Why Does My Dog Sleep With Me And Not My Partner?

Why Does My Dog Sleep With Me And Not My Partner

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Some dogs have a reputation for loving everyone. Whether it’s the friendly neighbor or the shady guy walking down the alley, some dogs are convinced that everyone is their friend.

Other pups can be a little more discerning…to say the least.

It’s easy to forgive our dogs for being distant with strangers but when that same cold shoulder is given to family members we take notice. One of the most important bonding moments comes with bedtime and it’s when many dogs seem to show their true allegiance by clearly choosing to sleep with (or sometimes on) one person over the other. If you’re a couple, this is especially noticeable.

What’s going on here? You’re probably wondering why your dog sleeps with you and not your partner or roommate?

Your dog may be choosing to sleep with (or even on you) instead of partner because your bond is stronger, you’re less of a restless sleeper or your dog prefers your body temperature. It could also be that your dog is simply in a routine or your room is more available than anyone else’s.  

That covers some of the bigger explanations but it’s still not everything so let’s take a deeper look!

12 Reasons Why Your Dog Prefers Sleeping With You (And Not Your Husband, Wife, Or Roommate)

Let’s dive right in and look at 12 possible explanations for your dog’s sleeping preference. Just keep in mind that it may not be just one reason that explains your pup’s behavior so consider the big picture and all the options before getting too attached to one explanation!

Reason 1: You’re A Quiet Sleeper

We know our dogs are filled with love for their human family but the explanation for their sleeping preference could be a little more practical and instead of picking their favorite person, they’re simply going with whoever is the quietest…or the least likely to accidentally knock them in the head!

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, a whopping 40% of men snore compared to only 24% of women. So if your dog sleeps with you and not your husband it could simply be the result of your lack of snoring or that you snore less loudly.

However, many pups will quickly get used to your loud snores but what they won’t get used to is getting sat on, pushed, or otherwise knocked around while you sleep.  The average person shifts or flips around 13 times a night but there are plenty of others that may toss and turn more than 100 times a night!

If your husband, partner, wife, or roommate looks like they’re attending a Zumba class while they’re dead asleep then it’s no wonder your dog chooses you! So as flattering as it might be to imagine your dog has picked you out of pure love (and it could still be true), they may just be going where they can get the best night’s sleep!

This explanation is even more likely to be true if your dog prefers a more unusual sleeping position like nestling up between your legs or just sleeping on you. In those cases, dogs will be more sensitive to any shifts in position and more likely to pick the least restless sleeper in the house.

Reason 2: Your Partner Or Roommate Is On The Loud Side

But it’s not all about how you sleep and what you do while your awake is just as important!

If your partner or husband frequently raises their voice, that could lead to overall avoidance from your dog, including at bedtime.

In some cases, they may just be an animated, loud or boisterous person, and while that can be great at parties not all canines will love the extra noise. If your husband or roommate is one of those folks that’s quick to react to the television (especially sports) then that could be enough to lead your dog to stand clear.

Your dog isn’t going to understand that your husband’s favorite team just scored a touchdown but they will decide that they probably don’t want to get too close to the loud person!

Reason 3: Your Bond Is Stronger

Just like humans fall in love with some people and not others, our dogs can form stronger bonds with certain people within the household. A stronger connection can often be linked to a match in temperament and it’s no coincidence that dogs seem to match with their owner’s styles. In fact, a 2012 study found that this isn’t just a myth, and dogs were discovered to mirror their owner’s temperament across 5 different major personality traits.

It’s not always clear whether dogs become like their owners or if the initial match works because of their similar personalities but it’s likely that if you selected your dog then you probably have a stronger bond. Even more so if you had your dog before your husband, wife, partner, or roommate.

But what does a stronger bond really mean?

Well, numerous studies have found that when dogs interact with humans, everyone involved releases the feel-good hormone called oxytocin. So your matching temperaments and stronger bonds turn into more oxytocin which gives humans a “surge of positive emotions” and likely does something similar to our dogs.

How can your partner or roommate compete with that?

They can’t which is exactly why your loving dog prefers to sleep with you!

Reason 4: It’s Just The Way It’s Always Been

Sometimes it may not be a stronger bond at all and it’s simply the way things have always been.

If you’ve had your dog since they were a puppy, they may prefer sleeping by your side simply because that’s what they’ve always done!

Dogs are driven by routine, just like most creatures, and if they’ve been curled up by your side as far back as they can remember why would they change when a new guy or gal shows up?

Sure, it could be that they also have a stronger bond thanks to all that time spent as a puppy but the power of routine could explain your dog’s preference.

