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Our canine friends can find numerous sweet ways to prove their love for us.
Some dogs won’t stop wagging their tail while you pet them, others will seek any opportunity to sit next to you and cuddle.
Then there is my dog who will act like a little obsessive creep even when I’m asleep, which makes me wonder:
Why does my dog check on me when I’m sleeping?
Your dog might check on you while you’re sleeping because they’re hungry, or if they need to relieve themselves. Dogs without a set sleeping schedule might also act restless because they’re bored. However, if your dog heard a noise, then they might watch over you to protect you.
If you also keep finding your dog staring at you while you’re asleep then you might want to know why they do it, and a way to curb this behavior!
Why Does My Dog Check On Me When I’m Sleeping?
When it’s time to go to bed most of us assume that our dogs will fall asleep next to us, however, some of us will wake up only to discover two shiny little eyes staring back at us.
So, what’s the deal with that?
Reason 1: They Love You
I know it might sound cheesy, but by watching you sleep your dog could be expressing their affection toward you.
In fact, an experiment showed that when dogs smell the familiar odor of their owner the reward center of their brain gets activated.
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have also found that mutual staring between a dog and their owner releases oxytocin, the love hormone, in both.
So, if you’ve woken up to find your canine friend looking at you caringly then they might be waiting to get some of that oxytocin.
For some, this might seem strange, but I think having another creature check in on me while I’m asleep because they care for me is the sweetest thing!
Reason 2: They Are Being Protective
Dogs have a strong instinct to protect their family and since dogs can create strong bonds with humans, they’ll also have the same urge to keep their owner safe.
This watchfulness can manifest itself in different ways, and in some cases, dogs will go as far as to check on you while you’re asleep. They might wake up in the middle of the night and check the room or even the whole house before settling back next to you.
In certain breeds this protective instinct is much stronger, and as AKC puts it “guardian breeds tend to be loyal, fearless, strong and watchful.”
So, if you have a boxer or an Australian Shepherd to name a few then you can sleep soundly knowing that your little guardian will make sure nothing bad happens to you.
Reason 3: They Heard A Noise
Even if you’re a light sleeper, humans are simply incapable of hearing certain sounds that our dogs can easily pick out.
Stephanie Gibeault, CPDT, explains that “dogs can hear sounds as high as 47,000 to 65,000 Hz.” But just as they can hear high-pitched sounds they can also hear much softer sounds.
Of course, the fact that dogs have an incredible hearing is common knowledge, but I was astonished to find out in published research that dogs can even hear ultrasonic sounds produced by rodents or insects in the environment.
So, your dog’s sensitive ears could be the reason why they check up on you while you sleep. An outside sound or even a message on your phone could stir your pooch and trigger their protective instinct.
Stanley Coren, Ph.D., says that dogs might even be capable of predicting earthquakes because they can hear the high-pitched sound coming from the seismic activity underground.
So, if you live in an area that experiences frequent earthquakes then your pooch might be trying to tell you about it.
Of course, it doesn’t have to be something as dramatic as an earthquake and it could simply be the sound of an approaching car that woke them up and got them curious.
My dog often tries to get my attention when there’s a strange sound coming from the outside, similarly, your dog might need some reassurance from you even when you’re asleep.
Reason 4: You Woke Them Up
You might be thinking that your dog is the weird one for staring at you while you’re sleeping, but it might simply be one big misunderstanding.
Thanks to their sensitive hearing your dog can sense you stirring during the night even before you realize it yourself. So as you get up to get a glass of water you might notice your fluffball watching over you and it might seem that they’ve been doing that all night.
Perhaps you’re the one who’s constantly waking up your poor pooch with your snoring or sleep talking.
Your dog might think that you’re talking to them or they might be worried that something is wrong with you.
It’s also possible that you have sleep apnea. This is actually a “serious sleep disorder” according to Mayo clinic, “in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts.”
Sleep apnea could also be the reason why you wake up in the middle of the night and you end up blaming your doggy for waking you up instead.
