Why does my dog stand on me all the time?

Many experts believe that although dogs have been accommodated into domestic life for hundreds of years, they still exhibit certain savage instincts. Instincts that are more commonly found in wild animals like foxes and wolves.

Maybe you've noticed certain habits from your dog and have probably questioned if this is also a part of their primal instincts [1]. For example, you may have found that you have recently been asking the question "why does my dog stand on me?"

Experts in dog reactions and behavior tend to look into certain behavior in dogs and debate such behaviors at length. One of such includes dogs always standing over their owners when they lay down or sit and even when sleeping. This post will give you insight as to why your dog might be acting this way


1. Your dog is trying to show dominance:

Most dog behaviorists have pinned the act of a dog standing over its owner, or even another dog as a show of superiority. Your canine may be trying to pass across a message that it is the alpha in the pack.

We can easily link this to their untamed tendencies from their days of being in the wild. From studying animals such as wolves, coyote, jackal, dingo, foxes, we see that higher ranked members of the pack always enjoy certain advantages and privileges.

For example, the alpha of the pack always gets to eat first after the whole pack hunts. For scavengers, this can be a huge privilege. Higher ranked members also get to mate with the other sex more frequently than their counterparts. This is believed to help reproduce stronger, dominant offsprings that would protect the pack in the future and ensure it thrives in the face of its enemies.

Some dogs that tend to show dominance by standing over you, usually follow it up with more aggressive behaviors, like assuming a rigid and tense posture, fixed glare and sometimes even pushing down on you by placing their paws on your shoulders.

2. Your dog is trying to protect you from something it senses as dangerous:

Another reason your dog may feel the need your stand over you is if he smells an imminent danger. You can usually tell if this is the case if you notice it only does so when another person or animal is around. Dogs always feel a sense of possessiveness towards their owners, so it is a healthy instinct for them to be overprotective.

3. Your dog is trying to get your attention:

Your dog standing over you all the time maybe it trying to get you to look at it and maybe play with it. This is usually the case when you haven't been giving it any mind or if you have the habit of only noticing it when it stands on you.

An excellent way to remedy this is to try as much as you can to give it the necessary attention during the day, by playing a game with it, taking it for a walk or even training it. Another thing to do to curb this attitude in your dog is to stop gifting it with attention whenever it stands over you.

4. You have encouraged such a behavior:

Dog's learn from the way you respond to them when they do certain things. They watch your reactions as this teaches them to know what you like, what you encourage and what you blatantly frown at. If your dog notices that you only give it treats and rewards when it stands over you, then you can be sure that that's precisely what it would keep doing to get what it wants.

Hence, you would need to make a conscious effort to retrain it by only giving it treats when it is being well-mannered and behaves well. It would help if you also learned to be more conscious of your responses to what your dog does so as not to pass on the wrong message and risk building bad habits in your dog.

5. Your dog needs something from you:

You must understand that your dog is always trying to communicate with you with any means that it feels would be effective. Perhaps, your dog standing over you may be a way of trying to tell you it wants something from you. This would usually happen around the same period that you would normally take it for a walk or feed it.

6. Your dog feels safer when standing over you:

Dogs are brave and loyal animals, still, even the bravest ones need the people they love around them to feel a sense of security and safety every once in a while. You should notice when your dog tries to stand on you, was there any weird noises at the time? Probably like fireworks or just a loud bang. Did the lights in the room go off? Your dog may just be feeling scared, and standing over you makes it feel better.

Questions to ask yourself

No two dogs are exactly the same and most likely won't react the same way when faced with the same circumstance.

Hence, understanding why your dog acts in a particular way at a particular time is heavily dependent on how much you watch it and are paying attention to even the littlest details. Questions like, "when did my dog first start standing over me?" "Does it do it to other people too?" "Does it do it to other dogs as well?" "Does it do it only when others are around?" would help you find the root of the problem. 

If your dog hasn't always been doing so, then it would help to consider what events happened at the time it started. Keeping a mental diary for your dog, and its reactions would make the solution come to you much easier. For example, if your dog stands over other animals or people too, then it is most likely trying to show dominance.

On the other hand, if its behavior is exclusive to only you, then it is more likely trying to gain your attention or seeking for treats. You would also want to pay attention to the timing. For example, if your dog only stands above you at the same time, it gets dinner.

How do you help your dog correct the habit?

A great way to stop your dog from standing on you is by positive reinforcement. You can help your dog relearn how to behave, and not to consider the habit as something that would earn it rewards. If your dog doesn't have much in the way of training, then now would be a good time to start, ensure you begin from the basics and then slowly build up from there.

You can also consciously redirect your dog when you notice it about to stand over you. A simple command to stand somewhere else would help it realize that you do not appreciate such behavior.

Understanding when you need help

It is okay to seek for advice and assistance from an expert when you don't have a clue as to why your dog is reacting in a particular way, and this should not make you feel embarrassed at all. Contacting a dog behaviorist would be a good option when you want to learn how to train your dog in a certain manner.

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