Does your dog like to lay his head on you at night, or does he jump onto your lap or stomach when you relax on the sofa? If so, you may wonder what this means. Is this something you should worry about?
The primary reason that your dog lays on you is because he is attached to you and regards you as his human pack family. Lying on you is a sign of affection and offers a sense of protection and warmth for both of you. In some cases, a dog may lay on their owners due to resource guarding, separation anxiety, or if they are frightened or not feeling well.
Let’s dive into some of the various reasons for this behavior.
Primary Reasons Your Dog Lays On You
Your Are Part of His Pack
To begin with, if your dog frequently lays on you, you are important to him. Regardless of exactly why your pooch may decide to sleep on top of you at night or lay on your lap, he loves you and feels safe. Dogs do not usually like to be hugged, which may feel restrictive, but they enjoy snuggling and being close to us.
Some dogs might lie entirely on top of their favorite person at night, while others may only lie on your legs or feet. Thankfully, my two medium-sized dogs, weighing 35 pounds, usually like to cuddle up next to me rather than on top of me. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to breathe very well!
This is normal pack animal behavior which is how the term “dog pile” originated. Dogs in the wild typically pile on top of each other at night in their den. Being close to the leader is often considered an added bonus on the social scale since the leader is held in high esteem. You are now your dog’s pack leader and, therefore, very important in your dog’s eyes.
Protection and Warmth
The term “three-dog night” actually refers to ranchers who used to sleep out in the wilderness with their hunting or herding dogs. Dogs have warmer body temperatures of around 105 degrees, so on cold nights dogs could keep their handlers and themselves nice and warm by sleeping with them.
Again, this is pack behavior. Sleeping close together provides warmth and a greater measure of security from both the elements and possible predators.
Your Dog Wants to Connect and Feel Close
When you develop a strong bond with your dog, he will naturally want to stay connected to you. Just as humans enjoy touch and connection, so do our dogs. Although many dogs are content to sleep in their beds or designated areas, most will enjoy sleeping beside or on top of their favorite people.
A recent scientific study in 2020 was done to research the sleeping habits of dogs. Interestingly, the researchers discovered that 86% of the dogs observed preferred to sleep with people rather than in their own beds when given the choice.
When I first brought my two 6-year-old rescue dogs home, they slept in a crate in my room for the first few nights. I was unsure how housebroken they were and did not want them to wander around at night in the house. But after a few nights, I allowed them to sleep in their own doggie bed in my bedroom.
They seemed happier in the bed and slept through the night. But after the third night they waited until I was sound asleep, and then jumped onto my bed. No matter how many times I redirected them off my bed and back into their own, I always ended up with dogs in my bed by morning! Be sure to see my humourous post, The Argument–Sleeping in the Doggie Bed or Mom’s Bed for more about this story.
Dogs try to get our attention in a variety of ways. They may stare at us, paw at us, whimper, or bark. If none of this works, you may find your dog jumping into your lap. My dogs try all of these things if they want something from me like playing with them, treats, or dinner. Charlotte, the more assertive of the two, will sometimes jump onto my bed and stand on my stomach when she thinks it is time for her breakfast!
Your Dog May be Feeling Insecure or Frightened
I have noticed that during thunderstorms or when someone is shooting off fireworks, my dogs may run over to me and jump on my lap. I usually give them some treats, and let them cuddle close.
Shortly after I adopted my dogs, I took them to their first vet appointment for a check-up, and they seemed terrified. Georgia jumped onto my lap and Charlotte dove behind my legs. Despite this behavior, our vet thought it was great that they already felt bonded and felt safe with me. They eventually settled down and became used to routine appointments.
A dog who lays on you every time you sit or lie down may be overly attached due to separation anxiety. Please take a look at my post Why is My New Rescue Dog so Clingy for more information about this.
Jealousy and Resource Guarding
Laying on you may also be a way to protect you as their most important resource. They are guarding you as they would food or a favorite chew toy. You might notice this behavior if you have people over to visit especially if they bring their pets.
Years ago, I had two Beagles from the same litter. When they grew to be about a year old, they became jealous of each other around us. When one of them was sitting on my lap, she would growl at her sister if she came too close. Fortunately, with some training, they eventually moved past this sibling rivalry!
Your Dog May Not Feel Well
When dogs are injured or really sick, they may want to be left alone. But often, they will come to you for comfort and may want to lay on your lap. Allowing them to do this and gently stroking and cuddling can increase good hormones like endorphins to help them feel better.
It is perfectly normal for your dog to lay on you. It is instinctive behavior stemming from the social structure of dogs who learn this from their littermates and mother.
So, don’t be alarmed if you hear a dog snoring loudly next to you at night. He is just being a dog, and you are the favorite member of his pack. If you want to know what your dog is dreaming about at night, be sure to get our free eBook, Dog Dreams to learn more.
Deanna Euritt is a dedicated dog enthusiast with over three decades of experience in raising and training a diverse range of dogs, including many rescue pups. Her practical expertise is rooted in real-life experiences, where she has successfully navigated the challenges of nurturing rescue dogs into confident, well-adjusted companions. Residing in Northern California, Deanna’s days are filled with adventures along trails and beaches with her beloved dogs, Charlotte and Georgia. In her writing, she offers insightful, compassionate advice to fellow dog lovers, leveraging her extensive personal journey in the world of dog care and training. See About Us.