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Touch and closeness are just as important to our canine companions as it is to us especially when that person is their favorite human.
Some dogs might lay side by side with you, leaning their weight against you, others might push their little muzzle against your leg while your pooch might prefer to rest their head on your face or neck.
This last choice might seem strange and it’s only natural to wonder why does my dog lay on my face?
Laying on your face is most likely a sign of closeness and affection. If you feel sad, or your dog feels anxious this might be their way to show or seek comfort. This could also be an attention-seeking behavior that you’ve been unintentionally encouraging.
Whether your dog has been putting their face on your face since puppyhood or this is a recent behavior it’s worth looking into especially if it makes you uncomfortable and you want to stop it.
So, let’s dive right into it!
Why Does My Dog Lay On My Face?
No matter how long you’ve been a dog parent there’s always something new to discover and if you’re here to find out why your four-legged friend insists on laying on your face or even curling up around your neck then we’ve got you covered!
Reason 1: It’s A Puppy Behavior
Puppyhood is full of surprises in all the little and big things, as your doggy begins to discover the world through play, by pushing through boundaries and bonding with you.
One of the ways your puppy may show you their love is by being close to you as much as possible, especially when they’re done playing or they’re sleepy.
If you’re also laying down, they might try to climb on you and curl up on your chest, perhaps neck, or lay cheek to cheek.
Puppies that were used to sleeping next to their siblings and mother might find your body heat comforting as well as your steady breathing.
As your dog grows older, they might continue sleeping in this manner if you don’t teach them otherwise.
Larger breeds that no longer can use you as their bed might place their head on your face or nuzzle you with their nose or lay their head on your neck.
Of course, as with any do habit you can also unlearn this one by using crate training to help your puppy create a more structured and disciplined sleeping pattern and behavior.
During daytime group naps, you can also train them to sleep in a position that’s more comfortable to you so when they grow larger you won’t have to deal with their weight pushing against your face or overall upper body.
Reason 2: It’s A Love Gesture
Whether it’s a puppy or a mature dog, craving closeness with their favorite human is completely natural.
If your dog is laying on your face, especially if they’re in their napping position and they don’t seem to be in need of anything then chances are they’re doing it out of love.
Sure some dogs might choose to simply lay their head across your thighs or they’ll fall asleep beside you, but there are those who simply need to declare their warm feelings towards you by being all up in your face!
Reason 3: They Might Know You’re Unwell
There’s a reason why dogs are considered man’s best friend and I suspect that’s because they are capable of sensing our emotions.
Of course, some might think this is a dog lover’s wishful thinking, but research has shown that not only do dogs recognize different emotions by looking at our faces, but they can also process human feelings based only on our vocalization.
If you’re feeling down and you’re crying your pooch might decide to lay near your face to be as close as possible so they can comfort you.
Aside from acting as emotional support, dogs have also the ability to detect illness in humans. Research has shown that dogs can detect cancer. For instanse, they can detect breast cancer with 88% accuracy and lung cancer with 99% accuracy.
Similarly, they can detect other diseases and conditions like malaria, Parkins’s disease, and they can sense when someone goes into an epileptic seizure as well as diabetes.
If your dog has never previously shown any desire to lay on your face or really close to you that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not healthy, but perhaps they’ve sensed that something is not right.
Perhaps you’ve caught the flu, or your dog is warning you of an upcoming migraine. In a study with 1027 participants, “nearly 60 percent of these subjects indicated that their dog had alerted them to the onset of a headache–usually an hour or two in advance!”
Reason 4: To Feel Safe
Dogs can sense our pain and sadness and they can try to comfort us with their furry little heart, but sometimes they need to feel comforted as well.
When you notice your dog laying real close to your face, or they climb up on your chest, pay attention to their body language and notice if they’re shaking or showing any other sign of being scared.
Perhaps there are fireworks going off outside, or there was a car accident somewhere nearby or a car backfired. Similarly, thunderstorms and loud music can scare a dog.
Even regular noises like your partner breaking a plate can make a dog look for safety. Especially if they’ve been through a traumatic experience in the past because of abusive owners or a harsh life on the streets.
