We run a dog rescue and spend a lot of time with dogs in our laps or roughhousing on the floor with them. It’s not unusual behavior for one of them to end up standing on my chest. As a dog owner and dog lover, it’s important for me (and you too, I hope!) to understand these odd behaviors to discover what’s happening in those canine noggins. As I’m pinned to the floor by a ninety-pound dog, I can’t help but wonder, “Why does my dog stand on me?”.
Is it dominance? Is he exerting himself as the alpha dog?
Is it affection?
Ultimately, it comes down to communication. As I learn to translate dog behavior, I am continually impressed with their ingenious methods of responding to us humans. I mean, they can’t just tell us things, so their behaviors are key to understanding their needs.
Key Takeaways: Why Dogs Stand on Their Owners
- Seeking Attention and Affection: Dogs may stand on their owners to seek attention and affection or be close to their beloved human companions.
- Social Bonding and Comfort: Standing on their owners can be a sign of social bonding and a desire for physical closeness, reinforcing the emotional connection between dogs and their humans.
- Instinctual Behavior: Some dogs exhibit standing behavior as an instinctual action rooted in their pack mentality, seeking to establish their place within the family hierarchy. Understanding these reasons can strengthen the human-dog bond and foster a deeper understanding of our furry friends.
Is standing on me a dominant behavior from an alpha dog?
There is a lot written about dogs in our homes wanting to be alpha dogs. There is an equal amount written that disputes that.
The pro-alpha dog folks tend to think that dogs are hard-wired from their pre-domesticated days to be pack animals, which means there must be a leader of that pack.
The other side of the coin is those who believe domesticated dogs have had the pack animal inclination bred out through the years, which does not actually govern their motives. The theory is that dogs look to us for love and protection, not to dominate us.
I’m on the fence, actually. Hate to “not” take a stand, but I’ve seen too much of both.
I have dogs that absolutely feel they are a pack leader, and I have dogs that couldn’t care less.
Rusty, the Pit Bull
Rusty, our pack’s current leader, is a super friendly Pit Bull, but in all things, he is the dominant dog and leads our pack.
He eats first, he sleeps where he wants, he takes the best toys, he snuggles in the best spots, and any new puppy must stand the Rusty test. The Rusty test is always tense (we can discuss that later) but always ends well with Rusty in charge.
The other dogs always “bend the knee,” so to speak. Whether lying on the couch or standing in the kitchen, Rusty will affectionately stand up to us, but not aggressively.
Cody, the Rottweiler, loves to stand on us.
Before Rusty came along, we still had a sizeable pack, and one of those dogs was a Rottweiler. Rotties, you would think, would be natural pack leaders. Let me tell you, Cody didn’t have the slightest desire to lead anything. He just wanted to romp and play and run and be silly. He could have been the pack leader, but he had no desire to be.
He was our first and only Rottie, but talking to other Rottie owners, it seems this is fairly typical for Rottweilers. And bear in mind; these were Roman legion dogs. What could possibly be more Alpha than a Roman legion dog?
Those are two examples. We’ve seen many more.
So do I believe standing on you is a sign of dominance? I believe it could be, but it doesn’t have to be.
Rusty does this to me, but he knows I’m the real leader and never pushes back on me. So it’s not a challenge nor dominance when he does it. It usually leads to just more play and roughhousing.
Is it dominance if you’re at somebody else’s house with a strange dog, and their dog does it to you? It very well could be. You are in their “lair,” and they are the leader. It very well could be they are standing on you to demonstrate dominance.
Or it could be they want to lick your face.
Baron, the Dachshund – standing on me, you, everything.
Baron gets in our laps, stands on the couch, tries to get in the highest chairs, and whines to be picked up. The common point here is Baron likes to be in high spots. Put him on the floor, and you subject yourself to some serious dog side-eye.
Most smaller dogs tend to want this. It’s often the only way they can make eye contact with you, which is important for dogs. Staring into a dog’s eyes may be taken as a sign of aggression, but often not – usually, it’s just plain love.
He’s also a famous “stand on your chest” pooch.
I feel like Baron uses this since he is so small to appear larger or to try to get the upper hand. He’s a manipulative little guy.
For Baron, I don’t think he’s alpha-dogging anybody; he’s just so dang low to the ground; it’s probably nice for him to get face to face with us, and standing on our chest is a way for him to do that.
When my dog stands on me, is it affection?
I think this is it most of the time. After all, is said and done, our dogs love to cuddle and play, and standing on my chest is a great way to do both.
Dogs look for attention in different ways, and this can be one of them. It’s hard to ignore a pet standing on your chest.
