Why Does My Dog Lay On My Chest? (10 Reasons + Solutions)
There are so many reasons I think dogs are awesome pets, it’s hard to name them all. Of course, they are loyal and loving and make good buddies with everyone in the family.
They also help you improve your physical health by making exercise fun. And they’re smart! Many dogs can be trained to perform various tasks that assist people with disabilities. Finally, dogs are just plain fun, and they never fail to bring a smile to their owners’ faces.
Right now, I’m lucky enough to have two dogs, Duke and Bella. They are two of the goofiest, sweetest, and most lovable dogs I’ve met. And as their owner, I have a responsibility to take care of them and understand why they behave the way they do, especially when they do something strange.
Have you ever had a dog bark when you hug your girlfriend or run out of the room when you start sweeping? Knowing why your dog acts weird and what to do about it is part of the job for us dog owners.
So, what about dogs that like to lay all over their owners? Why does my dog lay on my chest? The answer is your dog lies on your chest because she wants attention, was (accidentally) trained to, is showing you love and affection, is demonstrating dominance, thinks your chest is warm and comfy, has separation anxiety, is marking her territory, is bored, is protecting you (or looking for protection), or your she learned it from another dog.
A very common reason dogs will lay on their owner’s chest is because they are seeking attention. If your dog routinely jumps on you or leans against you when you’re trying to do something else, she’s probably just looking for some affection. There is a strong social element to dogs’ needs and getting attention from you helps scratch that itch.
Maybe her previous owner enjoyed your dog laying on their chest and took the time to teach her that it was acceptable. Or, maybe you’re your dog’s only owner and you have no clue why your dog thinks getting on your chest pleases you. It’s important to remember, that one thing dogs are excellent at is picking up on clues that discourage or reinforce their behaviors.
If you give your sweet girl a belly rub every time she crawls on top of you, she will likely keep doing it because it feels good! And you must like it too! After all, you’d only take the time to love on her when she was doing what you wanted her to do, right?
On the other hand, if you immediately stand up and move away from her every time she gets on your chest, she’ll probably stop once she realizes you don’t like her to do it. Not to mention she also won’t be getting the attention she wants.
Showing Love and Affection
Dogs don’t just like to get love and affection, they enjoy showing and giving love and affection as well. When your pup crawls on top of you and puts her head on your chest or wraps her arms around you (if she’s a hugger), she likely could just be trying to show you how much she loves you.
We’ll go from some common reasons to a not-so-common reason to keep things balanced. Some experts believe that dogs may lay on their owner’s chest as a sign of dominance. This is not a behavior that many dogs display, but it has been observed in some cases.
I’ve been fortunate enough to never own a dog that tried to demonstrate dominance towards me or anyone else in my family. You’ll know your dog is laying on your chest for dominance because there will likely be many other signs and behaviors that also point to this being the reason.
Your Chest Is Warm And Comfy
Dogs, like you, want to be as comfortable as possible. On top of that, your dog will likely lay on your chest when she’s feeling cold and needs some extra warmth. When it’s cold out, or even if your dog is just chilly, your warm chest is probably pretty tempting to your sweet girl. If you happen to welcome her when she positions herself across your chest, all the better! She knows you both could use some warmth!
Over my life, my family and I have adopted many dogs from our local animal shelter, nearly every one of them thought sleeping on the couch, a bed, or us was much better than the floor. Of course, with time they were trained to only sleep where allowed. Don’t worry we get our dogs extra comfy dog beds!
Dogs that have separation anxiety will often demonstrate it with annoying and/or destructive behaviors. For some dogs who suffer from this will come across as very clingy. If your dog is always underfoot, sleeping on your chest may just be another manifestation of her anxiety.
Marking Her Territory
Your dog’s chest-laying ways could also stem from her attempt to mark you as her territory. While this is more common in male dogs, females can also do it.
If you think this might be the case with your dog, keep an eye on other behaviors she’s exhibiting. If she’s keeping other pets or family members away from you, she could be trying to claim you as her own. It’ll take time, but you need to figure out why she’s doing this so you can put a stop to it.
Even though you’ll often catch your dog doing seemingly nothing and acting content about it, dogs can and do get bored. They need stimulation throughout the day. If your dog starts getting bored she could take up all sorts of ‘activities’.
If you catch on that she’s laying on your chest for something to do, then you’re in luck. Many bored dogs start doing things like chewing up household items or even worse. You’ll want to nip this problem in the bud as soon as possible. More outside play time and mentally stimulating toys will go a long way to relieve your dog’s boredom.
