Whether your dog is a Teacup Chihuahua or a Great Dane, they may enjoy nothing better than curling up on your lap each evening.
What is it that makes this spot so appealing to our four-legged friends?
If your dog or puppy always wants to be on your lap, you’ll want to know why and whether this behavior should be discouraged… This article has everything you need to know!
10 Reasons Your Puppy Wants To Be On Your Lap
There’s quite a handful of reasons why your pup may want to lay in your lap. For your puppy, it could be one, or a combination of factors.
Below are the 10 most common reasons why dogs and puppies like to be on their owners lap:
- To show affection
- For warmth
- To get food
- Dominance or resource guarding
- Fear of being taken somewhere else
- They’re unwell
- It’s in their nature
- It’s their routine/habit
Let’s explain each of these in full detail below.
For most dogs, especially puppies, their owner’s lap is a place of security and comfort. They can snuggle in close, much like they would have with their own mother and siblings when they were tiny puppies.
They have a desire to feel close to other living beings; to sense their warmth and their heartbeat. This closeness can minimize stress levels and increase the production of the ‘love hormone known as oxytocin.
All dogs, even the most confident, have a fundamental desire to feel safe. Knowing you are there to comfort and protect them helps strengthen your bond and provides a feeling of well-being.
Those prone to anxiety and stress are often described as being more ‘needy’ and of requiring more physical contact. Some dogs will stick to their owners like glue; refusing to leave their lap even for a few moments when feeling anxious.
This sort of behavior will become even more evident during episodes of intense stress such as during a fireworks event or thunderstorm if the dog has a noise phobia. When panicking, you may well find your dog needs you right there to let them know all is okay.
Interestingly, some fearful dogs react in the opposite manner; hiding away and distancing themselves from their family.
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3. To show their affection
Of course, sometimes your dog wants to cuddle up next to you to let you know they love you. While they may not be able to tell you how they feel, they can show with doggy hugs and kisses.
By sitting on top of you, they have instant access to lots of pets and cuddles and are able to be physically close and to give you lots of licks. For some dogs, this is their ‘raison d’être’ and they love nothing more than having all of your attention.
4. For warmth
Ever noticed that your dog is extra loving when the temperature dips? Our sneaky pooches know full well that we are a source of heat and that staying close to us can help them regulate their own body temperature.
It’s true that your dog may also look to their bed, blankets, and even the fireplace for their warmth. However, most canines would agree that that ‘human element’ adds an extra dimension and would choose our lap over any other resting spot.
5. If food is on offer
If you’re chowing down on a tasty snack, your dog may not be far away. As soon as they hear that rustling sound or smell the delicious food, you might find them nose to nose with you, right in your face!
Even if they know they’re unlikely to be allowed to share your tasty grub, this won’t stop them trying. Of course, if a crumb manages to fall on your lap, they’ve got the prime spot for lapping it up.
Top Tip: If eating a food that could be toxic (such as chocolate, grapes or an onion-based dish) make sure to keep your distance so there is no way your dog can ingest any.
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6. Dominance or Resource Guarding
A dog who resource guards can become possessive over items including toys, food, furniture and even of their owners. If they perceive a threat from another person, or if they want to show that the person ‘belongs’ to them, they may sit on their owner and guard them.
This behavior is inappropriate and is often associated with growls and snaps if another person approaches or when you try to move them off you. Dogs who act in this manner generally guard other things and can have concurrent behavioral issues such as separation anxiety.
If it becomes apparent that your dog is guarding you or the sofa, you need to stop their access. This is something that must be addressed by a canine behaviorist, as a dog who does this is not a confident or happy dog.
7. For fear of being taken elsewhere
When a dog is worried about going somewhere or leaving the house they’ll either run and hide or stick to you like glue.
If they’ve realized a trip to the vet or groomers is on the cards, they may refuse to get up off your lap, cuddling in tight.
The hope here is that you might start to feel sorry for them and abandon the idea of taking them out of the house. Of course, this isn’t a sensible solution, as your dog will try to manipulate getting out of similar situations in the future.
Rather, we want to address their anxiety and reassure them that a trip outside isn’t something to fear. Give them lots of praise and treats when outside, letting them know it can be a positive experience too.
8. They’re unwell
A poorly dog can show they are not well in a number of ways. As well as physical symptoms such as vomiting or food refusal, you may find your dog is clingier than usual. A dog who would before have rested on their bed may suddenly take to sleeping on top of you.
If your dog is not themselves, a trip to the vet is always the way to go. This way, they can be checked over and we can get to the bottom of the problem.
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9. It’s in their nature
Some dogs are genetically programmed to seek out comfort from humans and to crave their physical touch. This is especially true of toy breeds, who have been bred to be companions rather than to perform any specific sort of work.
For example, the Havanese is affectionately nicknamed ‘the velcro dog’ because of how much they like to stick close to their owner. Similar behavior is seen in other breeds including the Maltese, Chihuahua, Shih Tzu, and Bichon Frise.
If your dog is used to relaxing on you and has done so since puppyhood, they will see this as part of their normal routine.
Even when a puppy grows into a large dog and no longer fits as comfortably, they won’t want to stop their comforting ritual.
As long as you are happy to continue with the set-up, there is no reason it needs to stop. Dogs and owners alike get a lot from the interaction and there’s nothing wrong with a good cuddle!
Do I need to worry about my dog always being on my lap?
If you are happy with the situation and your dog enjoys it, why stop? As long as your pet is not showing signs of resource guarding, this is harmless behavior. Both of you will benefit from this time to bond and enjoy each other’s company.
Of course, if you don’t want it to continue or it is associated with more worrying signs such as growling or snapping when you try to move your dog, then it needs to stop.
How can I train my dog to sit elsewhere?
If you don’t want your dog to sit on your lap, everyone in the home should have a blanket rule that it is not allowed, to avoid confusion. Ensure your dog has a comfortable bed nearby, as they will still want to be in your company while relaxing.
When your dog uses their bed, reward them with praise and by dropping a few treats to them. Let them know that this is the behavior you want from them.