A velcro dog that always sticks to you no matter what may be more guilty of this than others, as this is a great way for them to attach themselves to you.
Is it aggression?
You better hope not. If your dog stands on your chest, his teeth are inches from your face. Not the place for aggressive behavior.
In this case, I recommend no eye contact and gently pushing the dog away while you back away from the dog.
If you truly feel this is an act of outright aggression, you must seek assistance from an experienced and trained behaviorist. Searching for “trained dog behaviorist near me” on Google will give you local options. Dog training is probably in your future.
Anxiety and Comfort Seeking
Dogs may also stand on you due to anxiety or as a way to seek comfort. If your dog is stressed or afraid, they might cling to you for reassurance. In such cases, it’s crucial to identify the source of their anxiety and address it accordingly, providing them with a safe and supportive environment.
Standing on you may be a way for your dog to guard you.
If your dog perceives any threat, and if the dog is the type that is protective of you or others, it may be they are putting itself between you and the perceived danger.
I find it interesting that dogs have no concept of life or death, so they have no fear of “ultimate endings” if an encounter goes badly. They’ll protect you to death without hesitation if it’s a protective dog. It’s one of the reasons I love them so much, and I feel I need to protect them from that – I protect them from protecting me.
So if they are standing on you due to something they perceive as a threat, it may be accompanied by growling and barking, and their hair may be standing up. Their tail may be straight up and stiff rather than wagging.
Typical “I’m ready to kick some ass” posture. We’ve all seen our pets do it. The body language is unmistakable.
So be aware of your surroundings. When asking yourself, “Why does my dog stand on me like that, ” look around. Is there something amiss? Or perhaps something your dog thinks is amiss?
How are you feeling today? Perhaps your dog knows…?
Dogs also may hover over us when they detect that we are not feeling well, whether they are picking up on chemical changes or minute physiological ones, such as a change in heart rate, temperature, or blood pressure.
Our dogs routinely lay on us or choose to cuddle a bit more than normal when one of us isn’t feeling great. They know, and they are trying to comfort us.
Could that be it?
Bonding with Owners
Dogs are known for their ability to form strong bonds with their owners.
Your dog may stand on you to establish and maintain this emotional connection.
They seek your presence, love, and attention to reinforce their sense of belonging. This connection satisfies their social instincts and helps them feel secure, happy, and more relaxed with you.
As a dog owner, understanding your pet’s social nature can help you better interpret their actions and build a stronger bond with them.
Whether it is recognizing their pack instincts, interpreting their communication signals, or appreciating the deep connections they form with you, your awareness of their social nature will enhance your relationship and ensure their well-being.
Playtime and Engagement
Lastly, your pet might be standing on you to signal they’re ready for playtime. Dogs love to be playful and engage with their owners.
Standing on you can be their way of grabbing your attention and initiating play.
In this case, incorporating regular playtime and exercise into their routine can help prevent them from developing this habit of trying to engage you by standing on you.
Remember always to observe your dog’s behavior and try to determine the reason behind their actions. Understanding their motives enables you to build a stronger relationship and create a happy and healthy environment for you and your beloved pet.
Influence of Breed and Personality
When it comes to your dog’s behavior, their breed and personality can play a significant role in how they act around you. Let’s take a closer look at how these factors come into play when your furry friend decides to stand on you.
The breed can indeed have some impact on a dog’s temperament and behavior. For example, Labrador Retrievers are known for their friendly, outgoing personality and loving nature. Terrier breeds, on the other hand, can be more energetic and independent. While breed may provide some clues about your dog’s actions, it’s important to note that a study suggests that your dog’s breed doesn’t solely determine its personality.
Dogs are social animals and develop a close bond with their humans. Their actions, such as standing on you, can be a way to seek your attention and express their affection. For example, if you’ve been busy all day or haven’t spent much time with your dog, they might be missing your presence and decide to stand on you to communicate their need for attention.
In the case of certain breeds and personalities, some dogs may be more prone to exhibit specific behaviors, such as standing on their owners. For instance, extroverted, attention-seeking personalities like those found in Labrador Retrievers might be more likely to use this behavior to interact with you. Terrier breeds, known to be curious and energetic, might also exhibit this behavior to burn off some of their energy.
As a dog owner, it’s essential to know how your personality and actions can influence your dog’s behavior. A study found that pet owners can significantly impact on their dog’s personality. By understanding your dog’s breed and personality traits, you can better cater to their needs and develop a deeper bond with them.
Bearing all this in mind, it’s crucial not to make any exaggerated or false assumptions about your dog’s behavior based solely on their breed. Every dog is unique, and it’s essential to treat them as individuals, taking into consideration their experiences and environment. Remember, your dog’s behavior reflects their personality and bond with you, so investing some time in understanding the connection between breed and personality can help strengthen your relationship with your furry companion.
