If you've ever woken up in the middle of the night to find your dog sprawled across your body or face, this article is for you. You might be asking yourself, "Why does my dog sleep against me?" Well, we have answers, and we bet once you find out the cause of this behavior, it'll help you sleep better, as well.
1. Your Dog Wants to Protect You
Dogs descended from wolves, who live in packs. There is safety in numbers, and when they bed down, wolves will lay close together for warmth and safety. Instinctually, dogs want to protect you.
They want to be close to you to keep track of you and keep you safe. They will often find themselves in situations where their pack, which includes you and your family, is threatened by something outside of the group. The more an animal feels like a part of their pack or family unit, the stronger their sense of protection becomes towards that group.
2. You're Warm and Cuddly
Dogs also live the sense of comfort being close to you brings. They lie close because we're warm and it helps them feel comfortable and secure. Take this as the highest compliment. They want to be near you while they sleep because you make them feel safe.
3. Your Dog Is Showing Their Love for You
This behavior goes even deeper. Your dog is probably not just trying to stay warm or comfortable. They want to be close to you and show their love by sleeping on you.
Sleeping with you is a sign of affection. If your dog sleeps against you, they may also be trying to get your attention by whining or pawing at your arm. It's important that you don't ignore these signs and give them the love they are seeking.
4. They are Feeling Separation Anxiety
There's one concerning reason your dog may be sleeping against you. If your dog experiences severe separation anxiety, they may want to sleep next to you. They might even wake up the moment you get out of bed. If this is the reason, your dog may also show other signs of anxiety when you leave the house. You may also notice the following behaviors:
- Pacing, panting, or barking when you leave the house.
- Urinating or defecating in the house when you're gone.
- Destructive behavior, such as chewing through doors and walls or ripping up carpeting.
Some dogs respond well to natural remedies, such as doggy treats filled with CBD oil or calming essential oils sprayed on their bedding or blankets. However, most dogs benefit from professional help from a certified dog trainer or animal behaviorist who can work with you one-on-one to teach your dog how to cope with being left home alone without resorting to destructive behaviors.
Separation anxiety can build up over time as your dog gets older. The best approach is to try behavioral therapy to resolve this behavior.
5. They are Bonding With You
The benefits of co-sleeping with your pet may be more than just the companionship. When your dog lies against you, they are helping to build up your mutual bond. This can help both of you, and you might even miss your dog's presence when you're away.
- Better sleep. An animal's presence in bed can help you both sleep better, according to a study in the Journal of Sleep Research. In fact, the researchers found pets can have as much of an impact on improving sleep quality as taking prescription drugs or sleeping treatments such as melatonin or valerian root supplements.
- Lower blood pressure. According to a study from UC Berkeley's School of Public Health, people who owned pets had lower blood pressure than those who didn't own animals, especially if their pets were dogs instead of cats or birds, which were less likely to have an effect.
- Improved mental health and well-being. Another study from UC Berkeley found that having a pet, particularly a dog, can help relieve stress and improve both mental health and well-being.
What to Do if You Need Your Space
You love your dog, but sometimes it's just too much. If they sleep pressed against you every night, and you need some space because it's affecting your sleep, try the following.
- Start training them as puppies. It's super tempting to let your dog sleep close when they're puppies. Just remember, they're going to get bigger. Don't let them up from the start, and this behavior probably won't be an issue.
- Stop encouraging the behavior. If your dog is already a dedicated co-sleeper, stop reinforcing this sleep situation. Don't invite them up on your bed, and don't rub their tummy when they're laying with you.
- Crate train your dog. It's easier to train your dog to kennel when they are a puppy. If your dog is already an adult, bring their kennel in your room, and have them lie in it for bed. Don't give in if they whine. Be patient, and reward them when they're calm.
- Put your dog's bed next to your bed. It can help to make your pup feel comfortable when they're off the bed. Place their dog bed next to yours, and reward them lavishly for laying in it with treats and praise.
- Relieve their anxiety. If your dog is feeling stressed, they may not take well to being told, "No," when they try to get up on the bed with you. Figure out what's triggering their anxiety, and address the problem directly.
Find Your Comfort
Although your dog may not be able to tell you why they sleep on you, the reasons are clear. Your dog loves you and wants to protect you and bond with their family in a way that's natural for them. If your dog is sleeping close to you at night and it isn't bothering you, don't worry about it! You can take comfort knowing this behavior isn't an accident, but an expression of love and loyalty from your best friend who wants nothing more than to spend time with their human companion.