Dogs aren’t always easy to understand.
They don’t speak the way we do, but they DO tell us everything we need to know with their actions.
Dogs can’t just tell me what’s wrong, like when I go to my doctor and complain about my symptoms.
That’s why their people so often come into my office and ask, “Why does my dog DO THAT?”
Today, I’ll be answering another one of the most common questions I get from curious pet parents…
Why does my dog keep stealing my spot?
There are four main reasons that your dog might steal your spot when you leave the room… and one of them can be a problem.
Reason 1: It’s warm, and smells like his favorite person
You probably guessed this one.
One reason your dog might steal your seat is for comfort — it’s a nice, warm spot that smells like you!
Yeah, it might seem a little weird, but dogs love to soak up their person’s unique scent. It helps your pup feel at home, like when I smell chicken soup simmering in the kitchen.
This could also be a sign of loyalty and love. Your dog might think he’s protecting the alpha’s space until you come back.
Reason 2: They know you think it’s cute
Yeah, you read that right.
The first time your pooch snuggled up in your empty seat, it could’ve been for the warmth and comfort…
…but, if you scratched and patted them when you returned, you may have unknowingly reinforced the behavior!
Remember when you were a kid? What if you knew that if you cleaned the kitchen after dinner, you’d then get dessert or a piece of candy? You’d probably clean the kitchen every night!
If your dog thinks you’ll reward them with belly rubs, they might steal your spot more often, too.
Some dogs simply like the affection they get when you return and find them sitting in your favorite spot.
It can be a little annoying… but the play for your attention is ultimately harmless.
Well, unless it’s…
Reason 3: They’re struggling with anxiety
This behavior could be a red flag for separation anxiety.
Read your pal’s body language. If you come back and he’s shivering or panting, he’s probably anxious.
In this case, your dog may need a little help understanding that his favorite human will always come back to him!
Don’t make a big deal out of leaving OR coming back. It could also help to establish a word or phrase when you depart — like, “I’ll be right back!” for example.
This can help your dog adjust to the routine of you leaving and coming back.
Reason 4: They’re trying to establish dominance
Stealing your spot can also be a sign of disrespect and disobedience — Fido might want to actually ‘take your place’ at the ‘head of the pack.’
If your dog sits and stares at you when you tell him it’s time to go, they might need a reminder that YOU are the alpha.
To do this, you don’t want to be forceful or angry. Show your authority by calmly giving a command. Hold their stare. Your dog should break the staring contest and move.
If this keeps happening (or you see other signs of defiance), you can work with a trainer to re-establish your position as the gentle leader of your pack.
Again, it’s important to look at the context.
For example, if Fido nudges you roughly and growls for you to move… this is obviously a problem.
But if he takes your spot when you leave, then moves over and/or wags his tail when you come back, he might be showing you respect.
I know. Dogs can be confusing.
What ‘weird’ things does your dog do? Reply to this email and tell me all about their funny behaviors.
You never know, I might answer it in an upcoming newsletter.
From my pack to yours,
From my pack to yours,
Dr. Jeff Werber, DVM