This can actually go either way or both ways at once. Dogs will lay across their owner’s chest both to offer protection, seek protection, and sometimes even both at the same time!
My mom’s little Yorkie is an expert at this! When someone comes over to my mom’s house, he’ll hop on her chest both looking for reassurance from my mom while also aggressively* barking at the ‘intruder’ coming through the door. It’s quite comical to watch!
*”aggressively” is a relative term when you’re talking about an old Yorkshire Terrier’s bark!
Picked It Up From Other Dogs
Dogs are observant, especially when it comes to watching what their brothers and sisters can get away with. If you have more than one dog and maybe…like my mom with her little yorkie…you allow the small one to lay across your chest, there’s a chance that your other dog will pick up on this behavior and give it a try too.
Is It Okay For Dogs To Lay Across Your Chest?
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as it depends on the reason your dog is doing it. For instance, if she’s lying across your chest for a cuddle, then it’s perfectly fine – in fact, it’s probably quite lovely! However, if she’s doing it for dominance, to assert her authority over you, or to cope with anxiety then it’s not so okay.
Of course, even if your good girl is doing it for reasons that are okay and harmless, it might not be okay with you. If your dog is causing damage, scratching you or your furniture as she climbs up, or you just plain don’t like it (I don’t!), then it isn’t okay for your dog to lay on your chest.
How Do I Stop A Dog That Likes To Lay On My Chest?
If you’re like me and don’t want a dog lay across your chest, even if she’s just being cute and trying to get attention or be affectionate, you’ll want to stop and even prevent her behavior. Luckily, there are a few things that can help you accomplish your goal.
Use Commands You’ve Taught Her
One of the best ways to get your dog to stop laying across your chest is to use commands that you’ve already taught her. If you have a command for ‘down’ or ‘off’, use that. She should know what these commands mean and will likely respond to them.
After you’ve repeated this scenario, your dog will start to understand that you never want her to lay on your chest. Just be sure to be consistent. If you allow it one time but tell her ‘off’ the next, she’ll just be confused.
She Needs Mental And Physical Exercise
I mentioned your dog might lay on your chest because she’s bored. The fact is, dogs need both mental and physical exercise, and if she isn’t getting enough of either one, she might start acting out in different ways – including trying to lay on your chest.
To stop this and the other more destructive results of a bored dog, make sure you’re taking your best friend for walks or runs every day and playing with her regularly.
You could also look into your local dog park, running around with other doggies is always a lot of fun!
Don’t Encourage Or Reward Her
If your dog does manage to lay across your chest despite your best efforts, don’t encourage or reward her for it. This will only reinforce the behavior and make it more likely that she’ll do it again in the future.
Sometimes the best way to get your dog off of your chest is simply to stand up. This sends a clear message that you’re not comfortable and she needs to get down. Of course, if we’re talking about a little dog like my mom’s Yorkie I mentioned, you can have the same effect by picking her up and setting her somewhere else.
Be consistent though! Just like with most methods, you’ll need to give your dog the message you don’t want her on your chest every time or she’ll be confused about your expectations.
Call In The Professionals
If you’ve tried everything listed above and nothing has worked, then it might be time to call in the professionals. A certified dog trainer will be able to help you figure out why your dog is acting out and give you some additional tips on how to stop the behavior. In some cases, medication might also be necessary—but that should probably be the last resort after all other options have been exhausted.
Summary: What Does It Mean When Dogs Lay On Your Chest And What To Do About It?
As you can see, there are many reasons why your dog might lie on your chest. If your dog frequently tries to lay across your chest, and you find it obnoxious and gross or your dog is destructive you’ll likely want to put a stop to it. However, before getting frustrated, it’s important to figure out why your dog is doing this.
In some cases, the behavior is motivated by something innocent like love or a desire for attention. If your dog is seeking affection or love, giving her pets and treats when appropriate will go a long way to correcting the problem. She should respond well when you ask her to get off of you by using the basic obedience commands she already knows.
In other cases, the behavior may be motivated by anxiety or boredom. If your dog feels bored then some puzzle toys and plenty of exercise should provide some relief.
If your dog is displaying aggressive behaviors, however, it’s important to seek professional help from a certified trainer or behaviorist. By understanding the reason for the behavior, you can take steps to address it in a way that is best for both you and your dog.