Let’s set the scene: you’ve established the ideal position on your couch after a long day. You have the throw pillows fluffed just right, and your laptop sits at the perfect angle for a proper Netflix binge. You momentarily leave your cozy nest to grab a snack from the kitchen, but upon returning to the couch, your canine pal is sitting in your spot!
You’ve undoubtedly experienced this scenario or one like it; dogs are firm believers in the age-old proverb: “Move your feet, lose your seat.”
Even so, is there perhaps another reason behind this impertinent behavior?
The simple answer is your dog likes to be close to you. That may mean snuggling on your lap, sitting on your feet, or stealing your spot if you vacate it.
Dogs like to feel close to you
The main reason that your dog will steal your spot is to connect with you.
There’s a strong likelihood that your preferred location on the couch smells like you.
Plus, your cushion is cozy and warm if you’ve lounged around. You might often still be seated, yet your dog will insist on sitting beside you.
To a dog, this is part of the routine. You get home from work, crack open a beer and spend time on the couch; your furry companion wants to be included.
Dogs feel safe in your spot
Dog owners should remember that dogs retain a pack mentality, and their basic survival instincts form the foundation of many current canine behaviors.
Your home, particularly the places in it where you sleep and snuggle, becomes your dog’s “den.” Dogs feel safe and secure while in their dens, and they’ll protect them if need be.
So, when the “alpha” (aka, you) leaves the most comfortable spot on the couch, the beta dog undoubtedly feels inclined to curl up in that same spot.
Dogs can be territorial
Sometimes, dogs sit close to you or steal your seat to mark their territory and show dominance.
This behavior is widespread when other dogs are in the household, as canines often test each other’s boundaries.
Dogs with a history of abuse might also demonstrate specific territorial patterns.
It depends — if you and your dog have a strong relationship, it probably just wants the comfort of your scent and warmth.
If that’s the case, give your dog a little shove when you return to the couch. You have nothing to worry about if your pup scoots over without a fuss. Just be sure to give your dog some extra cuddles.
Your dog might whine or remain close to you once you stay seated. In this case, you might have a “Velcro dog,” or an overly clingy and anxious pet.
Dogs that feel anxious may be more likely to exhibit seat-stealing behaviors. Your dog might feel extra secure when surrounded by your scent; plus, it knows there’s a good chance you’ll return to your favorite spot soon.
Separation anxiety can lead to bigger problems, so you’ll want to make sure your dog isn’t displaying other common signs of this condition, such as destructive behavior or excessive barking, especially when you leave home.
You should call a dog trainer if your dog growls or appears threatening when you ask it to scoot over.
Territorial dogs can show aggression and even bite their owners. You need to reassert your authority before the situation escalates calmly.
How to reclaim your seat
Dogs respond well to patient, consistent training with rewards for desirable behavior.
Select your command word (such as “off”) to direct your dog to move out of your spot. As soon as it moves, offer plenty of verbal praise and a treat.
Your dog might need a little shove to help it get the message the first few times, but for certain dog breeds, this is easier said than done (good luck moving a Great Dane out of your seat).
The goal is for your dog to respectfully give your spot back to you without much extra motivation.
Discuss your concerns with a trainer or vet if you think your dog might suffer from separation anxiety.
Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise and stimulation throughout the day. Practice crate training so your dog has a safe, secure place within the household.
Maybe consider gentle medications such as CBD treats.
Finally, don’t make too much fanfare when you leave the house or return home; these should be calm, everyday events within your dog’s daily routine.