that their dog frequently tries to sit on them. And while this overly affectionate behavior was charming as a puppy, it can be a hassle as the dog becomes a fully-grown adult.
To help you understand why your dog is sitting on you and seems overly clingy, we will go over some of the most common explanations for the behavior. We will also explain what you can do to reduce the frequency of this behavior, which can be helpful if your dog constantly trying to sit on you is becoming a problem.
The Main Reasons Why Dogs Sit on Their Owners
Once you understand the underlying motivations behind your dog’s behavior, you will better understand how you can discourage it from happening in situations where it is inappropriate.
To help you narrow down the root cause of the behavior, here are some of the main reasons why dogs choose to sit on their owners. We also provide tips to discourage the behavior.
Sitting on You to Spread Scent
Dogs can be extremely territorial, especially if the dog is a male that has not been neutered. One of the ways dogs mark their perceived territory is by spreading their scent in that location.
If your dog in particularly affectionate toward a particular person in your household, you may notice that the dog rubs its body on that person often. Dogs do this as a way of spreading their scent onto that person. You may also notice that any dog that exhibits this behavior will also rub its body on furniture regularly used by the person, such as a spot on the sofa where the person tends to sit or on that person’s bed.
In most cases, you can tell if spreading their scent is the dog’s motivation for sitting on a person because the behavior will follow a particular pattern. If, for example, your dog is more eager to sit on someone after you have had guests in the house, including those with contact with another dog, it could be a sign that your dog is attempting to use its scent to mark the person as its territory.
What Can You Do if You Suspect Your Dog is Sitting on You to Mark its Scent?
While it is not necessarily a bad thing that your dog wants to mark its scent on you, territorial behavior can lead to increased levels of aggression, so you may want to discourage the behavior if it starts to become intense.
You can also reassure your dog with affection, so that it does not have to worry about losing you. Every person in your household should spend time playing with the dog, as this will help the dog feel valued and like it does not have to mark members of the family as its territory.
If the territorial behavior is becoming overly aggressive and you worry it will lead to more serious issues, you may consider having your dog neutered. The resulting reduction in testosterone levels can help to curb the territorial instinct and make your dog less defensive about its perceived domain.
If your dog has gone from sitting on you and rubbing its body on you to marking its territory with urine, the behavior is a display of territorial dominance. Discuss this with a veterinarian or professional dog trainer.
Certain dog breeds were selectively bred to exhibit affection, which is why you might notice that certain types of dogs are far more likely to snuggle up to their owners than others.
For example, some toy breeds, like the chihuahua, bichon frise, Shih Tzu, and Maltese, were selectively bred to act as lapdogs, meaning they have an instinctual desire to be close to their owners. Unsurprisingly, these dog breeds tend to sit on their owners far more frequently than the more independent breeds, like Rottweilers, Bloodhounds, and Irish Wolfhounds.
While it makes sense that toy dogs display plenty of affection and seem to enjoy sitting in the laps of their owners, you might be surprised to learn that even some of the larger breeds, like the Great Dane and English Mastiff, are also known to enjoy cuddling beside and on top of their owners. This tendency why some of these larger breeds have a reputation for being gentle giants.
What Can You Do to Avoid and Prevent This Behavior?
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to correct breed-specific personality traits. If you own an affectionate breed and having it sit on you or in your lap is not a problem, there is nothing wrong with allowing the behavior. On the other hand, if it is becoming a problem, you can correct this with training and conditioning.
Essentially, you will want to use classic dog training techniques to reward the dog when it chooses to NOT sit on you. Eventually, the dog will learn that sitting beside you, rather than on you, is the best way to earn praise and treats.
If you want to buy or adopt a new dog, and you do not want a dog that will sit on you often, you may want to research the behavioral tendencies of every breed you are interested in. This preparation is good practice whenever you are thinking about bringing a new dog into your family. Far too many people select dogs strictly based on the look of a breed rather than the non-physical traits of that breed, like its independence level, demeanor, and other traits.
In some cases, a dog might regularly sit on its owner is that they crave some attention. Dogs are social creatures, which is especially true for certain breeds.