Reason 5: It’s Comes Down To Your Smell

You probably already know that dogs have an absolutely amazing sense of smell. Dogs can sniff out just about anything and there are some really off the wall stories out there including a dog that can detect orca scat in the Puget Sound from a mile away.

If a dog can do that then you can certainly expect them to be sensitive to your smells. One study found that dogs can even smell fear, along with other emotions! Well, they can’t smell the emotions themselves but instead, the canine nose can appreciate and interpret the physiological changes that come with those emotions.

So your dog’s preference for you over your partner could come down to a smell that our puny human noses have no chance of appreciating.

Still, pinning this down could be almost impossible and your dog’s preference could come down to lotions, diet, environment, emotions, physiological processes, deodorants and that’s just to name a few.

Instead of trying to figure what smell your dog doesn’t like, it’s usually easier to appeal to your pooch with scents they like and some studies have discovered that dogs find vanilla, coconut, and ginger especially engaging. If you’re putting on coconut and vanilla scented lotion before bed every night then that could explain your pup’s preference for you over your partner!

Reason 6: Your Dog Could Be Protecting Or Guarding You

Dogs may decide that between you and your partner, you’re the one that needs a little extra protection at night time so naturally, they’ll choose to sleep next to you (or even on you) instead of getting too close to your partner.

Dogs that are in protection mode will usually be more sensitive to what’s around them. Signs of this behavior can be subtle like sleeping with their back to you so they can see the room. Or they can be not-so-subtle like growling at the slightest noise or encroachment towards your bed- sometimes even at sounds you can’t hear.

However, some dogs are protecting you as much as they’re guarding you from the rest of the world- and there’s a big difference. Instead of looking out for your safety, guarding dogs will look after you like they would their food bowl, favorite toy, or any other valuable resource. As the folks at Animal Behavior College explain, “Some dogs can bond so deeply with a specific person that they will start to resource guard her from other dogs, people, and even children.”

This can be especially common in smaller dogs where it’s often seen as funny but this behavior is very problematic- even in pint-sized pups.

So while the signs can be obvious, in other cases guarding or protective behavior can be more subtle and part of that process would include sleeping on or next to you instead of any other person in the house including your husband, wife, or partner.

Reason 7: You’re A Better Temperature

Sure, dogs may be able to smell that you had a glass of wine yesterday or they may reflect back on their early life as a puppy when they decide to sleep with you and not your husband.

But they might also just choose the person that has the best temperature and best cuddling style for them.

We know that dogs are quick to find the perfect sunspot in the house or to figure out that laying on the bathroom tile is the best way to stay cool so of course they’ll figure out who has the best temperature for sleep between you, your partner, and anyone else in the home.

While preferences will depend on individual dogs, we do know that dogs run warmer with a body temperature between 101.0 to 102.5°F compared to the average human body temperature of 98.6°F.

However, the impact of this isn’t always clear and some dogs may prefer to cuddle up next to the cooler person which will most often be a female. That’s not just a cliche either and studies have found that women are colder than men on average. Beds are already warm and some dogs may want to stay comfortable while minimizing the extra heat which means sleeping closer to you instead of your husband.

On the other hand, some dogs may want the extra help that a warmer person provides to maintain their natural body temperature. These dogs will more often prefer men but also anyone with more bodyweight that can help maintain heat.

Reason 8: You’re The “Good Cop”

There’s almost always a “fun” parent compared to the serious or strict one. The same phenomenon plays out in the workplace with lenient bosses and stern ones.

And of course, there’s the classic good cop bad cop.

The same thing plays out in the world of canine parenting and whether you live with your husband, wife, or roommates your dog will quickly figure out which one of their caretakers is more likely to provide extra treats and bend the rules. While it’s not always the case, it’s likely that the “good cop” of the household is the one who will get extra cuddle time over anyone else in the house.

Reason 9: Who Fills The Food Bowl?

It may not take more than filling the food bowl to be your dog’s choice when it’s time to sleep.

I’ve noticed in my own experience that even walks don’t carry the same weight as filling the food bowl so even if you’re the one who’s out there bagging up dog poop, if you’re not in charge of mealtime then you may not get the honor of having the dog sleep next to you. Instead, your partner (or whoever fills the bowl) will be chosen!

Reason 10: Your Dog Has A Gender Bias

Gender bias among dogs is actually quite common. I worked in an animal shelter for roughly a decade and during that time hundreds of dogs were hesitant around me (I’m a tall man) compared to the many female employees.

Sadly, this isn’t exactly an illogical choice and one study found that out of 307 men that were arrested for domestic violence a staggering 41% of them admitted to animal abuse at some point during their adult life. The statistics get even grimmer the digger you deep and studies find that well over 90% of all animal abuse is perpetrated by men.

