For some dogs, an empty lap is an unacceptable waste of an opportunity to cuddle, no matter how small or large they are. So much so that many dog owners know that there is no point in sitting down on the couch with a bowl of popcorn or a laptop as it will swiftly be replaced by their pooch's tush. For some dog lovers, it is a comforting position while others feel squashed by their furry friend's weight. Either way, the behavior is very common and universally recognized as a form of affection. But what drives your cuddle buddy to want to be so close to you that he literally ends up laying on top of you?
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The Root of the Behavior
For starters, dogs are pack animals that descended from wolves who lay with their pack members for security and warmth. Though not exactly necessary for a domesticated dog's survival, the evolutionary self-preservation trait still lingers in our canine companions. Just like wolves, dogs are born into litters and thus that behavior is further reinforced from an early age. From the first days of their lives, puppies sleep in dog piles that provide them with all the comfort and security they need to grow up healthy and strong. Domesticated dogs might not have six or eight pet siblings to cuddle up against as they get older but they still have their two-legged pack members to lay up against. Since dogs consider their owners a part of their family and pack, they want to lay on top of them to show them that and to provide them with comfort and security as well as receive it in the process. Laying close to their owner is also their way of protecting what they love, even if there is no real threat or danger. This brings us to the second reason which is affection. Dogs will lay next to or on top of people they feel connected to or have a close bond with. Allowing your pooch to lay by your side or on your lap strengthens the bond you share and is considered a sign of affection.
For almost all dogs, having a person they love by their side is simply a pleasant experience that can calm them down, make them feel safe, and keeps them happy. In most cases, the owner feels the same way and enjoys the bonding experience as well. In short, in many cases, our furry buddies lay on top of us for the companionship and cuddles. All dogs, regardless of breed, show their affection in one way or another. However, there are certain breeds that are said to be more affectionate than the average dog and show it by wanting to be in your space as much as possible. Great Danes and Labrador Retrievers are great examples of super friendly, family dogs that love nothing more than to lay on their owners, despite their large size.
Encouraging the Behavior
If you don't like it when your dog gets up close and personal or his affection ends up cutting off your blood circulation in one of your limbs - feel free to move away or gently slide him off. Not immediately though, as that can be seen by him as rejection. To make sure your furry cuddle buddy feels reassured and loved, let him stay by your side or lay on you for at least a few minutes. This way he knows you are not rejecting him as a member of the pack but that you are simply changing your position and it happens to be further away from him.
On the other hand, if you enjoy your canine companion's presence and don't mind him laying on your legs or lap from time to time, there is no reason it should be discouraged. On the contrary, allowing him to be close to you will just make your bond so much stronger and provide both of you with some comfort and warmth. Most importantly, it should be mutual so as long as you don't mind the extra weight there is no harm in some furry cuddles. If your dog doesn't want to lay by your side or climb onto your lap, don't be offended! He might just not feel like it or be too hot to want to cuddle. Either way, don't force your dog to lay next to you if he doesn't want to.
Other Solutions and Considerations
How your dog lies on you can also reveal a lot about how he perceives your relationship. If you've established yourself as the leader of the pack then his wanting to be close to you is just a sign of affection and admiration. If your dog sets the rules in the house and doesn't listen to you when you tell him to stop doing something then most likely he thinks he's in charge. Laying on you in the latter case can be a display of dominance over you. If you feel that might be the case, don't allow him to get his way and shoo him off. In addition, if your dog misbehaves and doesn't listen to you consider getting some training support from a professional dog trainer. Though it might not seem serious at first, the dominating behavior can develop further and cause dangerous situations.
Dogs like laying on their owners in different ways and for different reasons. However, as long as both parties feel comfortable and happy in the cuddles there is no harm in allowing a dog lay by his pack leader. It can make both of you feel comforted, protected and loved.