Reason 5: To Protect You
Some dogs, especially certain breeds have an ingrained instinct to protect their home, their family, or their owner.
Of course, I’m not trying to tell you that your dog’s protectiveness is connected to possessive aggression that usually happens with resource guarding which in most cases includes food, their bed, and other objects like toys.
Your dog might be laying next to your face not because they think they own you, but because of their protective nature. This protectiveness can become more intense as your bond grows stronger and your dog fully embraces you as part of their pack.
But it’s important to watch out for signs of aggression if, for example, your partner tries to touch you while your dog is laying on you and you notice sudden growling then it could be a sign of protective or territorial aggression.
No matter how flattering it is to have a guardian dog always ready to keep us from harm’s way territorial behavior should never be overlooked and fortunately it can be curbed with proper socialization and training.
Reason 6: To Get Your Attention
While laying on your face could be a sign of unconditional love, your dog might use this technique to gain something valuable from you and that’s your attention.
Perhaps during your nap time or whenever your dog finds you laying down they use this opportunity to lay next to your face so you can give them a good belly rub, or divert your attention from your phone so you can finally cuddle with them.
This attention-seeking doesn’t have to stop with cuddles and pets, but it could be your dog’s way of asking for food, a play session or even going out for a walk, especially if they feel lonely and bored.
If laying on your face gets your dog all that they want then chances are they’ll keep using this behavior for as long as it serves them, so you shouldn’t reinforce it if you want to stop it.
Reason 7: You’re Warm
If your home is a bit chilly or you’ve just come back from your walk during the colder months of the year, then it only makes sense that your dog will be searching for your body heat.
By climbing up on you and laying next to your face they might be searching for the warmth of your breath.
You may find that breeds that have short coats, and that perhaps are small like the chihuahua or even big dogs like the Great Dane are great companions for snuggling up with you under heavy blankets.
If you tend to keep the thick blanket all the way up to your chin then your dog might choose to sleep on your head or somewhere really close to your face to get equally cozy.
Reason 8: They Want You To Move
I know we want to spoil our dogs with our love and attention, but letting our dogs have the upper hand is most likely going to backfire.
Your dog might be putting their head on your face because they have claimed the spot or the pillow you’re laying on and they’re trying to move you. They might even nudge you and push you with their head so you’ll make room for them.
This behavior might make you think that your doggy is trying to dominate you, but studies have shown that this dynamic doesn’t really work for dogs, but this doesn’t mean they can’t be rude or bully you out of something they consider their own territory.
That’s why it’s important to keep a balance between what your dog wants and what is appropriate so both of you can live in harmony.
Reason 9: Separation Anxiety
No matter how cute you may find it, laying on your face can be a clingy behavior and a symptom of separation anxiety.
If you’re not sure what separation anxiety is, according to Stephanie Gibeault a certified professional dog trainer “whether, in a puppy or an adult dog, separation anxiety is when your dog exhibits extreme stress from the time you leave him alone until you return.”
This stress they feel can manifest itself in anxious behaviors like pacing, whining or trembling, barking and howling, and destructive acts.
Anxiety can also make your dog more clingy when you’re back home. PetMD states that “dogs who have anxiety issues often develop clingy dog behaviors. Interestingly, dogs can also become clingy if they sense our stress or anxiety.”
Changes in their routine can also stress out your little pooch and perhaps laying on your face is the first sign of this emotion before they actually develop separation anxiety.
PetMD also mentions that certain breeds like Shih Tzus or working dogs that are trained to be more dependent like the Rottweiler can become clingy.
Either way as an owner you have the power to alleviate your dog’s anxiety and help them become more secure even when you’re not there.
Reason 10: You’re Encouraging This Behavior
This might be a tough truth to face but we may also be responsible for our dog’s “bad” behaviors.
No matter how cute it might seem when they’re puppies if they grow up to be as large and strong as a Great Dane, or a bulldog then climbing up on you to lay on your face won’t be as enjoyable anymore.
And if they keep repeating this behavior even though you don’t like it and you’re trying to stop it then you’re probably reinforcing this behavior instead.
If your dog is laying on your face to get your attention, cuddles, their daily walk, or even to make you get up from their seat and they’re successful at it then they won’t stop.