If you’ve had your pup their entire life, then this reason obviously doesn’t apply. But if your dog has an unknown history, it’s fair to say that if they’ve ever experienced abuse of any kind it would have been done at the hands of a man. So if your dog prefers sleeping next to you instead of your husband or male roommate then a history of bad experiences with men could explain it.

To be clear, it doesn’t take severe abuse to start this bias with dogs and many dogs will quickly figure out that the comparative treatment they get from one gender is just better than the other- even if there’s nothing even close to abuse involved.

So don’t assume that because your dog doesn’t want to sleep with your husband that there must be a history of severe abuse in their past- instead, the gender bias could be a result of much more subtle treatment over time.

Reason 11: You’re Just More Available

By this point, we’ve looked at some pretty complicated explanations for why dogs prefer sleeping with you over your partner or another member of the household.

They’ve ranged from the release of oxytocin to the subtle detection of pheromones that are unique to you. But the explanation could also be simpler and come down to who’s more available to sleep with.

That could be the result of an open door (literally but also figuratively) or the timing of when you go to sleep. If you go to bed early but your husband or partner goes to bed at midnight then whatever your dog’s preference is will impact who they sleep with. Usually, it will come down to whoever goes to bed first and the early sleeper gets the pup!

Reason 12: You’re More Novel

I’ve been in situations where I feed, walk, brush, pet, and do everything else for a dog only to have them sleep with someone else in the house that gives them very little attention.

Yeah, it hurt my feelings a little.

But just like humans always think that the grass is greener on the other side, dogs sometimes seem to be most interested in the person that’s the least available to them. In this case, that could be you, and even though your husband, wife, or roommate may do all the work that comes with taking care of a pup you still get the reward of sharing the bed.

That’s just the way it goes!

It’s Hard To Understand What Your Dog Will Prioritize

We just looked at 12 reasonable explanations for your dog’s sleep behavior and even though we’ve presented strong evidence for each, your dog may not care.

In other words, just because it makes sense for your dog to focus on who feeds them, they may use any of the other explanations for deciding who to sleep next to and it won’t always make sense to us.

So how can you figure out which explanation makes the most sense for your dog?

Focus on the simplest and broadest explanations first and work from there. If your partner wakes up every morning to find twisted blankets and pillows thrown across the room then it’s probably their wild twists and turns at night that make you more appealing to your dog and not your favorite lotion or your natural scent.

With enough time and a little trial and error, you’ll be able to figure out what explanation makes the most sense for your pup.

How To Encourage Your Dog To Sleep With Other People

Even though it can be flattering to have your dog choose you as their favorite sleeping companion, sometimes you may want your pup to branch out and share their slumber with someone else.

However, it’s usually the husband, wife, or roommate that’s getting the cold shoulder who really wants things to change!

Encouraging your dog to sleep with your partner (or anyone else) instead of you really comes down to a two-pronged approach: positive reinforcement for the behavior and making the other person more appealing.

Let’s take a closer look at each.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is the foundation of any behavior modification protocol and it simply means rewarding your dog when they do something you want them to do which will then encourage more of that behavior.

It’s the methodology behind giving dogs a treat when they follow your command and positive reinforcement can be used to train pups to do just about anything- including sleep with your partner instead of you.

But you don’t want to wait for your dog to suddenly decide to sleep next to or on your partner before you reward them. Otherwise, you could be waiting a while.

Instead, offer small rewards the closer your dog gets to your partner and their bed. If it’s a roommate situation, then give them a reward for sleeping in their bed even when they’re not in it. You can drastically speed up the process by teaching your dog the “Come”, “Go” or an equivalent command. Using that command, you can show your dog that every time they approach your partner in bed they get a treat, pet, praise, or some other positive reward.

It won’t happen instantly, but with enough time your dog will decide that all extra benefits they get from doing what you want them to do outweigh whatever was motivating them to avoid your partner in the first place.

Make Your Partner More Appealing

Positive reinforcement is the foundation but you can also try to make your partner or roommate more appealing to your dog.

You’ll have a hard time addressing a restless sleeper (short of a weighted blanket) but things like putting your husband in charge of feeding time, brushing or playtime can help improve your dog’s bond with your husband which could increase the chance of them getting picking as the primary sleeping partner.

Again, focus on the big behavior shifts instead of covering your husband in vanilla-scented lotion!

Closing Thoughts

Your dog’s choice of sleeping companion can actually be a lot more complicated than it appears at first. While there are obvious explanations like a stronger bond between you and your dog as compared to your partner, other more subtle explanations like gender bias can be at play as well.

Some explanations are less flattering than others, but if your dog chooses to sleep on or with you instead of your partner you should absolutely take it as a compliment!