A friend of mine who is a dog trainer once told me this story about one of his clients.
I used to visit a local public park in my area. There I came across this young lady with her adopted hairless terrier. We ended up hitting it off quite well from the beginning and it seemed the dog was also in sync with us. I usually prefer to sit on my bench and watch, in this case maybe chip in a thing or two when they are having their normal play/training sessions. The interesting thing though, whenever the dog seemed tired, her favorite position seemed to be placing her head on my lap. I have played along for a really long period because truth be told I have come to enjoy the time we spend.
Needless to say, the lady ended up traveling to another continent but before she did, we came to an arrangement that led to me adopting the dog. For some reason, she couldn’t travel with the dog. Anyway, my terrier is a good dog, but recently she has taken her relaxation to another level, she sleeps on me. Still, though, I enjoy our company and the quiet time, but it is not like I planned all this. So sometimes I keep on wondering how we can come to this level of closeness. It’s not like I had any special dog training session or anything.
So, you too may be in the same situation or you are just asking the question “Why does my dog only sleep with me?“
First of all, dogs that sleep with their dog parents are submissive by nature. You see, your dog is either displaying a dominant attitude or a submissive attitude towards you. A dog that is displaying a dominant attitude towards you will not show loving emotional tendencies towards you. He or she will be demanding respect and acting aloof with you. They will erroneously feel they are the alpha and in charge of you and everything around you. A submissive dog accepts your place as the alpha, they depend on you for emotional support, love, and safety.
Having said that, your dog in addition to the above mentioned sleeps with only you for the following reasons:
- Your dog wants warmth from you.
- Your dog is showing you love.
- Your dog feels safe with you.
- Your dog wants to protect you.
- Your dog is suffering from separation anxiety
- Your dog doesn’t like his or her bed.
- Your dog is being social.
- Your dog is lonely
You may also like WHY DOES MY DOG PUT HIS HEAD ON ME?
Let’s look at each reason in more detail.
1.Your dog wants warmth from you.
Have you ever felt the cold discomfort of sleeping on the floor? If you have then you would understand why your dog would want to get warmth from anywhere they can. If you have read our write up WHY DOES MY DOG LIKE TO LAY IN THE SUN?
You would have known that one of the major reasons why your dog would lay in the sun is to get warmth. The average human body produces 350,000 J of energy per hour (on average). That is enough energy to keep a 100 watt light bulb on.
In simple terms, the human body is a heat-generating machine, now if your dog can get some of that heat to warm up his or her very exposed body, why won’t they? After all, this heat source also comes with plenty of other benefits.
2.Your dog is showing you love.
Because of the limited means of communication between us and our dogs, it is very hard for them to share their emotions with us. This is why you may find them following you around and trying to get your attention, even at that, there can still be a lot of miscommunication. When your dog sleeps only with you, there is no misinterpretation of that action. You instinctively know that they are doing this from a place of love. Your dog is sleeping with you because you are his favorite person in the world. He or she is certainly not doing this with everyone that comes their way. So just soak it up and enjoy the moment.
3.Your dog feels safe with you.
Dogs are normally trained to work alongside their dog parents or owners. For those that don’t work, they are bred to keep their owners’ company. So it should be no surprise if your dog that you do everything with ends up sleeping only with you. You are obviously the safest person to be around as this has been tested and proven in their experience and from their perspective. Sleeping with you makes them feel secure because of the confidence they have in you.
4.Your dog wants to protect you.
We all know that our dogs are pack animals, their natural inclination is to protect and watch over anyone in their pack, so what better way to do this than by sleeping with you. Dogs that sleep with you for protection would normally position themselves to face the place where the threat might emerge from. They can be facing towards the door, window, or any position where there is always some form of activity. The need to protect each other is a strong need for canines, so your dog sleeping with you might just be him or her trying to protect you.
5.Your dog is suffering from separation anxiety
Separation anxiety is a major problem in the dog world. This usually shows itself in situations where your dog will go to extreme lengths not to be separated from you and can even display destructive behaviors just to get your attention. Most dogs suffering from separation anxiety exhibit a high amount of fear and disorientation when you are about to leave them. These dogs forcing themselves to sleep with you is a way of making sure that they stay close to you no matter the situation. In cases like this, your dog sleeping with you is not a good thing and should be addressed immediately. You can read our write-up “DEALING WITH SEPARATION ANXIETY IN DOGS” to understand it more and get basic tips on how to deal with it.
6.Your dog doesn’t like his or her bed.
