What is it about dogs that makes them wait for you to get up and then they slyly sneak in and steal your seat? Our dog Claude does this to me every time I get up off the couch to grab a drink. I will head back in from the kitchen to see him looking as proud as punch after stealing my spot… whilst the rest of the family laughs!
But what makes a dog sit in your spot when you get up? Why do dogs like to steal your seat so much? I mean, do we not give them enough without them having to jump into our cosy seat too!
I have my own ideas why they do this, but also decided to canvas the opinion of dog owners on Twitter. I got the best answers, and then conducted a poll to see what the most popular reason could be… you can see the results lower down the page!
What does it mean when a dog takes your spot when you get up? When a dog steals your seat, it can mean many one of many things. Dogs communicate with behaviors, so when they take your spot, it’s could be them trying to give you a message, or they want something you have, whether that’s warmth or company.
That’s the short answer to why your dog takes your spot, but let’s now get into the detail of what the seat stealing could mean based on those responses I got.
Why does my dog sit in my spot when I get up?
1. Your dog wants to sit in the warm spot
One of the most popular reasons given for dogs always sitting in your spot when you get up is because they just like how comfortable it feels. This rings very true with my own dog, as he often steals my seat from a where he is: sitting on the rug position which can’t be as comfortable as where I am sitting.
I will get up, walk out of the room, and come back in, sometimes just seconds later. In that time, he will have got up off the rug on the floor and jumped up onto the couch into my warm seat.
Dogs love warm spaces. You see that with their burrowing behavior when they try to get under your bed covers. By jumping up and stealing your seat, they are getting the warmest spot in the room… and who can blame them?
2. Your dog wants to sit in the alpha position
The second most popular response to why your dog keeps stealing your spot is rooted in their ancestral behaviors and is all about the pack mentality and who the alpha is.
This theory also makes a lot of sense, as before dogs were domesticated, they live wild as part of a pack. Every pack has a clear hierarchy, with one alpha dog, typically a male, being in charge.
The alpha dog is the one in charge of the rest and as you would expect gets the very best of everything. That means the best food, the best drinks, the best company and yes, you guessed it, the best seat in the house… a throne if you wish!
What dog wouldn’t want to be the alpha leader? But in order to do that, the need to exert their dominance over the existing pack leader, take their seat, and become the new top dog.
It reminds me a bit of The Lion King movie when Scar tries to become the leader of the animals!
So, whilst your dog might respect you as the leader of the pack, he might also be coveting your seat and given half a chance will steal your spot as soon as you get up.
3. Your dog likes the attention of your reaction
When I come back into the lounge and see my dog has stolen my spot, I always turn it into a big joke with rest of my family. I will point at Claude the dog, act all angry, and start to tickle him and then push him off.
Over time, my dog has learned that he will get this reaction. And guess what? He loves the attention he gets from me after I catch him stealing my spot.
What I have ended up doing here is condition my dog into taking my spot when I get up and leave the room. Dogs love attention and play and will quickly learn what behavior gets them what they want.
4. Your dog wants to see what’s so good about your seat
An alternative theory is that offers a possible explanation to your dog sits in your spot when you get up is that they just want what you have.
I can only compare it to how toddlers try to get what parents have and make grabs for things. Dogs can’t grab, but they can steal your seat so could simply be taking your spot to see what it’s like… especially given that you seem to like it so much!
5. Your dog has separation anxiety
It could even more a more negative reason; separation anxiety. Dogs are very attached to their human owners and will often not want them out of their sight. Being near their owner, or in the company their smell can put a dog at ease.
By jumping into your seat when you get up, your dog could be seeking the assurance of you, your smell, and your warmth.
Separation anxiety can be a problematic issue, and I will talk a little more about this further down.
6. Your dog wants to spread their scent
Your dog taking your spot could also be their way of putting their scent on you. This is common behavior with dogs. They will rub their scent glands onto their owners as a way of marking their territory.
