Why Does My Dog Sit in My Spot When I Get Up?

chocolate lab rests head on woman's lap on outside chair

Treehugger / Dan Amos

Anyone with a dog knows this scenario: You're sitting in your favorite chair, minding your own business, and seconds after you get up, your four-legged friend swoops in to steal your spot. So, what’s the deal?

There are several reasons why your pooch may want to steal your seat, the most common being affection or dominance. You can usually decipher which is the case based on the dog's body language.

Find out why your dog keeps taking your spot and what, if anything, you should do about it.

Seat-Stealing as a Sign of Affection

small white terrier dog gazes adoringly at their owner

Treehugger / Dan Amos

As social animals, dogs want to be part of a safe and secure place in which they feel they belong. This goes back to the pack mentality of their wolf ancestors. Back then, the strength and support of the den was a matter of life and death, and they'd stop at nothing to protect it.

Today, dogs—now fully domestic animals—see their human companions as their safety. Your scent is familiar, so your dog knows instinctively that any place you've been must be familiar and safe, too. It's the same reason why dogs are keen to sleep in our beds, ride in our cars, and lounge on our furniture and in our laps.

Dogs are incredibly intelligent animals and quick to pick up on the habits and routines of their humans. They know the places in and around the house you use often. Sitting in your spot is a way of protecting your territory, as well. Think of this behavior as your dog saving your place so that you can come back to it later.

Seat-Stealing to Show Dominance

german shepherd dog sits in driver's seat of jeep

Treehugger / Dan Amos

Another reason a dog will steal your seat, and not one to encourage, is to show dominance. This could be the case if there are multiple dogs in the same household. It often occurs when the dog is a fairly new addition to the family, has a history of abuse, or is part of a larger group of dogs. This behavior is often a dog's way of establishing its "rank" in the family, either among the humans or the other dogs they live with.

In this case, body language may be more aggressive and territorial. Spot-stealing could be accompanied by barking, taking a defensive stance, or biting. This indicates that the dog is trying to find its place in the group, or pack, and figure out where it belongs.

Dogs are naturally territorial, but some territorial behaviors are not healthy in a family dynamic. Allowing your dog to show this kind of dominance for extended periods of time can lead to other behavioral issues. The American Veterinary Medical Association says it's even more important to correct this behavior if there are young children who may get hurt as a result of the dog's aggression.

Most of the time, with proper training and positive reinforcement, the dog will come to understand that there is no need for this action and eventually quit the behavior.

What to Do When Your Dog Steals Your Seat

person holds out treat to chocolate lab who waits patiently

Treehugger / Dan Amos

If your dog steals your seat while wagging its tail and exhibiting gentle behavior, chances are there's nothing to worry about. But, if you notice aggression—especially in the form of growling, bearing teeth, or biting—it's best to implement some training methods before the issue worsens.

One option is to hire a professional dog trainer or take the dog to a training school. Your trainer will help you get to the bottom of why the dog is reacting this way. Is there another dog they're in rivalry with? Are there children in the house? If the dog is a puppy, this early training will ensure that the behavior won't continue as it matures.

chocolate lab holds blanket in mouth in kitchen, looking confused

Treehugger / Dan Amos

If you feel comfortable enough to train your dog on your own, there are books and tutorials available online that can help. As long as you’re consistent in reinforcing good behavior with praise or treats, it can be turned around in a matter of weeks or months. Keep in mind: It doesn’t do any good to yell or shout at the dog for doing the unwanted behavior, as they won’t necessarily understand what it is exactly they’re doing wrong. Instead, buy plenty of training treats and provide positive reinforcement when they behave well.

Lastly, it's important to make sure everyone in the household is on the same page as to what to expect and how to handle the disciplinary tactics. This will ensure the dog isn’t getting mixed messages or confusing cues from each person. 

View Article Sources
  1. van der Borg, Joanne A. M. et al. "Dominance In Domestic Dogs: A Quantitative Analysis Of Its Behavioural Measures." PLOS ONE 10.8 (2015): e0133978, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0133978

  2. "Dog Bite Prevention." American Veterinary Medical Association.