If you find that your dog is sitting on you, especially after you have been away for any period, it could be the dog’s way of trying to get your attention. Since a dog cannot simply ask you for attention verbally, they will often behave in ways where it becomes difficult to ignore them. The dog will nudge you with its snout, bark until you acknowledge its presence, paw at you with its front paws, or, you guessed it, sit on you.
As long as your dog is not displaying aggressive behavior while sitting on you, like barking, biting, or growling, it is perfectly normal for it to sit or lay on you. If you notice that the behavior is accompanied by whining and fidgeting, your dog may be suffering from some form of anxiety. If the behavior occurs more frequently after you have been out of the house, your dog could have separation anxiety, which is a common issue that many dogs develop.
What to do About a Dog That is Craving Your Attention
In most cases, the answer about what to do next is very straightforward – spend more quality time with your dog. Far too many dog owners spend significant amounts of time with their dog while it is a cute puppy but lose interest as the dog matures and the owner grows accustomed to the dog always being in their home.
Always make time for your dog, no matter how long it has been a part of your family. While a dog might be a small part of your life, you have to remember that you are your dog’s entire world. Take time to take walks together and ensure you play with your dog daily, both inside and outside of your house.
Acknowledge your dog every time you enter your house. Even if it is just a pat on the head and a quick scratch, it will mean the world to your dog, who has most likely just been patiently waiting for you to walk through the door.
If you suspect your dog is suffering from some form of anxiety, there are options you can discuss with your veterinarian. While prescription medications can help alleviate some of the dog’s anxiety, these should be a last resort only used to treat severe cases. You can reduce most dog anxiety issues with adjustments to the dog’s routine, such as more exercise, less time spent alone, and more attention from their owner.
In some cases, you may have inadvertently rewarded your dog for sitting on you. In this case, when the dog is sitting on you, it believes it is doing what you want it to do.
When people bring home a puppy for the first time, they often put the dog on their lap and play with it. After all, who doesn’t want a cute puppy to play on their lap? However, when you continue to do this and reward the dog with treats, pats, toys, scratches, and positive affirmations, you are training the dog to recognize sitting on you as a behavior that will result in some form of a treat.
It is so important that you are consciously aware of what your actions are teaching your dog, especially during its formative puppy years. For example, if you do not want your dog to run around the house when it is older, you should not reward that behavior and make games out of it while it is a puppy. The same can be said for having your puppy sit on you. If you do not want your dog to sit on you when it grows into its full adult size, you should not reward the behavior when it is just a small pup.
Can Dogs be Trained, or Unlearn this Behavior?
Fortunately, you can retrain most dogs. If you have inadvertently trained your dog to think sitting on you will result in a treat, you can correct this with the right training; however, you should know that it can take quite a bit of time and patience on your end.
Follow a system of positive reinforcement to teach the dog that sitting beside you, on the ground, or anywhere else other than on you is what you want. With the right training techniques, your dog will learn that sitting on you is not a desired trait.
If your dog sitting on you is not a problem, you do not necessarily have to correct the behavior. Plenty of dog owners enjoy cuddling with their pup and find the behavior cute and desirable.
However, if the behavior is becoming or is a problem, one of the first things you should do is try to identify the root cause. This is especially true if it is relatively new and was not something the dog did until recently. Given that dogs rarely display significant changes in behavior unless something is wrong, you want to keep an eye out for these sorts of things. In some cases, a major change could be a sign that something is medically or emotionally wrong. While attempting to sit on you frequently might just seem like a cute little quirk, if it has come out of nowhere, it could be a sign of something more serious, such as anxiety, fear, or even illness.
If your dog does not seem relaxed while it is sitting on you, or it panics when it is unable to do so, it is almost certainly an indicator that the dog is suffering from anxiety, stress, or even depression. This is why you must look for more than a quick fix if you are trying to correct the behavior. While simply putting the dog on the floor each time it tries to sit on you might fix the issue temporarily, it is unlikely that it will address the root cause of the behavior.
If your dog is constantly trying to sit on you, and it’s becoming a serious issue; you have tried all of the techniques discussed above, you can always seek help from your veterinarian. Be sure to tell your vet about any changes in your dog’s behavior and be open to following their recommendations!