Instead of rewarding or reacting to them and giving them what they came for, you need to reward them when they don’t lay on your face. You need to give them what they want only when they are not using your face as a pillow.
Reason 11: They Could Be Ill
A sudden change in your dog’s sleeping pattern and position is always worth keeping an eye on. Especially for dogs like Boxers, bulldogs, and pugs, or any short-nosed breed that are prone to breathing difficulties.
If your dog is resting their head on your neck or head they might be trying to keep it raised to help with their breathing.
PetMD suggests that it’s important that owners are observant of other symptoms like “snoring, rapid breathing (or tachypnea), noisy breathing when inhaling, frequent panting, difficulty eating or swallowing, coughing and gagging, inability to perform physical activity, especially in warm, humid weather, and occasionally physical collapse.”
Veterinarians from VetsNow also state that labored breathing in dogs is common in older dogs or dogs that suffer from heart and lung disease.
If you notice your dog showing symptoms of respiratory problems then it’s best you contact your vet.
Should I Stop My Dog From Putting Their Head On My Face and Neck?
Whether you’ll let your dog curl up on your chest, or even rest their face on yours is up to you.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that this behavior can be the result of their anxiety which makes them clingy and desperate for your attention. That’s why it’s best to redirect this sleeping pattern and work on validating your dog in different and healthier ways.
If this is a sudden change in your dog’s sleeping habits then it can also be a sign of poor health, in which case a vet check-up should be your priority.
But even if your dog is happy, stress-free, and healthy, laying on your upper body, or resting their head against your neck or face can be dangerous for you or the people around you.
Large dogs and even smaller breeds can affect your breathing, comfort, and the quality of your sleep.
For those of you who have children, your dog’s weight could be even more dangerous. And I do understand that your dog has good intentions when they’re laying on you or anyone else like that but they don’t necessarily understand how strong and powerful they can be.
I know the sense of guilt you might be feeling for trying to change your dog’s behavior especially when it comes from a place of love, but when one of you is uncomfortable and unhappy then your relationship will suffer in the long run.
How To Stop My Dog From Laying On My Face?
As we’ve already established stopping this behavior is your decision to make, and if you have a tiny Chihuahua or a Pomeranian then letting them rest on your face might be the cutest thing that won’t end up suffocating you.
But if you want to set some boundaries with your dog, especially when it’s time to go to bed and you share that space, then there are plenty of things you can do to curb this behavior.
Understand This Behavior
Before you actually take the necessary steps to change this behavior the thing you need to do is figure out why this is happening in the first place.
If your dog has been resting their head on your since puppyhood perhaps this is a reinforced behavior that they held on to even as they grew older.
For some of you, this is a recent change in their sleeping pattern and you need to consider what happened when they first started laying their head on you.
It’s important to realize what triggered this behavior. It could be your absence that has made them anxious, perhaps you’ve reduced the amount of time you walk and play with them, or they have breathing difficulties.
Once you know the reason behind this sleeping behavior you can start looking for solutions.
Use Positive Reinforcement
As always the best method to help your pooch learn or unlearn certain behaviors is to use positive reinforcement.
According to Humane Society this training “uses a reward (treats, praise, toys, anything the dog finds rewarding) for desired behaviors. Because the reward makes them more likely to repeat the behavior, positive reinforcement is one of your most powerful tools for shaping or changing your dog’s behavior.”
To stop your dog from sleeping on your face you need to give them an alternative option. Teach them to lay next to you instead, or on their dog bed.
Use straightforward commands like “no”, or “off”, and “nearby” and use gestures to point towards the ground or a spot next to you until they move. With smaller dogs, you can move them yourself into their bed and give them a treat to make a positive connection between the two.
Alongside positive reinforcement you can use crate training, especially with puppies, to give them their own space where they can relax even as adult dogs and sleep in without using your face as a resting place.
Even when your dog repeats this unwanted behavior you can redirect them to their crate or bed, so they learn that this is something they can’t keep on doing. But crate training won’t just solve their current behavior but can also treat a possible underlying issue, separation anxiety.
Don’t Encourage This Behavior
When our dogs begin to “act out” or they repeat behaviors that we don’t feel comfortable with, then we need to take a closer look at our reaction.