Signs of a Potential Problem
It’s important to be aware of any unusual behaviors exhibited by your dog when they stand on you. While it can sometimes be a sign of affection or attention-seeking, certain signs could indicate that something is wrong. Keep an eye out for these signals in your dog’s behavior to ensure their well-being.
If your dog appears to be in pain or is experiencing discomfort while standing on you, paying attention is essential. This might be an indication that they are feeling ill or have an underlying health issue. In such cases, consulting your veterinarian promptly is crucial to address any potential illness.
Remember, dogs have an incredible sense of intuition. If your dog is persistently standing on you while displaying signs of nervousness, anxiety, or restlessness, it’s possible that they’re trying to alert you to something they sense as dangerous or out of place. It’s a good idea to assess your environment and see if there is anything concerning it.
Moreover, be mindful of any sudden changes in your dog’s standing behaviors. If your furry friend starts standing on you more frequently or aggressively, it’s important to find out what might be causing them distress. Addressing these behaviors early on can prevent potential complications or escalation.
Always trust your instincts and pay attention to your dog’s body language. If you notice any significant changes in their behaviors or if you suspect they might be unwell, don’t hesitate to seek expert advice from your veterinarian. They can guide you on the best course of action and help ensure your dog’s health and happiness.
Sometimes, your dog might stand on you for a variety of reasons. Considering these possibilities and understanding your furry friend’s behavior is essential to comprehend why they’re doing it fully. Here are some additional factors to keep in mind:
It could be that your dog wants to communicate with you that it’s time for a walk. Dogs can develop unique and creative ways of asking for what they want. If standing on you usually results in a walk, your dog might repeatedly use this technique to ask for a stroll outside.
Your dog might also use standing on you to display their alpha status and demonstrate to you that they’re in control. This might be an attempt to let you know they consider themselves the leader of the pack, at least at that moment. However, it’s essential to watch out for any signs of aggression and address them accordingly to maintain a healthy relationship with your dog.
One of the most common reasons for dogs standing on their owners is simply a way of getting their much-needed attention. Your dog might bring a toy along, inviting you to play with them. As dogs are generally social animals, they can feel lonely, especially when you’re away for a more extended period.
Sometimes, standing on you might be a way for your dog to communicate that they’re feeling scared or insecure due to certain triggers. These could include things like thunderstorms or loud noises from fireworks. Keep an eye out for any distinct signs that your dog is anxious or frightened in these situations.
Remember that your dog’s behavior might not always be straightforward to understand. It’s crucial to get to know your fluffy companion even better and pay attention to the cues they give about their needs and emotions. You can build a strong and loving bond with your pet.
What can you do about it?
As with any unwanted dog behavior, redirection is usually a great approach. This may be cute when a puppy or a small dog does it; this behavior can be problematic if that puppy grows into a large dog. Best to nip it in the bud early.
If you sense the situation where it’s about to happen, get yourself or the dog into a position where he can’t do it. Just move. Stand up. Relocate. Get off the floor.
If it’s too late for redirection or avoidance, there’s really not much to do other than to brush them off you. Gently push them, roll them off, etc. Find a way to separate the dog and you – different rooms, behind a gate, etc. This should not be done via a means the dog will necessarily enjoy. If you put the dog outside for a romp, he will learn to associate standing on you with going outside. This isn’t the intended behavior. So choose something like putting them in a room behind a gate, for example, or leave them in the room and go outside.
You get the picture – make the scenario end in a way that doesn’t benefit the dog. A short time-out behind a gate will send a strong message.
No need for reprimand here, as they’ll figure it out. Save the reprimanding for something more serious. And by reprimand, I mean a stern voice. You should never lift your hand to your dog.
If you find this becomes a more persistent behavioral issue, then more aggressive efforts may be needed, but early on, simple distraction and letting them know you don’t care for it should be enough.
Addressing and Modifying the Behavior
When your dog stands on you, it can be due to various reasons, such as the need for attention, showing dominance, or just seeking cuddles. As a dog owner, it is essential to understand your dog’s behavior to maintain a healthy relationship and a well-behaved pet. Here are some friendly suggestions to help you address and modify this behavior.
Firstly, try to determine the reason behind your dog’s action. Pay attention to their body language and the situations in which they choose to stand on you. If it seems to be due to fear or separation anxiety, provide reassurance and create a comfortable environment for them. A consistent routine and designated resting space can contribute to reducing stress.
