Have you ever gotten up from the couch or bed and returned to see your dog curled up in your spot? This isn't an uncommon experience for us dog owners. But why does my dog steal my spot when I get up? There are a few potential reasons behind the behavior:
One reason your dog might steal your spot is out of love and respect. He or she may just want to soak up your warmth and smell or hope to cuddle with you when you come back. Dogs are pack animals, so they enjoy sleeping in warm piles with their family. Your dog may just be trying to accomplish that.
How to determine if this is the reason: When dogs steal your spot out of affection, they typically give it back or snuggle in to you when you return.
2. Separation Anxiety
Another reason dogs steal our spots is separation anxiety. Your dog may feel compelled to take your spot due to the distress he or she experiences when you leave.
How to determine if this is the reason: Observe your dog's body language to decide if the cause is separation anxiety. Signs may include concernedly watching your every move, trembling or cowering while in your spot or whining. More general signs of separation anxiety include following you everywhere while you're at home and excessive barking, howling, pacing and destructive behavior when you leave.
How to resolve this root behavior: There are a few things you can do for your dog's minor separation anxiety. Start by minimizing arrivals and departures, making them less of a big deal through restrained greetings followed by calm pats. You can also train your dog to understand a word or hand signal that assures him or her you will be back. More severe cases of separation anxiety may need more attention and the help of a dog trainer or behaviorist.
The third reason your dog may be stealing your spot is to assert his or her dominance over you. In typical homes with our dogs, you are the alpha - the head of the pack - and your dog is the beta. This mimics the hierarchy canines experienced as pack animals in the wild. Although beta dogs are submissive, they are strong and ready to take over for the alpha at any time.
How to determine if this is the reason: There will be signs that your dog is trying to assert dominance. For example, when you try to take back your spot, your dog may sit upright and stare at you or even growl without budging.
How to resolve this root behavior: First things first, don't try to force your dog out of your spot or reprimand him or her. Instead, grab a treat and call your dog over to get him or her out of the spot. Give an easy command such as "sit" or "down" and once he or she is submissive and listening, give the treat. If the dominance assertion is a larger problem than just stealing your spot, you may want to get help from a dog trainer or behaviorist.