Why does your pet lie on you? 5 reasons why dogs do it

László Enikő

2023. November 18 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary

Some dogs love to lie on their owner's lap or feet. We almost don't dare move, lest we disturb our pet's siesta. But why exactly do they do this? Are we really that comfortable or is there another reason?


It’s truly heartwarming when your pet cuddles up in your lap, whether it’s a Yorkshire Terrier or a Saint Bernard. Because it’s not just lapdogs, small pets, that love to lounge on their owner’s lap, but their much larger companions too. But why do they do it? The fact that your dog is lies on top of you definitely shows that they love you, are attached to you and trust you. But within that, there may be more than one reason for his action.

Reinforced behaviour

It’s possible that at first your dog was just lies on top of you because you simply seemed comfortable. But what do most owners do when their pet lies on top of them? They start petting and scratching. And by doing this, you’re positively reinforcing his behaviour, and it’s doubly rewarding for him. Because not only is he comfortable in the warmth of your lap, he gets a little pampering on the side.

Stickiness or separation anxiety?

Your pet may be so attached to you that he not only follows your every move, but also lies on top of you. The distance between you is always kept to a minimum. That’s why, if he sees you sitting on the sofa, he’ll lie on your lap or at your feet. However, excessive clinging may be associated with separation anxiety. For example, if you’re about to go out, but you have a few minutes to spare and you sit down on the sofa and your dog is shivering in your lap, he’s probably anxious that you’re going. He’s terrified that you won’t be around and he’ll be on his own. This is not healthy for him and the problem needs to be handled.

He wants attention

If your dog doesn’t just settle down for an afternoon nap, but seems to want something, it’s probably to get your attention. He usually looks you in the eye for a long time, almost teasing you to deal with him. In this case, he’ll even poke you a few times with his paw so you don’t notice someone lying flat on your lap. It’s time to think about whether it’s time for dinner, a walk or a game. Dogs will always remember these important agenda items and readily remind their owners.

He wants to protect you

This usually happens when you have guests. If your pet jumps into your lap and stares at the door or at the people around you, he doesn’t feel completely safe.

So try to protect you from “imminent danger”. It is not recommended to reinforce this behaviour, as it can turn into aggression if he constantly tries to protect you.

Feeling safe

Dogs simply like to be close to their owners, because they feel safe with them. They are comforted and happy to rest next to (or on) their best friend. And if that makes you happy, cuddle up with your dog on the sofa.

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