Dog Training | Fun | Health and Grooming

Why Does My Dog Sleep on Top of Me?

Dogs love to sleep. In fact dogs sleep between 12-14 hours per day – and puppies even longer! Some dogs love to sleep at the foot of the bed, others sleep in a crate. Some dogs even like sleeping outside!

But some dogs LOVE to sleep literally on top of us. In bed, paws and feet as close to our head as possible. So why does my dog sleep on top of me? What does it mean?

Let’s find out!

why does my dog sleep on top of me
Why does my dog sleep on top of me? What does it mean?

Why Does My Dog Sleep on Me?

There can be many reasons for a dog to want to sleep with you in bed. Not all of them are healthy! Some indicate the need for some more training or even a visit to the vet. 

Dogs sleeping in bed is common. About 80% of pet owners report that they co-sleep with their cats and dogs.

Sometimes your dog just loves you and sleeps with you because of that love. Likely, they are showing affection or just be marking territory. An excellent way of being marked as territory – certainly beats being peed on!

I have also seen this behavior in dogs that have lost their companion animal—the same with dogs with a particular person who has passed away. Sleeping on top of owners is also common in new puppies as they adjust to losing their family. Ultimately, the main goal isn’t to keep the dog out of bed, just not sleeping directly on top of your head.  

labradoodle puppy sleeping
A miniature Labradoodle puppy (named Max) having a nap.

Reader Emily shares her experience of having a dog that sleep right on top her her every evening.

“When I first brought home my rescue dog, he couldn’t be left alone to his own devices for more than an hour without being destructive. When it was time to go to bed, I quickly realized that he would not be able to crate train due to being locked in the shelter kennels for 7 months.

He was scared and in a new place, and since I worked at the shelter I adopted him from, he couldn’t figure out why his routine was messed up if I was right there?

This caused him to be anxious all the time, so co-sleeping was a way for him to bond with my husband and me and stop being so destructive. He would come up beside me and lay so close to my face that I had trouble breathing, and it was still the best decision I have ever made for us.”

Why Does My Dog Sleep on Me and Not my Husband?

The short answer is, he loves you more. On the other hand, the long answer dates back thousands of years. Because their sense of smell is their world, a dog will search your home looking for the perfect safe place to rest. As he searches, he is looking for the following 3 things:

  1. Scent– With over three hundred million olfactory receptors, compared to the paltry six million humans have, your dog is looking for something that smells familiar and safe. If you are just bringing a puppy home, ask for a blanket or towel he has been laying on from the rescue/breeder.
  2. Safety– When your dog is looking for a “safe space,” he is looking for a “den” type place that offers typically one way in and one way out and is also a place where they can see all the “goings-on” around their house and be close to the door.
  3. Surrounding– Your dog probably doesn’t always sleep on your head. They probably have a few places in your house that are favorite spots. You can even try and engineer a comfy space by using a good dog bed.
    • A prime space will have food and water sources nearby, easy access to the door that goes outside, and comforting smells. Nearly somewhere cozy that resembles a den.  

Your dog likely sees you as the Alpha in the home, and as such, you are their refuge.  You offer a familiar scent. Quite possibly, he is only smelling himself on you, but that will do. You offer safety throughout the home by having many beds and constant food and water source.

Your dog is surrounded by love and not restricted to one room or a crate all day.

Hence, they trusts you to create an excellent bed for them and even let you sleep in it with them!

Why Does My Dog Sleep on Top of Me? 1

Why Does my Dog Check on Me When I am Sleeping?

Dogs make the rounds several times a night. They are natural protectors, and it is in their nature to make sure no one is up to no good, and all is going accordingly.

Generally, if your dog is staring at you when you are asleep, they need something.  They could need to go outside or be hungry. Sometimes dogs just want some attention. Remember, your dog is awake, and you are not. Chances are they are just staring because of loving you. They want to spend extra time together!

Why Does My Dog Have to Sleep Touching Me?

Dogs like to sleep next to you for a few different reasons. Obviously, they want to sleep with you because they love you, but they are also conditioned to sleep close to something from birth.  Think about it.  They are born into a litter of puppies. They sleep next to their siblings for a minimum of 8-weeks. They mostly do this to catch the body heat from the rest of the litter. When adopted out or placed into a home and suddenly, they are alone for the first time.

They want to sleep near the Alpha, that’s you because the Alpha offers maximum security. Should you try to move in the night, your dog wants to be sure you don’t pull any ninja moves and sneak away, leaving them to fend for themself.

Is it okay For my Dog to Sleep in Bed with Me?

It is absolutely okay for your dog to sleep with you. However, I always recommend crate training in the beginning to establish crucial boundaries. This then, in turn, allows you to develop a healthy, enduring bond with you that will last a lifetime.

Also, ensure that once your dog is “officially” sleeping in your bed, you will continue to allow them to do so. Don’t flip flop.

If you suddenly revoke the access, you could end up creating new issues, like separation anxiety. Bouncing back and forth between your bed and another space for your dog to sleepworks for some dogs but can stress others.

grooming labradoodle vs goldendoodle
Goldendoodles LOVE to cuddle and love to sleep in bed.

If your dog sleeps with you, please follow these easy to do instructions on making the experience as enjoyable as possible for you both.  

Have regular vet visits so that your dog doesn’t pass any diseases to you that both of you can contract, i.e., ringworm, tape, pin and roundworms, and scabies. 

Take your dog to the groomer to get a nail trim and a bath. You can also do a thorough at-home groom. Either way, set a calendar reminder, so you never fall behind.

You will thank yourself when the calendar dings. We want a  pest free, lovely smelling (or at the very least not stinky) puppy in our bed. A well-groomed paw is also less likely to scratch you accidentally. 

Put on flea and tick treatment after the groomers to keep your bed pest free.  

The AKC recently came out with some research that indicated that there are actually many benefits to co-sleeping with your dog and that it should not be a source of shame for owners.  With over half of dog and cat owners now co-sleeping with their animals, it is time to consider co-sleeping as mainstream. Another study actually showed that co-sleeping actually creates a stronger bond with your dog.   

What Dogs Should Never Co-sleep? 

Remember, Dogs with pre-existing undesirable behaviors like separation anxiety, aggression, and resource guarding should be crate trained. They should, unfortunately, not be allowed to sleep in the bed. Resolve the issues before allowing such access. 

These negative behaviors can manifest in such a way that they can endanger both you and your dogs’ health. Consult a trainer before you let your dog sleep in your bed to not reinforce negative behavior patterns.

So to recap, co-sleeping is a great alternative to crate training for most dogs. Though there are no specific rules about what dogs you should co-sleep with and which ones you shouldn’t. 

We are our dog’s pack leaders. My thoughts are, why not let our dogs sleep with us?

I use their behavior as a gauge and a software program from the National Center for Shelter Dogs that is designed to bring underlying aggression out into the open. 

Any sign of aggressive behavior or resource guarding, and I would NOT recommend they sleep in your bed. 

Dog Sleeping in Bed Conclusions

Let them sleep as close as you can for as many years as you have with your furry friend. 

When our puppy is gone, we will miss him waking you with his loud snoring, stinky dog farts. We might even miss the restless legs as he runs merrily thru the grass, kicking you with all fours right in the gut at midnight. You will wish that they wake us up, staring eye to eye at 5 AM because of the bacon leftovers at dinner the night before. 

So size up to a California King and adopt another puppy and lay back and enjoy the sounds, smells, and feels of love.