Do you have a dog that just loves to come over and plop down on your chest or in your lap? Why do our dogs do that?

Why do dogs lay on top of you?

Have you ever been sitting on the ground, or even on the couch, just minding your own business. When all of a sudden… PLOP! Your precious fur ball—sometimes a 65 lb. fur ball—decides to just jump right up into your lap. And sometimes they decide they’re going to even sit on your chest. What’s up with that?

There could be a couple of different reasons for why your pup likes to jump in your lap or lay on your chest. If this wasn’t something you trained them to do, then they are acting this way instinctually. But what instincts are telling them to do this, and why?

dog laying on owner's chest

Establishing a pack leader

Well, one thought is that they could be doing this to show dominance. I’m not saying that your dog is trying to be mean or aggressive. But dogs are used to living in packs, with a pack leader. Even if they’ve always been a domesticated pet, dogs instinctively feel the need to be a part of a pack. And they still feel the need to know who the pack leader is.

If you haven’t intentionally established the fact that you are the pack leader, your dog may try to step into that role. Even if they don’t want it. It’s such a strong desire of theirs to have a pack leader, and know who it is. This isn’t an irreversible problem, but it definitely creates a problem in the dynamics of your household. If your pup thinks they are the pack leader, they will become more stubborn, and they’ll try to tell you what to do. Rather than listening to your command and following your lead.

You can find training guidance from professional dog trainers like Cesar Millan about how to become a pack leader. Again, this may sound silly, but it’s a real thing! And learning to be a calm, respectful pack leader—rather than an angry, forceful one—will help your dog listen to you better, and have a better human-to-canine relationship with you.

dog cuddling with owner

Showing affection

Another possible reason for your dog jumping in your lap and sitting on your chest could just be that they are trying to be affectionate with you. Maybe they want your attention, so they can receive some much desired petting. And maybe they are just ready to snuggle up on the couch with you.

Dogs do need a lot of attention because they are very relational creatures. And some dogs need more attention than others. If you know what dog breed you have, or if you’re planning on adding a new dog to the family, check out their breed’s specific personality traits. You can find all sorts of breed information on the American Kennel Club’s website.

It will show you what level of playfulness they are, how much mental stimulation they need, how high their energy level is, how affectionate they are, and so much more. These clues will help you understand your dog’s wants and needs so much more.

And if your dog is a breed mix, make sure to look up both or all breeds that they are mixed with. The mixing of breeds doesn’t always come out as a specific science, so you’ll have to keep in mind that your dog may lean toward one of their breeds more than the other.

dog laying on owner

Why does my dog lay his head over my neck?

Just like humans, dogs can get anxious and stressed. And sometimes your dog just needs to be held and comforted, the same way we do. Keep in mind that there are many signs of stress and anxiety in dogs.

“Things to look for include a tucked tail, ears back, licking the lips or nose, whale eye (wide eyes showing the whites of the eyes), looking away, lifting a paw, trembling or shaking, a low body posture, yawning, panting, grooming, sniffing, seeking out people (e.g. looking for comfort from you), hiding, not moving, a stiff or frozen posture, urinating and defecating.”

So if your dog is sitting closely to you, and they are putting their head on your neck or shoulder, this could be a sign that they feel stressed and anxious. So please do your best to help them feel safe, calm, and comforted.

owner hugging dog

What does it mean when your dog falls asleep on your chest?

If your dog is not only laying on your chest or in your lap, but then they fall asleep on you… This doesn’t just mean that they are sleepy. They want affection from you, and they want to bond with you. But even more so, they feel very safe with you. It’s just like when a dog completely rolls over on their back to fully show their stomach. It’s a sign of comfort and trust.

When your pup falls asleep on your chest, they are showing you that they fully trust you and feel comfortable being vulnerable with you.

For more helpful articles about pet-parenting tips, check out the Off Leash blog at

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