Dogs of nearly any breed, age, and size love to lay close to or on top of their owners, whether they are sleeping or lounging on the couch. Although this is a relatively positive behavior, many owners have a problem with it, especially if the pooch in question is on the larger side.
Even if you don’t have a problem with your dog laying so close to you, you might be wondering why it does this in the first place. If you are wondering this question, you have come to the right place.
In this article, we are going to look at the four top reasons why dogs sleep or lay close to their owners. The short answer is that this behavior is ingrained into their genes and reinforced as puppies. To learn more about this behavior, as well as what you can do about it, keep reading.
4 Reasons Why Your Dog Sleeps So Close to You
1. It’s in Canine Genes
Even though your furry friend is likely gentle and loving to people, they descended from wolves. Although many characteristics shared by wolves were bred out of domesticated dogs, others were not. Most notably, domesticated dogs are pack animals, just like their wolf descendants.
In the wild, wolves are pack animals, causing them to lay with their other pack members for warmth and security. Laying in this way is actually necessary for wolf survival. It is so necessary that this behavior is seen in puppies specifically.
Both wolf and domesticated dog puppies are born in litters. As they are still puppies, the entire litter will sleep in little dog piles for additional warmth and protection. The fact that domesticated puppies practice this behavior at such a young age further reinforces the behavior as they get older.
With this in mind, this behavior is simply in their genes. There’s not much they can do about it because it has allowed them and their descendants to survive centuries.
2. To Protect You
Because sleeping in piles helps to protect the pack, your dog could also be doing it to actively protect you. As your dog’s owner, it sees you as part of its pack. As a result, your dog likely wants to lay close to you so that it can provide warmth and protection for you, just like you are doing for it.
Even if there is not an active threat, dogs often sit in a protective or defensive mode just in case. This very well maybe the reason why your dog lays so close to you while it sleeps. It’s ready to protect you in case of an intruder.
Once again, this reason for the behavior goes back to your dog’s wolf genes. Wolves lie close together in order to protect one another throughout the night.
3. To Strengthen the Bond with You
Another reason that your dog may be sleeping so close to you is simply to strengthen the bond with you. As you probably know, dogs are a species that become incredibly attached to their owners. They want to strengthen their bonds, and they do multiple things to do so.
Namely, dogs will sleep very close to their owners as a way to strengthen the bond with them. Because sleeping in packs shows trust and mutual support for wolves, dogs interpret it in much of the same way. Even if it doesn’t think there’s going to be a threat, your dog may sleep very close to you just to strengthen the bond.
4. Separation Anxiety
A much more worrisome reason that your dog sleeps so close to you is separation anxiety. Although it is normal for dogs to miss their owners, it is not normal for them to have separation anxiety, and it is something that needs to be addressed for the dog’s long-term health.
By sleeping incredibly close to you, the dog will be alerted as soon as you leave, whether it be that couch or the house as a whole. Separation anxiety may be the cause of your dog’s clingy behavior if you notice signs of anxiousness every time you leave the home.
What to Do About It
1. Ignore It
If your dog sleeps next to you or really close to you, there’s not anything you should necessarily be worried about. It goes back to their canine nature and it is almost always a sign of affection and love. Unless there is an actual reason that your dog should not be laying so close to you, it is totally fine to just ignore this behavior entirely.
2. Reward Them for Sleeping Elsewhere
Whether you have a large dog that smothers you or you are allergic to dogs, you may want to encourage your dog to sleep elsewhere. If that’s the case, you need to create a designated place for your dog to sleep and reward it for sleeping there.
For example, buy a comfortable dog bed and place it close enough to you that your dog feels connected to you without outright laying on you. It may take some time, but reward your dog every time it goes over to the bed. This will train your dog to associate the bed with rewards and positive encouragement.
Continue this process until your dog learns that it is supposed to sleep there. This could take some time, but it will learn eventually.
3. Target Separation Anxiety
In the case that your dog lays next to you because of separation anxiety, it is crucial to target the anxiety specifically. Separation anxiety can be detrimental to your dog’s long term health because it puts their body in a state of stress regularly.
Targeting separation anxiety is easier said than done. There are a couple of things you can do in order to reduce anxiety every time you leave.
If you try these ideas and your dog doesn’t seem to have any changes in their anxiety, you can talk to a vet or a dog trainer about what to do. A lot of times, separation anxiety can be fixed with proper training and crating. A vet or dog trainer will be able to give you additional tips to combat the problem.
If your dog sleeps or lays close to you, take it as a compliment. It means that your dog views you as part of their pack and wants to be close with you either for protection or bonding. The only time you should be worried about this behavior is if the dog is smothering you, you are allergic to it, or it has separation anxiety.
With proper training and exercise, you can eventually teach your dog to not lay on top of you if you would desire that. Unless there’s an exact reason as to why you don’t want your dog to lay on you, it’s totally fine to allow them to continue this behavior.
Featured Image Credit: Jamie Street, Unsplash