Ask a Vet

Dog Sleeping Habits: Why Does My Dog Lay on Top of Me During the Night? (6 Reasons)

By Kerry
Updated on

Dog sleeping habits

For most people, dogs are part of the family. They are adorably cute and great cuddlers. However, they can often display some rather unusual behavior traits too.

Whilst some dog owners will allow their pets to share their bed with them, for many dog’s this simply isn’t enough and they instead feel the urge to sleep right on top of you. Of course, this can provide a great opportunity to enjoy cuddles with your dog but it can also make it a struggle to sleep comfortably without having your dog’s paws prodding you in the face and their whole weight on top of you.

This behavior is often recognized as a sign of affection and the pack instinct of many dogs will encourage them to sleep on top of you. However, it can also be a sign of underlying issues such as separation anxiety.

If your dog has developed the need to sleep close to you, you may now be questioning what the reasons are behind this behavior. We have addressed these issues in our guide below to provide you with a clearer understanding.

Dogs will often want to be near their owners as they sleep to feel love which they will reciprocate to you. Over time this can become problematic if your dog refuses to sleep anywhere other than on you. Understanding why your dog is doing this will allow you to react accordingly.

Instinctive Nature of a Pack Animal

Though dogs have become domesticated mammals, they are pack animals by nature. As descendants of wolves, they will display similar behaviors; they have an instinct to protect members of their pack and they would also depend on one another for warmth.

Although your dog doesn’t necessarily sleep on you for survival purposes, they do so for comfort and warmth. Essentially, this is your dog acknowledging you as one of its pack members.

Some dogs may also sleep on you to replicate the feeling of being part of a litter. Puppies become accustomed to having their siblings around them when they are young and this is the first pack that they have belonged to.

Often they will pile on top of each other when sleeping as this makes them feel more secure. When they are separated from their littermates, they will view you as the next member of their pack, hence why they will plop themselves on top of you to go to sleep.

They Want to Attract Your Attention

I’m sure we are all familiar with dogs who just love attention. Of course, you’d expect a puppy to be demanding of its mother’s attention but as it gets older, a dog’s persistent desire to always have your attention can become quite annoying.

Some will want you to play with them all of the time and will often drop their toys at your feet until you throw it for them to catch. Others may take it upon themselves to make as much noise as they can until they feel like their bark has been heard. Another common trait of an attention-seeking dog is poking and pawing.

In many cases, your dog will even demand your attention when you are attempting to rest or sleep. As such, they will climb up on top of you and make themselves comfy.

As mentioned previously, this does provide you with an opportunity to enjoy their cuddles, but getting a tidy night’s sleep can become challenging when you are contending with the weight of a dog on top of you.

As sociable animals, most dogs crave attention, hence why they will engage in this behavior and it can often worsen if you encourage them.

Security and Protection

Wolves tend to stick near one another for security and protection as a pack is seen to have more strength than one on its own. This is a behavioral instinct that your dog is likely to have inherited.

Because they view you as a member of their pack they feel the need to protect you against possible dangers and will often decide to lay on top of your head. However, they are looking to you for protection too. Remember that all dogs are different and some may be more protective than others.

A dog’s protectiveness can also be a jealous response. If you have multiple dogs in your home, there may be one, in particular, that feels as though they need to protect you from the others and if they feel jealous they may decide to make their presence known by sleeping on top of you.

Your Dog is Asserting Its Dominance

Some dogs assume that they are the boss and will often challenge their owners for the dominant role. Whilst many dogs view their owners as their leaders, others will have a different perception of their role and will instead think that they are leading you.

Dominant dogs tend to think that they have free reign to do what they want. They may show this by barking, refusing to obey commands, or sleeping on you. Failing to respond to and rectify this asserted dominance may result in more challenging behavior as they get older.

Make sure your dog understands that you are the boss and ultimately the leader of the pack and they, therefore, must listen to you. If you are confident that your dog does acknowledge your role as the boss, then it is unlikely that this is the cause of the issue.

Your Dog is Suffering from Separation Anxiety

Sadly some dogs suffer from separation anxiety and this is especially prominent amongst those that have recently left their litter, after all, they are adjusting to life without their siblings around them. This can make it difficult to leave your dogs alone because it will trigger anxious behaviors and cause them upset.

As a result, many dogs will feel as though they always need to be close to their owners. Because of this, they may struggle to sleep if they are not cuddled up near you.

Also if you have left the dog and are now returning home, they may express their excitement of seeing you by quickly perching themselves on you.

If you think that your dog may have separation anxiety and this is why they are sleeping on top of you, there are ways to stop it. Try to get your dog familiar with being alone and maybe use a crate at nighttime.

