If your canine family member insists on sitting on you -- whether she’s on your lap during the evening news or right on top of your feet while you’re cooking dinner -- she could be a dominant dog. She may be trying to stake her claim as the pack leader, pulling that power from you. Of course, not all dogs sit on their humans as a means to be dominating. Sometimes your fur ball just wants to be close to you.
Dogs have a natural pecking order in the pack. Clearly since you provide food, water and shelter, you’re the head of the bunch. But sometimes your barking companion -- particularly if she’s younger and still learning about her environment -- feels the need to be the leader. When she sits on top of you, she’s trying to get higher, so she’s peering down and seems bigger than you. After all, the pack leader should be able to hover over the weaker less powerful pack members, be larger and stronger than everyone else and always be the first to eat.
Signs to Watch For
If your pooch is being dominant, she’ll exhibit other behaviors while she’s sitting on you. Uncontrollable barking is one way -- it’s like she’s tuning you out when she stares blankly at you and creates a ruckus for no particular reason. She could nudge you to move or push your hand into a desirable spot, letting you know that she can get you to do whatever it is her little heart desires. If she nips at you, bears her teeth or starts mounting your legs, she’s probably trying to be dominant over you.
Sitting on you could be your pup’s way of guarding you and claiming you as her own. When she snuggles up on your legs, it’s her way of trapping you so you can’t go anywhere. Plus she’s also making it impossible for any other pack members -- either animal or human -- to come near you. If she bites, growls or shows her teeth to anyone who ventures anywhere near you, she’s most likely being dominant.
It’s also possible that your dog isn’t being dominant at all; rather, she’s simply looking for a cozy place to snooze. Your lap is not only warm and comfortable; it comes with a build-in petting device: your hands. So naturally she loves sitting right on top of you when she wants to relax. You happen to be the best seat in the house. But if she happens to show any signs of dominance, get up and walk away. Don’t give her any attention unless it’s on your terms, not when she begs or nudges.
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.