Training plays a significant part in addressing unwanted dog behavior. Positive reinforcement can work wonders in helping your dog understand which actions are favorable and which aren’t. Whenever your dog stands on you, gently guide them down, and reward them with praise or treats when they follow your command. This way, you can discourage standing on you without resorting to harsh methods or aggression.
In case your dog is trying to assert dominance, it’s essential to establish yourself as the pack leader. Maintain consistent boundaries and rules for your dog to follow. Asserting your authority through firm, gentle commands can help get your dog to respect your space.
If you believe the standing behavior results from a simple desire for attention or cuddles, try offering alternative forms of affection. Spend quality time together, playing and bonding to fulfill their need for closeness while discouraging them from standing on you.
Understanding and modifying your pet’s behavior requires patience and a positive approach. You and your dog can build a harmonious and loving relationship by showing empathy and investing time in training.
Dog Communication 101
Remember that dogs have no concept of guilt, regret, or the ability to worry about their actions. They “do” and face the consequences. Some dogs have less impulse control than others.
The point is that the punishment must match the crime. If it’s a slight offense, the punishment should be slight. But, it’s a key point to catch it early and often. Catch the offense every single time and apply the punishment.
Letting the dog get away with it even once is detrimental to the overall conditioning. You must be consistent.
And keep in mind that redirection is a great method to deal with affronts, as are time-outs. A timeout behind a gate is a great teaching method. It separates the dog, which they don’t like, but it’s not physically harmful. A short timeout session is extremely effective if done consistently.
This is key to understanding dog communication. We tend to mistakenly assign more sophisticated motivations to our dogs than is their due. This is most entertaining when it shows up in comical memes online, but it can cause us to misinterpret the simplicity of how our dogs add one plus one.
If you don’t want that equation to come up with the wrong sum, keep it simple and appeal to the immediacy of reward for dogs. Dogs have zero attachment to guilt, regret, or worry about their actions. However, dogs will remember the human that raises a hand or delivers the blows when there is hardly ever an instance that justifies corporal punishment.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why does my dog stand on me in the morning?
In the morning, your dog might stand on you to get your attention and tell you it’s time to wake up. They could be hungry, excited for a walk, or simply want to spend time with you after a night apart. It’s their way of telling you they’re ready to start the day together.
Why does my dog stand on me on the couch?
When your dog stands on you while you’re on the couch, they may want attention, to be close to you, or to be trying to establish a sense of security. They might also be attempting to assert their dominance in a playful manner. This behavior could stem from their natural pack instincts, making them feel more comfortable and safe.
What does it mean when my dog stands on my chest?
If your dog stands on your chest, it could be because they want to be close to you and feel your heartbeat. It’s a way for them to bond and show their affection. Another reason might be that they’re seeking attention and trying to get you to play with or pet them.
Why does my dog stand on my legs?
When your dog stands on your legs, it’s often because they want attention or reassurance. They could be feeling insecure, anxious, or simply craving affection. By standing on your legs, your dog is seeking comfort and a sense of security from you.
Why does my dog like to stand on two legs?
Some dogs enjoy standing on two legs as a form of play or to stretch their muscles. It can also be a learned behavior if they’ve been rewarded for it in the past. In some cases, standing on two legs might make it easier for them to reach something or see their surroundings better.
Why does my dog stand on me when scared?
When your dog is scared, it might stand on you to seek comfort and protection. They’re instinctively drawn to their trusted human for support during stressful situations, and standing on you may make them feel safer and more secure. Additionally, they may be trying to alert you to something that’s causing their fear.
Conclusion: Why does my dog stand on me?
Your dog standing on you does not signal ulterior motives. You do not have to worry about your dog executing his mutinous rebellion over you. If you have had enough of it, it is up to you to remind your dog that he must respect your space.
You cannot deny the social bonds you share with your dog. After all, it proves that your pooch possibly loves you more than you love him. In addition, some dog breeds have a stronger cuddle instinct than others. A “cuddler” may simply be trying to get you to settle down with them.
You will have to assess if this standing on you is for comfort, for playtime, due to anxiety, or the sensation that you need protection. These can be dealt with by redirecting rewards or reconditioning the response.
Other “Why does my dog…” articles:
- Why does my dog put his butt on me?
- Why does my dog sleep on my feet?
- Why does my dog stretch so much?
- Why does my dog eat grass and throw up?
- Why does my dog wink at me?
- Why does my dog wrap his paws around my arm?
- American Association for the Advancement of Science: Your dog’s breed doesn’t determine its personality, study suggests
- KSAT.com: Study: Pet owners have an influence on their dogs personality
- Breed Advisor: 6 Reasons Your Dog Stands on You
- July 2021: First published
- July 2023: Updated with new images and more extensively researched content.