Your Dog is Showing You Affection

Your dog may sleep on top of you simply because it wants to show you affection. With loving personalities, they will often display their adoration for you through these types of interactions. By laying on top of you, they are strengthening the bond that you both share.

Also, if you have been out of the house for a large majority of the day, by sleeping on you they are essentially asking you to dedicate some time to them by petting and cuddling them. It is also their way of telling you that they enjoy your company.

What is good for my dog making him sleep all night through2

Signs that Your Dog Sleeping on You is Becoming an Issue

Although sharing cuddles with your dog can be a great way to spend time with them, their constant desire to be sleeping so close to you may be an indicator that there is a deeper issue.

It can also affect the quality of your sleep because it becomes much more difficult to find a comfortable position when your dog is laying on top of you.

Aside from this, if they are prone to waking up throughout the night or if they feel unsettled at all they are likely to disturb you as they move around.

Below we have identified some possible problems that are often associated with dogs who sleep on top of their owners.

Feelings of Anxiety and Uncertainty

An anxious dog will want to be with you at all times and will often display this through clinginess and difficulty coping when you are not around them.

A dog that suffers from separation anxiety will become quite distressed when in its own company. If this anxiety is left untreated, this can lead to behavioral problems and they will likely want to be with you all the time.

Although it is possible to ease these feelings of uncertainty by comforting them and stroking them, realistically you should try and get to the cause of the problem so it may be worth contacting someone who has experience in dealing with anxious dogs.

Health Condition/Illness

Just like humans will often seek comfort when they are feeling unwell, dogs will sometimes do the same. They may be suffering from a health condition or illness that you are not yet aware of and will therefore look to you to provide them with comfort.

Remember that dogs don’t show their pain in the same way as humans so signs of an illness may not become apparent for quite some time.

They Think That They are the Boss

Though we have already touched upon this, it is an issue that should be taken seriously. A dog that doesn’t understand its place in the home can become difficult to handle if it is left to act as the leader. If you are struggling to resolve issues with dominance, it may be worth consulting a professional who will be able to impart some useful advice to you regarding how you can ensure that your dog understands that you are the one that is in charge.

How to Stop Your Dog from Sleeping on Top of You

If your dog is causing problems by sleeping on top of you during the night, there are some things that you can do to stop them from doing it.

Begin Using a Crate

Crate training offers the best solution to stopping your dog from sleeping on the bed with you. This may take some time if your dog isn’t used to a crate and hasn’t been in one before.

You will need to let them get familiar with it. Try and make the crate appealing to your dog. If it doesn’t have a comfy bed inside it they aren’t likely to feel inclined to go in it.

You should also put it in a quiet place where there isn’t going to be a lot of people passing and distracting them. Each time they successfully go into their crate you must make an effort to reward them with treats so that they recognize that they are behaving correctly.

As we have touched upon, getting them used to going into a crate can also help to ease any feelings of anxiety that your dog may have when they are separated from you.

Don’t Encourage Unwanted Behavior

When your dog is gazing at you adoringly it can be difficult to resist allowing them to co-sleep with you. If you continue to allow a dog to get what they want they aren’t going to know any different.

For example, if you aren’t happy with them sleeping on you, failing to stop them from jumping onto your bed or rewarding them when they do will encourage them to keep doing it.

You must set boundaries so that your dog knows what it is allowed to do and what it isn’t. If they go to jump up on your bed to lay on you, you should deter them gently. Avoid shouting at them and being forceful towards them when you are pushing them down because this can be confusing for them.

You should still allow them to feel close to you and relaxed in your company but at a distance that you are happy with.

Once you have established these boundaries, it is important to ensure that you stick to them. If you don’t allow them to lay on you one day but allow them to do it the next, they aren’t going to be clear on what they can and can’t do.

Also, if they aren’t allowed to lay on you when you are in bed apply this to when you are on the sofa too so that the rules and boundaries remain consistent.

Acknowledge Good Behavior

It is important to recognize when your dog is behaving well and abiding by the boundaries that you have in place.

Also, your dog lying on you or close to you needn’t always be negative. This can be a great time for you both to bond and enjoy one another’s company. Remember to make it clear whether your dog is allowed to sleep on you because constantly changing your mind is going to cause them a great deal of confusion.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are several reasons why your dog may choose to sleep on you during the night. While there can sometimes be an innocent reason behind it as they simply want to enjoy your company and show you affection, sometimes it is a sign of underlying problems which need to be acted upon.

Make sure that you have rules in place and your dog knows that you are the leader rather than it being the other way around.

Photo of author
About the author


Kerry White is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Kerry has been writing for PetDT for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners.Kerry has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Kerry knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.