How many times have you gotten up off of the couch for a snack, only to come back to your pup gracefully positioned right in your spot?
Some dog owners find this behavior endearing while others consider it a nuisance, but however you feel about it - dogs take your spot for a reason!
Dogs generally take their owner’s spot because they consider the now available warm area as an offering to them. However, some dogs do this to assert their dominance, while others do it because of separation anxiety. Also, positive reinforcement may play a role.
In this article, we will go into all of the different reasons Fido wants to sit in your seat.
Dogs are man’s best friend because of their incredibly undying love and affection towards their humans!
One of the ways dogs can express this intense emotion is by plopping into your spot when you leave.
Whether you’re on the couch, on the bed, or even on the floor - you may notice your pup immediately moving into your resting place as you stand up. By placing themselves there, your dog shows that they trust you to have created a safe haven for them - filled with warmth, your scent, and your lingering presence.
This is also why you will find your dog inhabiting the exact areas that you frequent the most, such as your driver’s seat in the car, a favorite chair in the living room, or your side of the bed! These are all of the places we habitually return to and enjoy, and Fido wants to be a part of your comfort there too.
As pack animals, respect becomes a powerful motivator for behavior. You are your pup’s leader, your pup’s advisor, your pup’s confidant, and your pup’s safe place. Essentially, you are their entire universe, and the world revolves around you!
As such, it can be a very honorable and respectful notion to be allowed to take your seat when you have left. Where you reside is a very coveted position, and your dog being able to place themselves in the same area is a sign of respect.
This can also be a sign of your pup demonstrating that they are an excellent wingman and ally to you - always there to be your second in command!
Respect runs both ways; a dog may interpret your sitting in a spot and then leaving as a sign that you kept it warm for them! This is especially prevalent in breeds that tend to get cold easily (especially if you live in a chillier climate).
Stemming from the dog’s wild ancestor, the wolf, finding warmth is an innate self-preservation instinct. Combine this with pack animal mentality, and your pup may have considered that you left the seat warm just for them! You provide their shelter, their food, and their love - leaving behind heat for their bodies to soak in is just another wonderful gift you have bestowed upon your four-legged best friend.
Subconsciously (or maybe even consciously), we pet owners may have been rewarding this behavior.
If you think your pup immediately plopping into your spot is adorable, you were likely giving your dog a ton of attention; petting, cheerful voice, coming over to snuggle!
Dogs learn the most based on our responses to their actions. If this was a consistent response on your end, then your pup will begin to associate taking your spot with very positive attention. If this is the behavior you wanted, keep at it!
However, if you’re not wanting your dog on the furniture or stealing your space, you have to be more conscious about your reaction to it. You don’t need to be aggressive or mean (that’s certainly not warranted) but ensuring your reaction isn’t overly positive is a great start.
If you have a more alpha-oriented or testy dog, moving into your spot when you leave can be a display of dominance (testing your boundaries!).
Canine are territorial by nature, and by taking your place after you have gotten up, your dog may be expressing their control. This is because alpha canines get the best of everything, from the best picking of the food to the first taste of water. Therefore, for them, taking your seat (one that is proclaimed as important) is taking the best seat of the house.
Dogs can assert their dominance over other dogs in the household or over family members in the home - both of which are not a very good thing. Although this may seem harmless at first, not nipping this behavior in the bud when the dog is still young can lead to many behavioral issues later on. You certainly don’t want a pup that is attempting to dominate your family members (especially if you have children)!
You can determine if the spot-thievery behavior is a dominant move or not based on the context of the action. For example, if your pup wags their tale and wiggles in happiness when they take your spot, you can be assured that this is not aggressive behavior. However, if your dog growls, shows their teeth, pins their ears, or attempts to bite - then you have a problem on your hands. A good course of action to remedy this is to hire a professional dog trainer to help you!
Pups who suffer from separation anxiety may be comforted by the warmth and smell you leave behind in your spot.
Separation anxiety is when a dog begins to suffer from anxious, fearful, sad, and panicked responses due to being away from you. As a result, a pup becomes hyper-attached to their owner and then stressed when left alone.
Common in shelter pups, canines that have not experienced their owner leaving them alone for long periods of time, or dogs that have had a traumatic experience - taking your space on the couch or bed can be a sign of anxiety brewing. A dog can be seeking assurance and soaking in your smell by taking your spot.
It’s important to recognize the onset of separation anxiety and begin treating it promptly before it turns into a much bigger problem!
If taking your spot results from this anxiety, you will often see it appear in tandem with other anxious behaviors, such as whining, being destructive, or stress peeing.