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Why Does My Dog Sleep on Me? (Dog Behavior Explained)

He accompanies you on your weekly runs. He greets you enthusiastically when you come home from work. It’s almost as if he can read your mind when something is bothering you. Is it any wonder then that your dog wants to cuddle up next to you at night? After all, your pup is your canine best friend, isn’t he?

Humans domesticated a common ancestor of gray wolves and dogs between 20,000–40,000 years ago. We’ve been inseparable since that time. Early peoples likely shared their food and dwellings with their canine companions. Technically, we’ve been occupying the same bedroom for thousands of years. Some pets are happy just to be around you. Others want a closer relationship.

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The How and Why of Pet Ownership

Many reasons are apparent if you consider the why of pet ownership and the end result. If you live alone and have a dog as a guardian, it’s natural that he would stick by you, even laying on you. Canines selectively bred for this purpose take their job seriously. You’ll see it in their staunch loyalty and fearless nature when encountering threats.

Perhaps you got a pet to raise with your kids. Maybe you want to teach them the responsibilities of being a dog owner. In these situations, a child becomes almost a sibling to your pup. He may spend hours on end playing and running around with your children. Science has shown that canines can read human emotions. Because we share the same hormones, we feel love toward one another.

Just like sharing a bed with their littermates, your child becomes one of the pack when your dog sleeps with him and lays on top of him. It reinforces the bonds that their time together has forged. These simple acts fortify the relationship every night. However, sometimes, the answer is less complicated.

Sleeping with dog
Image Credit: Daniel Myjones, Shutterstock

A Better Place to Sleep

Dogs aren’t much different than people. They like a warm, comfortable place to sleep. The chances are that your bed fits the bill to a T! Of course, he’d want to crawl under the covers, too. It’s a lot better than the floor or a cramped dog bed. With you, he can stretch odd and cuddle up next to you or even on you. Comfort also means safety to your pet.

Dogs are driven by their sense of smell. It’s how they explore their world. Your bed and clothes smell like you, the one who feeds and protects them. Instinct will lead your pet to the safest place in the house—next to you with his muzzle resting on your side to make sure you’re still there. The feelings are mutual. There’s a good reason why 45% of pet owners have their pooch beside them in bed.

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The Psychology of Attachment Behavior

Scientists describe the degree of closeness a dog feels for a familiar person as attachment behavior. Your pup doesn’t take long to form a bond with you. Then, when he encounters something odd or out of place in his world, his instinct is to go to your side. It’s safe next to you as the leader of the pack. In many ways, your relationship with your pet is almost like that of a parent and child.

It’s not a stretch to say that humans and dogs communicate on the same level with these basic feelings, given the fact that we share 84% of our DNA. Think of how you may have reacted to something scary when you were young. Running to your mom or dad was probably your first instinct. Sometimes, it wasn’t enough to stand by them. You wanted to be picked up and carried.

Sound familiar?

You may have heard of a trick to get a new puppy to go to sleep in his crate. Wrap a hot water bottle in a soft towel with a clock. The warmth and the ticking sound will simulate curling up to your pup’s littermates or mother. We can’t speak to how effective it is, but the idea is to create a safe place so that the pooch can relax and fall asleep. After all, puppies don’t sleep alone. They cuddle up together.

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Encouraging the Behavior

Dog owners differ in how they view their pups, which can have a profound impact on whether he sleeps in the same room or on top of you. Some think of their dogs, as well, dogs. They sleep in a crate or doghouse on their own. Others take it to the extreme, referring to themselves as pet parents. Many fall somewhere in between the two camps.

If you think of your pup like a child, you’re probably more likely to welcome him into the bedroom. You may even pat the bed and coax him to jump up next to you. If you encourage your dog, he’s going to take advantage of the comfy digs. If you keep in physical contact with him, he’ll likely scooch a little closer until he’s lying on you.

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Too Close

Some pets take these emotions to the extreme. Dogs with separation anxiety cannot bear being apart from their owners. They may follow them from room to room. These pups may panic when left alone. Sometimes, it’s not enough for them to be near you. They want to be on top of you to get as close as they can. These situations often require multiple sessions to teach your dog to relax when by himself.

sleeping with dog pug
Image credit: Burst, Pexels

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Final Thoughts About Dogs and Sleep

The thought of sharing your sleeping quarters with your dog is an ancient one that goes back thousands of years. It helped fuel the close relationship we have with our canine companions to this day. We can almost call it instinctive for both you and your dog to want to cuddle up together. After all, there’s no place like home with a cozy bed and a warm sleeping partner.

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Featured Image: Rasulov, Shutterstock