If you’re a dog owner, you know that dogs can have interesting sleeping habits. But what can the way your dog sleeps tell you about them? Why does your dog lay on top of you?
Dogs sleep or lay on top of their owners for various reasons. For example, your furry friend usually likes to lie on you for dog cuddles! However, this isn’t true for all dogs. Sometimes, a dog lays on its owner due to anxiety, illness, or guarding behavior, so it’s important to understand your dog’s sleeping habits and behavior to detect when something is wrong.
So how can dog owners determine what’s going on with their dog? Is your pet laying on top of you because of your strong bond, or is something else going on? Dog lovers, look no further!
The rest of this article will detail why dogs sleep with their dog parents, how to spot signs of separation anxiety and other problem behaviors in your dog, and what to do about it!
Why Is My Dog Laying on Top of Me?
There are many reasons why a dog lays on top of its owner. Luckily, most of these reasons are harmless, merely demonstrating how much our animals treat us like family!
To a degree, domesticated dogs still retain some of their wilder instincts from their days as pack animals. One of those is protecting those they care about! So your dog may remain close to you as a form of protection, even laying on top of you to guard their territory—you!
How pronounced these guarding instincts depend on several factors, namely the history and breed of your dog. Many dogs exhibit these behaviors to a small degree, but certain breeds, like hounds, have increased territorial instincts due to breeding; so these dogs tend to spend more time laying on their owners than other pets.
It’s possible for the instinctual guarding behavior of pack animals towards humans to become a problem, especially if separation anxiety is involved. If you’re one of the many dog owners concerned about this behavioral condition, keep reading for more information!
Because your dog knows and trusts you, your pooch may lay on top of you when they’re anxious and searching for a safe place. Certain events can trigger nervousness in dogs, especially when they’re unpredictable and your dog hasn’t been desensitized to them. For example, some of those events include:
- Storms and lightning
- Loud appliances
- Loud music
Though not all dogs are bothered by these noises, they can make some dogs lay on top of their owners for comfort. While it’s a good idea to offer an affectionate embrace to your pup during these challenging times, I can’t encourage you to spend your entire evening hugging your dog in the tub during a thunderstorm.
So how can humans provide a comfortable place for anxious dogs? Keep reading to find out more.
Soothing The Family
As a dog owner, you know that dogs can sense when you’re upset. So, just as a dog may lay on top of a person when they’re frightened and seeking safety, your dog may come to you when they see a sign of your struggles.
As a human, you may not realize how dogs can read your behavior and sense when you’re upset the same way they can for any other dog. When a pet is familiar with you and considers you family or part of their pack, they notice when you’re off.
Dogs can pick up on these cues through your body language, changes in your tone of voice, and hormones you release when you’re worried or upset.
If you’re anxious, crying, or worried, your pup may come over to lay or sleep near you to offer you comfort. In fact, a dog laying on top of you is a sign of affection, as it’s one of the ways a pet can demonstrate they’re there for you during hard times.
Looking for Warmth
It’s no secret that pet owners are probably the warmest place for a dog to lay on top of—even warmer than their own bed! Because people exude body heat and dogs (especially puppies) are attracted to that heat, they’ll often come over and sleep or lay on top of a nearby human.
This is especially true in colder seasons like fall and winter when body heat is at a premium. As a result, you may notice your dog lay on you more frequently during the early morning or evening hours because the sun isn’t out.
The same thing goes for cats, who are even more attracted to warm spots for sleeping. After all, a human’s lap is warmer than any bed or sunspot around!
If you enjoy a cuddle now and then and your dog’s size permits, it’s not a bad idea to encourage laying in a human’s lap. But every owner knows that doesn’t always turn out as you pictured, especially when those German shepherd puppies are fully grown and still insisting on being lap dogs!
A Sign of Respect
This point ties into something I wrote about near the beginning of this article: the mentality of pack animals. A dog lays on top of other dogs in the wild to initiate them into their pack. In this way, an owner can interpret a dog laying on top of them as a sign of affection and respect.
Some dogs lay on top of their owners when external, unexpected stimuli cause anxiety. But what if your dog lays on you repeatedly without the presence of an easily identifiable anxiety trigger?
Some dogs (especially dogs that have been rescued from the street, shelters, or puppy mills) tend to develop anxiety disorders that can affect their everyday lives. A dog experiencing anxiety in this way will often seek calm, secure places to hide in addition to looking for reassurance from their primary caregiver—their owner.
Why Does My Dog Sleep on Me?
Most dogs will do this because they’re looking for affection and genuinely enjoy sharing a cuddle with you—it makes them feel safe and secure because they trust you and the close bond between pets and pet owners.
