Why Does My Dog Lay On Top Of Me? (Head Chest Stomach Back)

Why Does My Dog Lay On Top Of Me? Photo of a dog laying on top of his owner's head.

If you’ve ever been confused about why your dog has to be on top of you or how they seem never to understand the idea of “personal space,” this is an absolute must-read!

Dogs will lay on top of you or in contact with you because you are part of their pack. Sleeping while touching each other is an instinct they’ve learned throughout the years, and it follows through to modern-day dogs.

Laying on top of you, partially or entirely, is their way to protecting you from harm and offering security, as well as receiving both of those things in return. Other less common reasons include showing affection, wanting to get your attention for one reason or another, and seeking comfort and safety.

Below, we’ve gone over what you need to know about these reasons and how to interpret the behavior and redirect it if you wish.

4 Reasons why does my dog lay on top of me

Whether you find it endearing or annoying, there are particular reasons why your dog insists on laying on you partially or entirely. As introduced above, these reasons include:

  1. Protection and security
  2. Demonstrating their affection
  3. Seeking your attention
  4. Seeking comfort and security

1. Protection and security

They will lay on you to offer security to you as you sleep. Laying on you protects you from potential harm, and it also offers them the same perks.

When your dog is on top of you, it means a predator will have to go through them before they get to you. Likewise, if you detect something and wake up, your movement will wake them up, too, and they’ll be ready to step into action.

2. Demonstrating their affection

Dogs show their love for you by being in contact with you. For some, it’s just their head on your lap, while others will sit directly on you. This, too, is a pack behavior and, while painful if you have a big dog, done with the best of intentions!

3. Seeking your attention

Dogs aren’t so oblivious to your lack of interest in this behavior. Some will sit on you to get you to do whatever they want, maybe feeding them breakfast, letting them out, or giving them TLC. They’ll lay or sit on you just to ensure you know they are there and that they need or want something

4. Seeking comfort and security

Lastly, your dog may be feeling uncertain or in pain or just isn’t feeling 100%. While this can be concerning to hear, of course, dogs have down-and-out days just as we do. They just want to cuddle up with their pack and enjoy some quiet time while they rest and recharge.

Once they do, they’ll be right back up to their typical antics again! It could be something specific, like a trip to the vet that wears them out. Or, it could be something uncertain, like hearing fireworks in the distance. They’re just looking for a little bit of love from you!

Why does my dog always lay on top of me when I lay down?

Do you notice that your dog lays on you when you lay down but not when you are resting or sitting up? It’s much more common than people think! Common areas for dogs to lay on include your head, chest, stomach, and back. But why?

Simply, they see these areas as being at the highest risk for their security. They will work hard to make sure that they’re covering you from risk and harm by effectively blocking access to those areas, even if those areas include your face. 

Why is my dog laying on me all of a sudden?

If your dog normally sleeps beside you or on the floor and is all of a sudden changing that, it’s time to think about just why they might be doing so. Doing this behavior suddenly means that something external is causing them to react this way.

For example, they feel that they need comfort. If they are unsettled or confused or just apprehensive for whatever reason, they’ll lay on you. After all, as mentioned, it gives them as much comfort and protection as they give to you.

The other reason is that you are perhaps unknowingly reinforcing that behavior. For instance, you give them cuddles and pets after they climb on top of you for the first time. This tells them that they are doing something right and will then continue to do so to get more rewards. 

Reasons for your dog to lay on top of you

If you’re confused as to why your dog simply must lay directly on top of you, then understanding what’s causing this is about understanding what your dog is picking up on.

As you already know, most likely, dogs pick up on our emotions and will react to them. If you are feeling scared or sad or otherwise unhappy. In that case, your dog will try to offer comfort and security by laying on you. This is what he would do to his littermates and packmates, after all, so it’s just his way of saying “I got you” until you recover. 

Another common reason for your dog to lay on you is that there has been a change in the circumstances for your dog. This could be any number of things. Perhaps you’ve moved homes. Or you have a new partner that your dog is just getting used to. Perhaps it’s something like a new pet addition to the home, etc.