So, before you condemn your little dog make sure you’re not the one at fault.
Reason 5: They’re Hungry
When it comes to food, dogs can be quite demanding, especially when they are puppies that have little to no self-control.
If your dog keeps hovering over you while you’re asleep and checking in on you in the middle of the night then they might be hungry.
Being the source of food and water for your dog is not always fun, but if you have a good feeding schedule in place then it should reduce your dog’s begging.
For those of you who are being awakened by a hungry and excited doggy early in the morning, you could get an automatic dog feeder that can take over your dog’s every meal, especially breakfast.
With the Automatic Pet Dispenser from Wopet you can control the portions you feed to your doggy, and most importantly you can schedule 4 automated feedings throughout the day.
That being said, try not to reinforce this food begging habit no matter if you’re sleeping or not, and definitely don’t give in by getting out of bed to feed them.
Reason 6: They Want Attention
If you caught your dog staring at you while you’re asleep then it could be an attention-seeking behavior. Your dog might be waiting for you to wake up so you can play, or simply cuddle in bed together.
Dogs that spend most of their day waiting for their owner to come back home from work can have a lot of pent-up energy and one or two evening walks are not always enough.
Low energy dogs like the Great Dane might have lower exercise requirements, but there are plenty of active dog breeds that need more than 2 hours, “plus mental stimulation throughout the day,” PDSA suggests.
You might also hear your dog leave your side more than one time in the middle of the night to play with their toys and wander around the house looking for something interesting to do.
This can definitely be a sign of a bored dog that needs more mental stimulation and entertainment throughout the day.
A bored dog is more likely to start checking if you’re still sleeping because they can’t wait to go for their morning walk. You might even wake up with the leash next to your bed and a few toys around the bed.
Reason 7: They Don’t Like Their Bed
If you’re someone who has been letting your dog sleep in your bed and you’ve just decided to give them their own, then you might meet some resistance.
It’s quite possible that your dog is checking on you, in the hopes that you’ll let them sleep in your bed again.
Then again the dog bed itself might be uncomfortable. Perhaps your dog doesn’t like the fabric, it could be too warm for the summer or just not big or soft enough.
The location of the bed also plays a major role, because if your dog is constantly bombarded with loud noises then they’ll start avoiding their bed, and instead they might start pestering you.
Reason 8: They Have A Different Sleeping Pattern
I’m a heavy sleeper that’s why I’m not always aware of what my dog is up to during the late hours of the night.
At first, I thought he always slept next to me throughout the whole night, but only when I began noticing the occasional misplaced toy, did I realize that our sleeping pattern wasn’t the same.
If this sounds familiar to you, then don’t be surprised!
It’s true that our canine companions spend a lot of their time sleeping. According to Sandra C. Mitchell, DVM, “on average, most dogs spend about 50% of their day sleeping—about 12 hours in a 24-hour period.”
“Puppies, large-breed dogs, and older dogs may sleep more, while small-breed dogs and working dogs may sleep less,” she adds.
Dogs and humans also sleep differently, as Stephanie Gibeault, CPDT explains “dogs are polyphasic sleepers and average three sleep/wake cycles per nighttime hour, whereas humans are monophasic sleepers (one period of sleep over a 24-hour cycle).”
So, naturally, your dog will wake up in the middle of the night and they will most likely check in on you to see if you’re asleep or not or just to make sure you’re ok.
As we already mentioned, dogs are also light sleepers and they can be disturbed more easily than most humans.
Dogs that don’t get enough mental and physical stimulation can also wake up in the middle of the night in search of some activity.
Of course, as dogs and humans live together we begin to sync our sleeping schedules, to an extent, but that can take time.
This adjustment can be harder for dogs with owners that are in the medical sphere or someone who has to work morning and night shifts throughout the month.
Newly adopted puppies and dogs may need more time to develop a similar sleeping pattern to their owners, but as you take over their training you should be able to establish a better routine.