You may have spent a lot of time researching the best dog bed, discussing it with the specialist, and purchasing one just to find out that your dog is not interested in the bed. This comes as a surprise to most new dog parents, but if your dog has been sleeping with you before the purchase of the bed what makes you feel he or she would jump into this new bed willingly? Let me help you out, the bed apart from being exposed does not have your memories or scent on it. Nothing to link him or her to you, just a synthetic bed. The bed might also be designed in such a way that it is not comfortable for your dog, a simple example would be purchasing a round-shaped bed for a dog that likes to stretch out while sleeping. This on its own would make the bed uncomfortable for the dog.
Basically, there are lots of reasons why your dog would not like his or her bed. When they compare the gains of sleeping in their bed to sleeping with you, from their perspective sleeping with you will win that comparison anytime. If you want your dog to start sleeping in their bed, you will need to get creative.
7.Your dog is being social.
Dogs in ancient times lived as a group, moved as a group, and slept as a group. They are naturally social creatures, today you are a member of his new group or pack, they need to do things together with you, and sleeping together is one of those things, especially if you are their favorite person. In fact, if you are living with a group of dogs who get along well, you will notice how they live and do things together, you will even notice how they would want to incorporate you into their activities.
8.Your dog is lonely.
Dogs like we said above are social creatures, this means they do well when placed in a pack, take that away from them and you get a dog that is lonely and depressed. This is evident in situations where we have one dog with one dog parent. The dogs can get very lonely and one of the ways they get assurance that they are not alone is by sleeping with you.
SHOULD I CONTINUE ALLOWING MY DOG TO SLEEP WITH ME?
The answer to this question is personal to each dog parent. In general, there is nothing wrong with your dog sleeping with you if they are doing it for the right reasons. With that said, there are a couple of things to consider when your dog is always sleeping with you, simple things like, how often do they shed their hair? How sure are you that they do not bring dirt and germs onto your bed or sleeping space? How well-groomed are they? How free are they of fleas and ticks? Do you have an allergy that can get worse by this behavior? How safe is their general hygiene from ears to dental? Most importantly, will both of you get the full benefit of sleeping if you sleep together?
You see, as we said above, only you can answer these questions. Be it as it may. If you decide that you don’t want your dog sleeping with you, here are a few summarized ways in which you can stop them from doing so.
a.) Provide a new resting place
Whether it is a new dog bed or a new spot in or out of the bedroom, you should make sure that your dog has another alternative to sleeping with you. This will still put you in a position of control for your dog as he or she gets to understand that even where they sleep is dependent on you and your dog would still understand that you care enough for them to make such an arrangement. In all, this is a win-win situation.
b.) Stop encouraging the behavior.
The next thing is to stop encouraging the behavior. Some might say but I’m not doing anything to encourage him or her and that is true in the sense that most of the encouragement is unintentional or unconsciously done, for example, how often do you find yourself petting your dog before they sleep with you? How often do you give them treats when they come into your sleeping spaces? How often do you act happily or give them the feeling that sleeping with you is ok? Your guess is as good as mine. You have to stop these things and give off a new vibe that sleeping with you is no longer acceptable.
c.) Use positive reinforcement Techniques.
Positive reinforcement in its simplest terms is the rewarding of behaviors you find acceptable in your dog and the ignoring of behaviors you do not find acceptable with them. Techniques like making your scent available in the new sleeping spot either by using an article of old clothing or some old accessory of yours and rewarding them when they try to relax at that spot. The reward can be verbal or with treats. Using the “No” command or any command that has been used to teach your dog that a certain behavior he or she is about to engage in is unacceptable. etc. The list goes on and on, you can liaise with any dog trainer to get more insights on how to achieve this.
NB: Be careful the way you use treats for rewarding your dog at night time, too many treats at night have been linked to Obesity problems and an inability for your dog to get a good night’s rest, this is also in addition to other health risks your dog would be exposed to by indulging in this habit.
d.) Deal with your dog’s separation anxiety problem.
For dogs suffering from separation anxiety, it is important to deal with the anxiety issue first before dealing with the sleeping problem. Basically, dealing with separation anxiety in dogs is more about linking the things that cause their anxiety to more positive things or outcomes. Your dog would be more susceptible to sleeping alone after you have dealt with their anxiety issues.
We have dealt with all possible answers to the question “why does my dog only sleep with me?” We have also summarized the possible things you can do to stop your dog if you decide to do so. The new question now is what will you do? Will you keep on allowing your dog to sleep with you or will you give him a place of his own? You are the only one that can answer that question.
Hi, I am Charles Nwankwo Editor-in-Chief, Mydoggything.com. Gleaning from Professional Dog Trainers, behaviorist, Registered Veterinarians, and Breeders. We are passionate about making dog care easy for you. My job is to make sure that you get the best-updated dog care information to understand and take care of your dog or dogs.