If you’re lucky enough to have your dog sleep on you, it means they feel safe and comfortable around you! But, of course, a dog will only let its guard down by sleeping around someone they truly trust, so if a dog goes to sleep on you, you should take that for the honor it is!
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Is It Okay If My Dog Sleeps in My Bed?
You can let your dog sleep in your bed if you’re okay with it! Though some people discourage this to curb a blanket-hogging dog or have less hair stuck to their sheets, the choice to let your dog lay or sleep with you is really up to you and your individual tastes.
Though it isn’t for everyone, many people enjoy having their dog sleep in bed with them! A dog sleeping with you can bring psychological comfort and warmth to owners, leading many people to enjoy it, even if a dog can sometimes hog the mattress!
Be warned, though: once you let a dog sleep in your bed, they tend to be hard to train otherwise! So if you’ve got a new pup and want to stamp out this habit before it begins, keep your pooch in a kennel for sleeping. Though your sleep will no doubt be interrupted, having a well-trained dog is more fun in the end!
How Do I Get My Dog to Stop Sleeping in My Bed?
As I said before, the best method to prevent a dog from sleeping in your bed is not to allow it in the first place; once a dog has learned to do something, it can often be challenging to get them to stop!
But if you’ve ended up with a dog sleeping next to you every night, consider positive reinforcement training to get them to use their own bed.
Reward your dog every time they lay in their bed (or wherever you’ve chosen as an appropriate sleeping spot) and do this consistently until the dog enjoys laying there of their own accord.
You’ll also have to limit access to your bed. As much as it may annoy your pet, close your bedroom door at night to keep them out—they’ll have no choice but to go to their new sleeping spot!
How Can I Tell if My Dog Is Anxious?
If you want to tell the difference between a calm and an anxious dog, you need to take a few things into account, namely their body language and behavioral cues. Just because you see a dog lay on top of someone doesn’t mean the dog is anxious—there are circumstances and other behaviors to consider!
What a Calm Dog Looks Like
If your dog is relaxing calmly, there will be certain body language cues you can look for to gauge their comfort level:
- Tail is still or wagging slowly
- Mouth slightly open or relaxed
- Eyes are closed or half-closed
- Ears are relaxed and not perked up
- Slow breathing or snoring
- Twitching while sleeping -- this means your dog is dreaming and sleeping deeply!
So if your dog is lying down and exhibiting these behaviors, there’s no need to worry.
What an Anxious Dog Looks Like
On the opposite end of the spectrum, if your dog is laying on you because they’re nervous, their body language will look a lot different:
- Showing the whites of their eyes
- Ears pinned back or pricked up
- Mouth closed tight
- Body tense and limbs held close
- Rapid breathing or panting
- Tail between legs
When an Anxious Dog May Lay on Top of You
Dogs who experience anxiety tend to lay on their owners during certain periods, such as storms or loud noises, when strangers are present, or when the owner is about to leave home. Keep context in mind when trying to root out anxious behavior!
Dogs with anxiety problems tend to be reactive towards specific stimuli, such as strangers, other dogs, loud noises, or humans in specific clothing (like hats or sunglasses). During episodes of anxiety, a dog can become fear-aggressive and lash out.
If you’re concerned your dog may have issues with anxiety, it’s best to speak with your veterinarian. Once other health-related causes have been ruled out, your veterinarian can direct you to dog training resources, desensitization protocols, and possible behavior-modifying medications to help soothe your dog.
How Can I Give My Anxious Dog a Comfortable Place to Lay?
You want to provide a sense of comfort for your anxious pooch, but sometimes, sticking to your side all night isn’t the best way to go—especially since you can’t be there 24/7. So how can you make your dog lay in a comfortable place?
Use Positive Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement (rewarding the response you wish to train) is key for anxious dogs. Positive reinforcement provides a reward for executing tasks. You can apply this training method to make your dog comfortable in new places or situations, from storm phobia to dealing with other dogs.
If you want to kennel train your dog, you hang out treats each time they’re sitting comfortably in their kennel. The reward creates the association between the kennel and good things happening, which makes your pet feel comfortable and confident in the kennel.
This method can help train dogs to feel safe in certain places in your home. For example, if your dog has a storm phobia, you can train them to go to their kennel. With the added reward, they recognize this as a safe spot!
Apply Some Pressure
Dogs are comforted by gentle pressure, which helps to alleviate anxiety. In fact, this is one of the reasons a dog may lay on you when they’re upset!
Wrapping your dog up in a comfy blanket or a weighted vest can ease anxiety, creating further confidence in your furry friend while showing them that they don’t need to rely on you for all their support.
Dogs are affectionate and social creatures. Sometimes, they communicate their need for comfort and affection by laying on you! They can also do this to show respect, comfort someone they know is upset, or signal that they’re nervous. Most of the time, though, pets just want to cuddle!