It’s a sign that your dog loves you and wants the whole world to know that you are theirs, and also, part of their pack family.
7. Learned behavior to get a reward
Similar to point 3, your dog could be stealing your seat because he knows he will get a reward for doing it. For example, are you tempting your dog off the warm seat with a treat so you can reclaim your spot?
If you are rewarding him for jumping off the seat, then it makes sense your dog would get into your spot each time you leave the room. Dogs aren’t stupid!
Handy Hint: If your dog consistently takes your spot it means they don’t respect you as the alpha. Here are some other signs your dog lacks respect for you.
What dog owners say
There have been no studies that reveal what it means when a dog takes your spot when you get up. The possible theories in this article are based on me asking dog owners, and then creating a vote to see how the reasons are ranked in popularity of opinion.
Of 181 dog owners who voted, 43% said that the meaning of a dog taking your spot when you get up is all down to them wanting to get a warm seat. Here’s a breakdown of the results in full.
Here’s what the votes look like in a tabular format.
|Reasons why a dog takes your spot||Votes||Percentage|
|To get the warm spot||77||43%|
|To exhibit alpha dominant behavior||34||19%|
|To get attention from you||21||12%|
|To see what's good about your seat||17||9%|
|Due to separation anxiety||15||8%|
|To spread their scent on you||11||6%|
|To get a reward from you||6||3%|
When seat stealing becomes problematic
We always view my dog taking my spot as cute behavior. I personally think he does it because it’s nice and warm and he loves the reaction he gets.
If your dog moves quickly when you ask it to, then it’s a sign that it respects you, your spot and seat, and what the pecking order in the pack is.
However, for some dogs, it is actually problem behavior and there are certain signs that it might indicate a problem with your dog.
For example, is your dog refusing to move from your seat when you come back to reclaim your spot? If he is, and even mixing it with aggression and growling, you’ve got a dog which is trying to exert his dominance over you.
It could be that the dog thinks that be sitting in your seat he is able to have power over not just you, but also the other animals or dogs in the house.
This needs to be resolved, because it can be the sign of health issue or go on to manifest even more problematic behavior such as overprotection and biting.
There’s also the separation anxiety element where your dog is jumping into your spot due to anxiety, fear, nerves, or stress of being apart from you.
You can usually spot this by watching what the dog does when you leave the room.
If he sits up when you get up, looks alert, and watches you leave the room, before jumping into your spot, it’s a possible case of anxiety. Your dog’s body language is always a big give away to how they are feeling and why they might steal your seat.
As with any concerns, if you think your dog sits in your spot when you get up for a negative behavioral reason, seek professional advice from a vet.
How to stop your dog taking your spot
Once dogs learn that they can move into your spot when you get up, it will quickly become ingrained behavior, particularly if you don’t give them feedback to stop the seat stealing.
To stop a dog stealing your seat and re-train them to behave differently you can try the following steps.
- When you get up from your seat, don’t leave the room but stand and watch what your dog does. Look for body language and eye contact from him that shows he’s going to now get up and possibly steal your spot.
- If your dog looks at you, give him a very firm “hey” command, and maintain eye contact with him… and do this before he has a chance to stand up. Keep the eye contact until he looks away, as this means you’ve won the battle of body language.
- Keep repeating this every time you get up from your seat. If you keep repeating the command, your dog should eventually stop trying to take your seat when you get up.
- If you do find that your dog starts to move towards your seat despite your vocal commands, repeat them, with one finger in the air, moving towards your dog with the aim of getting him to be submissive.
My family think it’s hilarious when Claude steals my spot, and the truth is, it can be quite funny. But sometimes it can be the sign of something more serious.
However, mostly it’s just your dog wanting to get warm and close to you. At least, that’s what 43% of dog owners who voted seem to think, and I tend to agree with them.
You might also like…
I enjoy getting to the bottom of why dogs act like they do. Here some more interesting findings from the Doggysaurus blog: