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Our dogs really do have a special way of keeping us company, making us feel loved, and showing us how to truly relax for a moment amidst our chaotic lifestyles (nobody said adulting would be simple). It is one of the best feelings to know that you have an excited pup to come home to every day, and they never say no to your movie suggestions on movie night!
Your furry friend is always the family member you want around, but when is the time spent together too much? Did you want to cuddle your dog late one night and now he has his own side of the bed?
While some pet parents find sleeping next to their dog part of a nightly routine, others may start to notice that their lack of sleep is catching up to them. It may be all fun and games until you wake up with a dog butt in your face or a tail tickling your nose! You might go to sleep in one position, but without fail, wake up to your dog hoarding your face like a favorite toy.
At this point, you may wonder, why does my dog sleep by my head?
Dogs crave warmth and comfort from their owners. They may want to protect us from danger while we sleep, or so we can protect them. Your pillow might be too comfortable to pass up, they’re a bit clingy, they suffer from separation anxiety, or you’ve unknowingly trained them and they don’t know any better!
Keep reading to dive into each reason that may explain why your dog is sleeping near or on your head and how to create healthy sleeping boundaries if your pooch is starting to interfere with your beauty sleep.
Reason 1: They’re Being Protective Or Want To Feel Safe
If you’ve had your dog for a while, then he is going to value you as his own kind and want to protect you from any danger that shows up.
Your pup may sleep by your head because they want to defend it (and in turn, you) from danger while you sleep. Our head is the most vulnerable part of our body, and it is an easy position for them to get up and protect us if something happens.
You may also notice that your dog starts to snooze near your face because there is a new arrival in the house: is there a new baby, a significant other, or family in town? Your pup may not feel entirely comfortable and worry for your safety, so he will instinctually do what he can to keep you guarded when you are both sleeping!
There is security in numbers, and your dog knows this. Sleeping with you is not only for your protection but for your pup’s protection too.
Wolves form a pack of 7-10 members (though sometimes as little as just two) which allows them to appear safer against predators. With these behaviors deeply ingrained in your dog, he will feel that being with you during sleep keeps him out of danger.
The pet parent’s head is a prime spot for your pup to rest since you’ll react to imminent danger with your head first, then your body. He will be woken from his sleep to help scare off any possible hazards. You have his back, and he has yours!
Reason 2: They Like Your Warmth
Do you keep it cold inside your home? Is it cold outside?
Dogs like to be warm, and what better way to get warm than to steal it from your owner? They’ll often nuzzle up to you and gain heat from your skin as you let off this warmth.
It has always been said that your head is where 50% of your body heat is lost, but we now know this to not be true. Though this is a myth, it is fact that your head has a smaller layer of insulating subcutaneous fat compared to the rest of the body, meaning that it is vulnerable to greater heat loss when not protected.
Most of us don’t cover our heads with a blanket when laying down to sleep, leaving this body part exposed and vulnerable to the cold air from the air conditioner. If your pup is looking for some warmth, he is likely to go for your head and cuddle you there since it is letting off heat directly from your skin!
In the winter season, my dogs would always find the spot on my body where my skin wasn’t under the blanket so they could ball up there. They are chihuahuas, so they are smaller and with thinner fur, always shivering when not by a human or the fireplace.
Smaller breeds are more likely to fall asleep by your head if it is cold outside as they feel a greater need to regain their warmth, though larger breeds will never turn down some heat exchange with their favorite human!
Reason 3: They Want Your Pillow
Everyone loves pillows, even your animals! They are comfortable, and in my opinion, the best part of laying down for the night.
If you let your pup sleep with you in bed, then he will seek something that is extra soft and squishy, and your pillow is going to be the victim. Since you rest your head there, your dog is bound to end up by your head at some point during the night.
Even my cat slept on my pillow, trying to nudge my head away so he could stretch his legs and claim my pillow entirely as his own. I ended up setting up a second pillow so he would stop bothering me! It is no doubt that your dog is probably doing the same as we all just want to be comfortable for a good night’s sleep. And even better for your dog if he gets the opportunity to snuggle by your head in the process.
It could also be that your dog is mimicking you, as our furry friends have an impressive technique of deferred imitation (also considered observational learning). A study was performed by two scientists, Fugazza and Miklósi, examining 8 adult dogs and their owners to test the ability of the dogs to imitate an action performed by their owners. The results were solid and even suggested that our pups may have long-term memory about events that they can consciously recall and do themselves.
This could explain why you wake up to your pup with his head next to yours on the pillow. He sees you perform this action every night, and it is only natural that he will follow in your footsteps!
Reason 4: You Accidentally Trained Them
Dogs are impressionable, and with you being the pack leader in their eyes, they will look to you when determining what behaviors are acceptable or not. You have the power to teach your dog tricks, when to eat, and yes, even the odd behavior of sleeping on your head!
Inadvertently training them to sleep in your bed and by your head can happen easily, as your dog will associate the love, cuddles, and kisses you give them with being in your bed. Even just one positive experience like this will make your dog think it’s a guaranteed way of getting the affection he desires.
Your dog gets comfortable in your bed and before you know it, you’re stuck sharing your pillow every night.
I do want to emphasize that training your pup to sleep in this peculiar position doesn’t mean you did something wrong, and typically you don’t even realize what you’re getting yourself into. You just love them a lot and want to make sure they know it!
