Why Do Dogs Try To Stand Over You

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Dogs have been domesticated for centuries, but some experts believe not all of their more primal instincts are dormant. Some of these behaviors seem to be more in common with wolves, foxes, and other non-domestic cousins. You may have noticed your dog trying to stand over you when you are sitting or lying down. It is a common behavior from some dogs, but a lot of humans may not understand the instinct behind the act. So, if you have ever asked yourself why dogs try to stand over you or another dog then you are not alone. Experts in animal behavior have debated the question at some length.

The Root of the Behavior

Most experts who have weighed in on the topic of a dog standing over you, or another dog, seem to agree that this is an act of dominance. Your pooch might be trying to establish himself or herself as the Alpha in the pack. Again, this goes back to their primal instincts from their days of living in the wild. With canines that live in the wild, the members of the pack with higher ranks have certain privileges.

Higher ranked pack members usually get to eat first. And as animals in the wild are usually scavenging for food, this is a very important perk to have within the pack. More dominant pack members also get to mate more frequently. This is by design to help maintain a stronger lineage of future pack members. It is also worth noting that there are some breeds that are naturally more dominant than others. Terrier breeds are notorious for being stubborn and adamant that they are the leader of the pack. Even with these more dominant breeds, there are training exercises that can help you retain control of the pack.

This show of trying to establish dominance is not just directed toward the human pack members in the household. Some dogs who are prone to dominance issues will stand over other animal members of the pack as well. The habit of standing over the perceived lesser pack member can sometimes be accompanied by displays of aggression as well. Other signs that one dog is attempting dominance is a fixed stare along with tense posture and even them placing a single paw on the shoulder of the supposed subordinate.

A less troublesome explanation for your dog standing over you or another may be simply their way of trying to control a situation. It is sometimes how older dogs deal with hyper or unruly puppies within their pack. The adult is merely trying to gain a little control of the pup’s behavior.

Encouraging the Behavior

Most of us will agree that allowing our dog to be the dominant pack member is not ideal. The good news is that with some effort and training, your dog’s attitude can be adjusted. The first thing to remember is that you should not overreact or respond with aggression. You can be assertive and kind without being tolerant of the undesired behavior. Consistency is always a key factor in any training with your pup. The more you work with him or her the easier it will be for them to understand their place within the pack.

If your dog becomes aggressive and snappy when you are attempting to correct their behavior, the issue may be of a more serious nature. You can contact your veterinarian if you feel the problem is beyond you. They can put you into contact with a behavioral specialist who should be able to help you rectify the unruly attitude. You should never ignore these signs of aggression as the behavior will only get worse over time. If your dog is still a puppy it is ideal to start their behavior and obedience training right away to avoid serious issues when they are an adult. Your vet can help you find a puppy kindergarten to get you started.

Other Solutions and Considerations

Some of us may feel that handling this type of behavior issue is beyond what we can correct at home. It is nothing to be ashamed of and you are definitely not alone. Finding an expert who specializes in canine behavior is a great first step to taking control of a situation before it worsens. You don’t want to allow your dog to continue with this dominant behavior, as he or she may become dangerous to themselves and others.

Whatever you decide, be sure to let your vet know about the issues you are facing with your pooch. They will need to be aware if your dog has been showing dominant or aggressive tendencies. Even if you are working with a specialist to address and correct the issue.


Just remember that you are now your dog’s pack leader and it is your job to care for them and keep them safe. Even if that means keeping them safe from themselves. Being proactive and starting their behavior training early can help you avoid more serious issues later in their adult life.