It’s possible that your dog has learned that by putting their face on yours they can get what they want. If this is the way your pooch is seeking your attention and in this is the moment you always end up addressing their needs then they are not a fool, they’ll keep doing what they believe works!
Be consistent with setting your boundaries and don’t punish your dog for not doing what you ask of them straight away. Relearning a behavior is tough and being gentle and patient but firm will help both you and the dog reach your goal!
Give Your Dog More Attention
Aside from training and being careful not to encourage this behavior you also need to give your dog the attention they need before they decide to use the lying on your face method to get it.
How much exercise and play your dog requires will depend on their age, size their overall health, and breed but according to Debra Horwitz DVM, “a goal to strive for is at least 15 minutes of training every day. These can be short 5 minute sessions spread throughout the day.”
Exercise can also come in the form of play. Dog classes, or enrolling your dog into dog sports could also help with their mental and physical state.
But your attention doesn’t have to only be reserved for your outside walks. Running up and down the stairs inside your home can be exciting for your pooch, or as AKC suggests playing hide and seek provides mental stimulation and it’s an interactive play that will strengthen your bond.
Speaking of a strong bond don’t forget to show your dog how much you love them with petting, cuddles, and some snuggle time, just don’t let them lay on your face.
Help Reduce Their Anxiety
By giving them more attention and care you’ll also help your dog with feeling less anxious.
Separation anxiety can turn your dog into a clingy and needy companion, so you should help them become more independent.
Instead of letting them use your face as a coping mechanism for your absence, take them for a 10-minute walk before leaving for work. Leave them with plenty of toys to chew on, or puzzle toys that will keep them occupied until you return.
There are some fantastic toys available which you can use to hide food in and that can stimulate your dog’s brain which is great for dogs who get bored easily! If you don’t have a yard, or you know you’ll have to work overtime this snuffle mat from AWOOF on Amazon is a great method to entertain your dog while you’re away!
Additionally, make sure they’re always fed, that they have plenty of water, and that their house has more than a dog bed to offer them when you’re not around.
Why Does My Dog Lay On My Face In The Morning?
For some of you, having a canine companion means that you get to wake up every morning with their fluffiness all up in your face.
Laying on your face every morning could be your dog’s way of greeting you and showing you some love and excitement as their favorite human is slowly waking up.
A hungry dog might also curl up on your face or nudge you with their nose to let you know their food bowl is empty. Perhaps by borrowing under the blankets or next to your face they’re looking for some extra warmth instead.
Then again your snuggly doggy might want to keep you from getting up or worse, leave for work. Dogs that have separation anxiety can begin to exhibit anxious behaviors when they realize their owner is going to leave.
It can happen when you’re putting on your shoes, grabbing your keys or it could be first thing in the morning when you wake up.
Working on reducing their anxiety and training them to not lay on your face can help curb this behavior, and an early morning walk can help them feel less neglected in the morning!
Training them to appreciate and also love their own bed can help you get proper sleep in the morning. Just look at this little pooch looking to get comfy under his own blanket and in their private cozy bed!
Why Does My Dog Lay On Other Dogs?
Your dog might put their head or lean against other dogs for the same reason they do it to you.
If you have two dogs this could be the perfect display of their mutual bond. With other dogs at the park or dogs, they have befriended over the years, laying on them can be their way to show affection and to comfort another dog, especially if one is much younger than the other.
This could also be a playful behavior as they try to throw their weight onto each other as a sort of play tackle.
It’s important to note that you still need to be observant of this behavior around stranger dogs. Something that may seem like play or friendliness could turn into a fight and seeing early signs of aggression can help you separate the two dogs safely.
Perhaps sleeping with a dog right next to your face is the best sleeping method. It can be comforting both for you and your little pooch, and add a bit of warmth, especially in the chilly mornings.
While it does sound idyllic, larger breeds, or dogs that use this method to get something from you or to express their neediness can make some parents uncomfortable, and it can end up being an irritating habit.
Fortunately, dogs are smart individuals, and we can teach them to listen to our needs and if laying on your face isn’t your thing then you need to speak up.
Does your dog also enjoy resting their head on your face area and how does that make you feel?