Reason 9: They Have Separation Anxiety
Whether we like it or not we are the center of our dog’s attention, and as their caretakers, we make sure that their needs are met on a daily basis.
This, as you can imagine, creates a strong mutual bond, which can make it hard to understand if our dog is overly attached.
According to Debra Horwitz, DVM, “most dogs with separation anxiety try to remain close to their owners, follow them from room to room, and rarely spend time outdoors alone.”
If you’ve noticed your dog staring at you while you sleep right before the alarm goes off, then they might be anxious because they know you’re going to leave them.
RSPCA states that “8 out of 10 dogs will find it hard to cope when left on their own, but half of these won’t show any obvious signs.”
This can make it difficult for owners to recognize if certain behaviors are caused by separation anxiety, but according to AKC these are some of the common signs to look out for:
- Your dog may pace, or tremble as you prepare to leave or while you’re gone.
- Excessive salivation, drooling, or panting.
- Excessive vocalization like barking, howling or whining.
- Indoor soiling.
- Destructive behaviors around the house and yard like chewing, and digging.
- Your dog might try to escape the house in hopes of reuniting with you which can result in a serious accident.
That being said, having your dog checking on you during the night from time to time is normal, but if this becomes a constant nighttime routine combined with other problematic behaviors then your pooch might be suffering from separation anxiety, in which case should contact your vet or a dog behaviorist.
Reason 10: They Feel Unwell
Dogs, as we’ve already established, sleep more than humans and they have a different sleeping pattern.
So, while it’s not unusual for a dog to wake up a few times during the night and check on their owner, it can be a cause for concern if they spend most of their night awake.
Changes in your dog’s sleeping patterns could be the result of stress, illness, or old age.
Dr. Joan C. Hendricks, VMD, explains that “like many older people, some senior dogs (especially those diagnosed with canine cognitive dysfunction, a condition similar to Alzheimer’s disease) go through sundowning. This means they may get confused and restless as night falls. They tend to pace a lot and may have trouble falling asleep.”
Your dog could also be suffering from a UTI infection or another condition that makes them want to urinate more than usual. That’s why they might start staring at you during the night or even nudge you with their nose so you can take them outside for a walk.
For this reason, if you hear your pooch regularly pacing in your room, or you hear them approach you every night, get in contact with your vet.
Even if this behavior is stress-related and caused by a significant change in your dog’s life, like a loss of a family member or even a new diet, your vet could still help you find the right approach to this issue.
Dr. Hendricks, also points out that “sleep helps a dog’s brain development, memory, and learning capacity, as well as their immune system.”
“Sleep-deprived animals and people are more prone to infections,” she adds.
So, it’s important to make sure that your canine companion is getting enough sleep.
Should You Be Worried If Your Dog Is Watching You Sleep?
As you can see in this video dogs do take breaks from sleeping during the night. They’ll change sleeping positions; they’ll follow you to the toilet if you happen to get up and they’ll greet you in the morning.
So, it’s not uncommon or strange to have a dog check on you while you’re asleep, especially if you’re producing curious snoring sounds.
For young pups, this might be a more common behavior because they usually require more attention, but as your dog becomes familiar with your sleeping routine they should exhibit this behavior less and less.
However, if your dog keeps checking on you multiple times a night, or they’re disrupting your sleep then they might be suffering from separation anxiety.
Similarly, your dog might be restless during the night because they feel unwell, it could be a simple stomachache or it could be something more serious in which case it’s worth taking your pooch to the vet.
How Can You Stop Your Dog From Checking On You When You Sleep?
If you feel uncomfortable with your dog watching over you while you’re asleep, or you think it’s a problematic behavior then there are plenty of steps you can take to curb it as much as possible.
Set A Sleeping Schedule
While dogs have their own natural sleeping pattern, we can still set a bedtime routine that they can follow.
Routine is the keyword here because a great way to ensure that your dog has a set schedule is actually maintaining the same sleeping schedule every day.
