At some point, one would assume, a dog achieves a magnitude that makes it impossible for it to be considered a lap dog. I have never met a dog that believes it has reached that point, and I have known some BIG dogs. When I was growing up, my aunt had a Rottweiler named Nathan, and whenever we would visit, Nathan would have to sit right on you. I know what you are saying, “have to” is not the right phrase, but you never met this dog. I think it was a compulsion. If there was someone at the proper height to be sat upon, he had no choice: he HAD to sit on you.
With smaller dogs, this is a cute thing; no one complains about the cute Yorkie, fresh from the groomer, coming up on your lap for a cuddle. No one thinks twice about pulling the pathetic, shivering Chihuahua up from the cold, cruel floor onto their nice cozy belly in the middle of a movie. Even the snorting, mouth-breathing Pug is a welcome lap decoration in most households. But when you are cuddling on the sofa with an 80-pound Lab or sharing your easy-chair with a 65-pound brindle Pittie, people start to judge.
I think there are probably a number of factors that make dogs enamored of lap sitting, not the least of which is us. When we see someone with a puppy, regardless of the breed, or its future size potential, our first instinct is to pick that cute bastard up and cuddle with it. If we have the opportunity to sit down, we will hold the little guy on our laps and just hang out for hours. We continue to do this all through puppyhood, and before we know it, that cute ball of fluff is now a 120-pound St. Bernard that does not understand why it is not welcome on grandma’s rocker anymore.
Dogs are incredibly social animals: they travel in packs in the wild and create “packs” out of their adopted families. They have evolved over millennia to be able to identify who is a member of their pack and who is an outsider by using their keen sense of smell. Special scent glands and the tendency to sleep in proverbial “dogpiles” creates a shared scent among the pack. When we become a part of that pack, it is no small wonder that they want to share their scent with us (and, due to our insistence on regular bathing, it is a scent that has to be constantly renewed).
Sometimes (like in my house in the winter months), it is just about staying warm. Many of the dogs that we choose to bring into our homes are actually indigenous to much warmer climates, so when we insist on keeping our house at 55 degrees in the winter time, they just need someplace to curl up to keep their teeth from chattering.
The dogs you have to watch out for are the ones that insist on sitting on you to prove that they are the boss—I believe this was the case with the previously mentioned dog, Nathan). As pack animals, dogs need there to be an order to things: someone is the leader, and, to varying degrees, everyone else is a follower. No one likes to be low man on the totem pole, so dogs are constantly trying to maneuver into a more prominent position in the pecking order. Don’t let these dogs sit on you, it won’t end well.
I believe in most cases dogs want to sit on us for the same reason we invite them to do so: affection. Closeness of body as closeness of spirit. They sit on us because it makes them happy. We invite them up because it makes us happy. It is a very agreeable social contract that we have with our pets, but dogs are more than just pets to most of us; they are family, and, as family, they deserve to be happy and comfortable and to feel loved. Besides, it is still winter, and why pay for more heat in the house when you have an organic heating blanket right there at your feet.
by: Tim Kiester with extensive grammatical edits provided by Laura Nelson (check out her blog; she is hilarious).