You pick up a nice cup of coffee from the counter, plop down in your favorite spot on the couch… when suddenly, you feel a furry mass scuttle to sit behind you. A familiar experience?
Many dog owners experience their pups quickly settling in at their backs, whether it be on the couch, the bed, a chair, anywhere! So why does your dog insist on sitting behind you?
Dogs sit behind their owners to guard their owner’s back, to hide from something scary, to try to nestle close due to separation anxiety, to enjoy a warm spot, or because you intentionally or unintentionally encouraged the behavior.
In this article, I will look into why dogs choose this unique spot to huddle up and which one might apply to your canine!
Canine behaviorists cannot be certain about the absolute meaning of a dog sitting behind you, but they can make educated guesses.
Many dogs enjoy being wedged between their owner’s backs and the couch for positive reasons such as soaking in the warmth or guarding their owners, while other reasons may tilt more to the negative side, such as fear or anxiety.
It is hard to deny how strong of a bond we have with our four-legged best friends - one that transcends all description! One of the ways in which our pups tell us just how much they love us is by being protective. As a member of their family, they want to make sure we stay unharmed.
An instinct that remains from the dog’s wild ancestor, the wolf, is watching one’s back.
Predators choose to attack their prey from behind, as this is the best method of sneaking up. By having a member of your pack sit behind you and monitor your blind spot, you can prevent predators from attacking. Although there won’t likely be any mountain lions hunting you down anytime soon, your dog still holds on to the instinct to defend your backside.
One of the ways you can suspect this is the reason that your dog sits behind you is if your backside faces an entryway, a window, or other openings.
Above we chatted about the dog protecting you, but for more timid pups, the dog is looking at you to protect them! If something in the home worries and scares Fido, they may look to hide behind you to feel much safer.
Your dog may see you as their leader and their stronger pack member, looking to you to banish anything that could potentially harm them.
If your pup is sensitive to something such as doorbells, a vacuum cleaner, or a piece of furniture that looks like a giant monster in their eyes - this could be a reason your dog is looking to sit behind you on the couch bed, or chair.
If your pup suffers from separation anxiety, they may jump to sit behind you if they believe you are leaving soon. Doing so lets your dog see when you’re leaving and then exhibit anxiety behaviors to indicate that they don’t want you to go.
Handling separation anxiety can be quite the task, but it’s definitely something that has to be dealt with.
To see if your pup sits behind you due to this behavioral issue, be attentive to when your dog chooses to leap to your back. If they do that frequently before you are leaving, followed by signs such as ears pinned, licking of the lips, or whining - then it’s probably anxiety.
A lot of dog behaviors are adorable to pet owners! So many of us love when our pups snuggle up to us, come show affection, play, and so much more. Our natural response to the actions we deem cute and sweet are rewarding to the dog.
As such, if you love when your pup runs to sit behind you or interpret that behavior initially as something pleasing, you’ve likely given your dog a sign that this is something that you enjoy. Do this often enough, and you’ve effectively given your dog permission to do this (and encouragement to do so frequently).
If sitting behind you on the couch or bed is not something you want, you have to be mindful of how you behave when your dog does this. Be attentive to your signals, and try not to reward the dog for behavior that you don’t want to be repeated!
Sometimes, the answer to why your dog sits behind you isn’t a complicated one at all; the spot is nice and warm! Not every action has a deeper meaning; at times, it’s simply one of comfort and convenience.
Much like we love the feeling of a warm cozy bed, dogs love the same! We radiate heat naturally through our body temperature, and dogs love to soak that up. Your dog may be insisting on sitting between you and whatever you are sitting on because it’s very comfortable there.
If it’s a chilly winter’s day and your dog leaps behind you to burrow into your back, it’s probably because of warmth. This is especially true if this type of behavior is not typical for your dog.
With some dogs, you can easily tell when they’re ill. With others, they’re more stoic in stance and quieter in signals. If your dog has suddenly begun clinging to you when they otherwise don’t, this could be a sign that something is wrong.
Clinging manifests in various ways, such as following you everywhere, having to touch you, and even sitting behind you in your seat. If your dog doesn’t usually behave like this, it might be a good time to visit the vet for a check-up. Look for additional signs that something could be amiss, such as lethargy or loss of appetite.
Sometimes when your pup sits behind you, you might feel their spine against yours. Or, if the dog is sitting beside you, their back may remain turned. This is a very common behavior in our household best friends when they live in a happy home!
When a dog faces away from you or gives you their back, your dog is showing their complete trust in you.
By doing this action, your pup is showing their vulnerability (as the back is a blindspot against danger), which is quite an honorable feat! This expression perfectly summarizes your canine’s trust, love, and affection towards you.
Our habit tends to be to go ahead and pet your dog’s back or back of their head, which further reinforces their opinion of you, as you’ve now blessed them with a wonderful back massage.
Next time your pup sits back to back with you, take it as a big compliment!