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Why Does My Dog Sleep So Close to Me? 4 Reasons & Vet-Approved Tips

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By Nicole Cosgrove

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Dogs of nearly any breed, age, and size love to lie 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 lying so close to you, you might be wondering why they do this in the first place.

The main reason dogs prefer sleeping with their owners is because this behavior is instinctive. In this article, we are going to explain four reasons why dogs sleep or lie close to their owners. To learn more about this behavior, as well as what you can do about it, keep reading!

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Top 4 Reasons Why Your Dog Sleep So Close to You

1. It’s in Canine Genes to Sleep Against You

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 ancestors.

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. This behavior instinctively stays with them 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.

Little girl sleeping with dog in bed
Image credit: Yuliya Evstratenko, Shutterstock

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 them.

Even if there is not an active threat, dogs often sit in a protective or defensive mode just in case. This very well may be the reason why your dog lies so close to you while they sleep. They’re 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 to protect one another.

3. Sleeping With Your Dog Helps You Bond

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 the same way. Even if they don’t think there’s going to be a threat, your dog may sleep very close to you just to strengthen the bond.

Sleeping with dog
Image Credit: Daniel Myjones, Shutterstock

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, your dog will be alerted as soon as you leave, whether you leave the couch or the house. Separation anxiety may be the cause of your dog’s clingy behavior if you notice signs of anxiety every time you leave your home.

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What to Do if Your Dog Sleeps Next to You

1. Ignore Your Dog

If your dog sleeps next to you or really close to you, there isn’t anything you should necessarily be worried about. It goes back to their instinctive 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.

pug dog sleeping in bed
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

2. Reward Your Dog for Sleeping Elsewhere

If you have a large dog that smothers you or a dog allergy, 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 in and reward them for sleeping there. Crate training is a very useful tool for this goal.

You may also buy a comfortable dog bed and place it close enough to you so that your dog feels connected to you without outright lying on top of you. It may take some time, but rewarding your dog every time they sleep in their bed will train them to associate the bed with rewards and positive encouragement.

Continue this process until your dog learns that they are supposed to sleep there. You may need to seek the help of a dog trainer to assist in this process.

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 regularly puts their body in a state of stress.

Targeting separation anxiety is easier said than done. That being said, there are a couple of things you can do to reduce anxiety every time you leave.

Here are a few ideas to incorporate into your routine:
  • Create a comfortable and safe sleeping area for your dog to stay in when you are far away.
  • Have your dog crate trained.
  • Feed your dog before you leave.
  • Play with your dog and give them ample exercise before you leave.
  • Take your dog outside to use the bathroom before you leave.
  • Consider buying interactive toys your dog can play with while you’re away.

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.

small poodle lying on yellow dog bed
Image Credit: Alison Pang, Unsplash

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Final Thoughts

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 your dog is smothering you, you are allergic to them, or they have separation anxiety.

With proper training and exercise, you can eventually teach your dog to not lay on top of you if that’s what you desire. 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.

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Featured Image Credit: Jamie Street, Unsplash

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