If you keep going to bed at random hours you’ll simply confuse your dog.
Obviously, a puppy or a young dog might still try to check on you during the night in the hopes of waking you up so they can play with you and get your attention.
So, the best way to train them is to ignore your pup until they return back to their bed.
Make Sure Their Needs Are Met
If you’ve ever tried going to bed with an empty stomach growling back at you, then you probably know how difficult that is, so why would your dog feel any different?
A hungry dog will most likely act restless even if it’s the middle of the night and their precious provider of food is sleeping.
So, if you want to keep your pooch from waking you up then make sure your dog is well-fed.
Ryan Llera, DVM, states that “after 8 to 10 hours, an empty stomach begins to send signals to the brain stimulating a hunger response. For this reason, at least two meals per day are best for your dog.”
Regulating your dog’s meals will depend on their size, breed, and activity during the day.
Additionally, you might also need to switch to dog food that is high in fiber to keep them full for longer.
When it comes to your dog’s needs, hunger and thirst is not the only thing that can make your pooch stare at you throughout the night.
Your dog should also get plenty of exercise to keep them from getting bored and some quality time with you can also reduce their neediness and anxiety.
Don’t Reinforce This Habit
Sometimes we can send the wrong message to our dogs with our own behavior. After all puppies and dogs will naturally test our limits to see what they can and can’t do.
If you keep giving in to your dog’s nighttime demands and gazes then your dog will continue exhibiting this behavior.
Train Them To Sleep In Their Own Bed
If you want to help your dog become more independent then getting them their own comfy bed and training them to sleep in it is a great start.
Remember to get a comfy and spacious bed that your dog will actually enjoy sleeping in. Choose a quiet spot and avoid windows and doors where outside noise might bother or wake them up.
If your dog is already trained to sleep in their own bed and they still seem restless then perhaps it’s time to change their bed, or properly wash it.
Keep Your Bedroom Off-limits
As mentioned above, you don’t have to share your own bed with your dog or even your bedroom.
In fact, you can keep your dog from checking on you when you’re asleep or disrupting your sleep by keeping them out of your bed or bedroom.
For many dogs and their owners, crate training has been very useful, and then there are those who feel guilty even from the thought of crating their dog.
Veterinarians are aware of these fears and AKC states that “dogs instinctively seek small spaces to create protective shelters for themselves. Crates are useful training tools for puppies, safe havens for senior dogs, and lifesavers for emergencies.”
Crates, whether you place them in the bedroom or not, can help anxious dogs during stressful situations, like a thunderstorm, and instead of waking you up, they can simply stay in their crate while feeling safe and protected.
Train Them To Be Alone
If your dog is suffering from separation anxiety and they express it by constantly checking on you during the night then you need to teach them how to be independent.
In this case, crate training could also be a great tool for managing your dog’s stress and they can learn to appreciate having some “me time”.
But crate training alone can’t solve everything, instead, ASPCA suggests using counterconditioning for dogs with a mild case of separation anxiety.
This treatment process focuses on creating a positive association with a previously negative situation like having you leave the house for work in the morning.
Basically, your dog needs to develop an association between being alone and having a good thing.
Check-in With The Vet
If your dog is trying to wake you up or they keep checking on you while you’re asleep, then they’re most likely trying to tell you something, and since most of us are not experts we can only rely on the professional opinion of a vet or a dog behaviorist.
It’s important to remember that even seemingly innocent behaviors like this one can become compulsive and excessive, or they might be rooted in a medical condition.
So, instead of dealing with your doggy all on your own check in with the vet.
If you just woke up and found your little pooch staring back at you then you might feel a little freaked out or perplexed.
The truth is, just as it can be a loving and protective behavior it can also be a cry for attention, and if your dog is disrupting your sleep by checking on you then it could be something more serious.
We have a number of reasons that could possibly explain this behavior and a few solutions, but we’d like to hear your side of the story.
Why was your dog watching over your while you slept and how did you respond to this unusual approach?