This love for our pups can make us forget what we want our personal boundaries to be, and our dogs won’t know that it’s not okay to use our head as a pillow if we’ve never told them no. So, don’t be worried if your dog sleeps by your head. They genuinely don’t know any different!
Reason 5: They’re A Bit Clingy
Sometimes you may feel that your pup has become quite the invasive creature that can’t seem to leave you alone! And though some owners don’t mind (and actually prefer) this clinginess, the other portion of the dog parents are left scratching their heads thinking, why is my dog like this?
Though the thought is endearing, sometimes you just want to sleep without getting woken up by your dog running in his dreams, kicking you in the process!
This is understandable, but your dog really just can’t help himself. You spoil them with everything they need and anything they would want, and you are the best thing that has ever happened to them. It is commonly said that dogs have unconditional love for their pet parents, and they will show you this by wanting to be by your side all of the time.
I don’t say this lightly, because some dogs will actually never leave your side, not even for two minutes! These pooches are considered “velcro” dogs and typically cling to you due to the strength of the bond you share. He probably doesn’t sleep with your partner either, partly due to this.
This is where your sleeping arrangement can become complicated since you have a dog that you love endlessly, but he always ends up nearby or on top of your head. It may become frustrating, especially if you nudge him away just for him to come crawling right back, interrupting your sleep night after night.
The clingy nature of your pup can feel a bit suffocating at times, but it is a better situation than your pup dealing with separation anxiety.
Reason 6: Separation Anxiety
Does your dog sit on your head only in the morning? Are they actually sleeping, or are they just waiting and stressing over the inevitable moment you have to get up and leave them for work?
It is important to determine if your pup is experiencing separation anxiety as this could be a reason for your pup seemingly glued to your head at night.
If you notice your dog behaving in destructive ways even if you’ve house-trained him or if he is whining when you’re about to leave home, then you may also notice that your dog constantly sleeps close to your head every night.
In your pup’s mind, sleeping by (or on) your head is a surefire way for you to not leave him since he is quite literally blocking you from getting up. He’s thinking he’s got you pinned down and that way you can stay with him forever, as long as he keeps doing this behavior (little do they know that we can just pick them up and move them aside anyways!)
Dogs suffering from separation anxiety may also sleep by your head to be alerted when you wake up, as they are afraid you will leave them while they are snoozing.
They fear being left behind without knowing, so they’ll often keep this physical contact with your head throughout the night to keep tabs on your movements and know when to get up to follow you.
Separation anxiety can have serious implications if left untreated, and it can happen at any point in your dog’s life. A veterinarian can help you form a treatment plan to help ease your dog’s discomfort and possibly improve your sleeping arrangement.
Why Does My New Puppy Sleep By My Head?
Bringing home a new puppy is an exciting time for the whole family as your life is about to be filled with so much more joy and love than before!
Puppies will have a tendency to sleep by your head as they aren’t used to sleeping by themselves just yet- after all, they’re still babies. They probably recently left their mother and litter mates, so it is quite the adjustment for them, and that is okay!
Normally, puppies sleep in a group to regulate their body temperature and feel secure. Since they don’t have their brothers and sisters anymore, they are going to turn to you for companionship instead!
Sleeping by your head can provide your puppy comfort through your steady breathing and radiating warmth, and oftentimes they will make this behavior a habit if you let them.
However, it is imperative that you do not sleep with them overnight. Knowing when you can let your puppy sleep somewhere other than its crate is crucial for training and should come first. You do not want to find pee in your bed or have the head-snuggling habit become lifelong!
Should I Be Worried About My Dog Wanting To Sleep Near My Head?
Normally, your dog wanting to sleep near your head is not a bad thing and there’s no need to worry!
However, in a situation where your dog has separation anxiety, you should be careful as it may not be the best thing for him.
Sleeping by your head would have a negative impact on your dog’s mental health if you continued to let him because it enables your dog to rely on you even while sleeping. Creating boundaries is important for your anxious dog as it will help him become more comfortable being away from you and learn to be confident enough at night to sleep on his own.
How To Create Healthy Sleeping Boundaries
Training a dog that is used to sleeping by your head can take some time, but if you are tired of the restless nights, then it may be worth it for you.
If you want your pup away from your head but not off of the bed, then find a new spot that you’re comfortable with your dog claiming. Teach him to sleep there instead by placing him in the spot and giving him affection and praise, so he can learn that it is an acceptable place to be.
You can also buy a soft dog bed and place it in your bedroom (after all, dog beds are basically giant pillows). Reward your pup with treats each time they use the bed so they can associate the bed with a positive experience. Over time, your pup will feel comfortable sleeping there and won’t even think about cuddling up to your head anymore!
Some people prefer keeping their dog in a crate for the night, while others have a dog bed that their dog sleeps in. Both circumstances allow you to reap the full benefits of beauty sleep! This helpful video explains more tips on how to successfully train your pooch to sleep in his own dog bed if you choose this route:
Your dog sleeping near your head should not raise concern as the reasons are mostly because they love you in some form or another. Whether it be that they want your warmth or pillow, they are clingy, or they want to protect you, these circumstances are only negative if you can’t sleep well anymore. Speak with a veterinarian if you believe your pup is glued to your head at night because of separation anxiety. This reason requires extra care to get your pup feeling his best again.
Take the cuddles as flattery and enjoy them as much as you can; our pups make amazing snuggle companions!