Do you have a dog who steals your spot every time you get up? You are snuggled up together watching Netflix and you get up to get snacks. When you come back, your sweet pooch is sprawled out on the couch right where you were sitting. Or perhaps, you are sitting in your reading chair and get up for a few minutes to get something, and bam, she leaps from her little blanket on the floor right onto your recliner. This can be both cute and annoying. If it becomes a pattern, you may wonder why your dog always takes over your favorite spot.
Most likely, your dog wants to sit in your spot, because she is connected to you and you left a nice warm place that smells like you. Your dog learns quickly that wherever you sit, it is usually the most comfortable place in the house! And it is so much more comfy than her little mat or dog bed!
But there may also be a little more to it than this. Your dog may also have some needs that she is reacting to. Here are some other reasons for this behavior.
Reasons Why Your Dog Wants Your Spot
Your dog may want to sit in a place you were just sitting for a variety of reasons. Some of it depends on how long your dog has lived with you, his past experiences, and his personality.
Your Seat is The Throne
Let’s face it, anywhere you sit is the throne in your dog’s mind. Your dog assumes that where you sit or sleep is always the best spot in the house! After all, you don’t usually lay on the floor or sit in their doggie bed!
Dogs will always watch us to see what we do and to anticipate what might happen next. He will study your movements to anticipate and better understand how our actions might impact him. To learn more about this see my post, “What Do Dogs Think About When Sitting Quietly? So it is not surprising that your dog wants to sit where you sit and do all he can to reap the benefits of living with you.
If your dog has lived with you for a while, he has probably become pretty bonded to you. Therefore, he will naturally want to stick close. The seat on the sofa you just vacated smells like you and is probably still a little warm. What a great place for your pooch to wait for you to return from the kitchen and continue to watch Netflix together. And who knows, when you return with your favorite snack, you may bring one for your pal.
Your Pup Needs to Be Close to You
If you have recently adopted your dog either as a puppy or from a rescue facility, your dog may still need a lot of reassurance. As he begins to trust you, he will much safer especially after living in an abusive or neglectful situation. Even if he was re-homed by a caring family, being in a shelter and losing his family is also very upsetting.
In these cases, not only will your dog jump into your seat or onto your pillow on your bed when you get up, but he may also follow you around a lot. Some people refer to this as a “velcro dog” if it seems excessive. I wrote a post on “Clingy” rescue dogs which you can read to learn more about this behavior.
When I first brought my two rescue dogs home, they followed me around everywhere! Not only that, but they always wanted to sit next to me and would often take over my seat when I got up. After a few nights of sleeping in their own doggie bed, they both decided my bed was better! And no matter how hard I tried to get them to sleep in their own bed, by morning we were all in a dog pile together. See my humorous post, “The Argument” to read about how this came to pass.
I am pretty sure that their former family allowed them to sit on furniture and sleep on their beds. Because it seemed like second nature to them. I also think they had a high need to stick close, since they had lost their former family and spent nine months in a large kennel waiting to be adopted again. So, that is why I caved!
Your Spot is Simply More Comfortable with a Better View
Again, humans usually like to sit in comfy, plush seats. And so do dogs! You might also want to check your dog’s bed to make sure it is still cushy. Dog beds break down over time, and if your dog is older, 8 years plus, he may have some arthritis.
Additionally, dogs often like to be elevated to get a better view of their territory. Having the high ground is an advantage and helps them to be better guard dogs. They can keep on eye on a larger area, as well as the whole family. Since their furniture or mats are usually on the floor, they are in a less suitable place to keep a watchful eye.
When Seat Stealing Becomes a Problem
If you dog always runs to your seat when you get up, especially if you are leaving the house, he may have separation anxiety. If he whimpers, shivers, shakes, or whines when you get up, he could be afraid that you are leaving him and not coming back. This is especially true for animals who have been abandoned or had a challenging past. Very young puppies can sometimes experience anxiety as well until they become more mature.
Think about providing an alternative, safe place such as a crate with lots of blankets, stuffed toys, and a hot water bottle. Leave one of your old T-shirts or socks in his crate or bed and talk in soothing tones. Leave a few treats for him, but don’t make a big deal of leaving. Read about how I dealt with my dog’s separation anxiety (and my own).
Contrary to earlier training beliefs about “alpha dog” and “top dog” hierachies, most trainers no longer believe in the dominant dog/pack leader concepts. In fact, studies have determined that wild pack dogs actually trade off leadership roles periodically.
So, if your dog will not move and begins to growl at you when to try to reclaim your seat, this is not necessarily a sign of dominance or trying to be the “alpha” dog. More likely, he just likes this “best” spot you vacated and now he has it!
This behavior is referred to by Victoria Stillwell as “territorial aggression”. I also think of it as resource guarding. Dogs will growl as a warning that this place, food, bone, or toy is theirs now. With dogs, 90% of ownership really is possession in any particular moment. With a favorite bone or toy as an example, the dog who has it owns it. As soon as he puts it down, however, another dog can claim ownership.
I have noticed that my two dogs will often jockey for the best place to sit or lay down. And sometimes, when one of them runs out the doggie door to bark at something, the other one will steal her spot on the couch just because it seems better!
How to Manage Your Dog When Stealing Your Spot
Both of my dogs usually jump out of my recliner when I come back with my refilled cup of coffee. However, I have been growled at a couple of times by one of my dogs who is really tired and just wants to be comfy and left alone. In fact, one night I got up to get a glass of water and came back to bed to find her on my pillow. When I tried to move her she just dug in and growled at me. So, I started to lay down on top of her. Because I am bigger, and she did not want to get squashed, she moved.
However, sitting or laying on top of your dog to get them to move may not always be the best strategy. Your dog could nip at you or you could actually hurt her by lying or sitting on her. Additionally, this may frighten your dog who is just reacting as dogs sometimes do when resource guarding.
The best thing to do is to try to coax your dog off of your seat. Give her the “off” command and reward her with a treat. Or call her into another room and engage her in a playful activity like fetch to help distract her. Try not to scold your dog or yell. She will not understand, since this seems like a perfectly natural thing to do. Just don’t fall into the misbelief that this is a struggle for dominance and you have to prove that you are the master. Dog’s really don’t think like that.
If it really becomes a problem, work with a good trainer. But in most cases, stealing your spot on the sofa is not an evil plot that your dog has planned for days. More likely, your dog simply likes being comfy, warm, close to you, and living the good life–much like you!