As your dog adjusts to this new change, they’ll rely on their lizard brain behaviors a bit more.

Photo of a Corgi dog laying on his owner's chest.

Top FAQ for your dog laying on you

Here are some of the popular frequently asked questions for those with dogs who act on this behavior. How many of them have you ever wondered?

Why does my dog cuddle on top of me?

Dogs don’t follow the same “personal space” code as humans do. So, they cuddle on top of you because it’s how they would cuddle with their littermates. It’s the same as how we’d lean our head on someone’s shoulder or enjoy a hug. 

Why does my dog lay on my chest and stare at me?

If your dog lays on your chest and stares at you, it’s done out of security and protectiveness while you rest and sleep. They are keeping watch over you while you snooze, even if it seems unnerving to you!

Why does my dog sit on me with his back to me?

If your dog does the strange thing of sitting on you with his back to you, it’s because it’s taking a guarding approach. He’s scanning for intruders or other potential risks like a security guard would. He also knows that you “have his back”, too. 

Why does my dog sleep on top of me and not my husband?

As much as you might not want to hear it, sleeping on top of you rather than on top of your husband means that your dog has decided that you are the one who needs protecting rather than your husband

Why does my dog sit on me when he hears a noise?

This will be a blend of two equally relevant reasons. The first one is that he is working to protect you from the noise that, to your dog, is a threat. So, while he assesses what the noise is, he will sit on you to keep you safe.

The other reason is that your dog is feeling nervous about this strange sound, so he’s sitting on you to offer himself comfort and protection while he assesses and sorts out what to do. It’s sweet when you think of it that way, you have to admit!

Why does my dog lay on top of me in the morning?

The most likely reason is that your dog is hungry and has decided that it’s time for your to get up and give him breakfast. Even if the time is only 4 am. He knows that sitting and laying on top of you tends to make you get up (i.e., wakes you up), so he’s attention to get you up for breakfast.

How to stop your dog from laying on top of you

If you’re sitting there frustrated with your dog’s habit, you aren’t alone. After all, a 50lb (22 kg) dog isn’t exactly the lightest weight to have on your chest while you’re trying to sleep.

You’ll be happy to learn that you can train your dog to stop this behavior easily and without compromising those instincts. It’s all about teaching your dog the concept of boundaries. 

Firstly, you need to work on counter-training him. For instance, when he lays on you, give him a command like “off” or “no” and redirect him to where you’re okay with him laying, for instance, at the foot of the bed or next to you. Redirect him every time and make sure that you stay consistent. Your dog will start to understand before too long.

Another thing to do is not reinforce the behavior you are redirecting! Many people will say “no” only to then give them an ear scratch or a kiss. Sure, your intentions are in the right place. Still, your dog just understands that their behavior of laying on you is being rewarded with scratches and kisses.

Reinforce the behavior of laying at the foot of the bed by offering the same reward. Withdraw the affection when they stay on you. This will help your dog learn faster than anything else.

Sometimes your dog will lay you because they know that’s where they get the affection, too. Make sure you give them plenty of snuggling and cuddling when you are lounging on the couch or playing, etc. Since they know that they will still get lots of love and affection during other times, they won’t be as likely to lay on you.

In general

Sometimes dogs communicate in ways that just don’t make sense to us and our human tendencies. Understanding what’s going on and how to redirect your dog’s behavior of laying on you will strengthen your bond with your dog and still make sure that you don’t have a huge weight on your chest every single night!

Dogs will lay on you to protect you and ask for protection in return. They view you as part of their pack, which is precisely the behavior they would show in that kind of setting.

Laying on you also could mean that they are showing their love for you or looking for you to do something for them. Understanding which it is will help you adjust or end the behavior if it’s something that bothers you.

Photo of author
Andre Neves

Hi, I'm Andre and I'm the owner of Sula the Border Collie. I love writing about this amazing dog breed here. I joined the Council to be able to reach and educate more people on the joy of having a pet dog.