Dogs need their beauty rest, too! They enjoy sleeping just as much as we do, but we don’t always share the same ideas about where the most comfortable place to sleep is.
Sometimes we may find our dogs sleeping in their crate, on the couch, in their own bed, and sometimes even in our beds. But sometimes you may find your dog sleeping in a more unusual area, like by the door.
The most common reasons dogs sleep by the door include guarding purposes, temperature control, a signal to go outside, waiting for their owners, or because it feels safe and comfortable. It is usually not something to be worried about and it’s typical normal dog behavior.
These are just a few of the reasons, but I’ll try to explain the situation through your dog’s eyes so we can figure out which explanation makes the most sense for your dog.
Reason 1: Your Dog Is Being Protective
Most dogs naturally want to protect their living space and resources, even when they’re sleeping. Especially if your dog is a breed of dog that is known for being protective.
Dogs value resources, and their sleeping space is a prime resource that acts as a place of safety and comfort. Your pup may be lying by the door to keep others away from his “space”, even if there’s more than enough area to share.
Many (though not all) dogs also like to guard their owners and will position themselves around the area to act as a lookout, however, some may choose even weirder spots. Dogs who lay or sleep by the front or back door may be doing this, as they’ve learned that both of those locations are areas in which potential intruders could enter or leave.
Your dog may also choose to sleep by your bedroom door, or even your children’s bedroom door. This allows them to keep an even closer eye on you, and alert you to any potential issues that they hear, smell, or see in the house at night.
Reason 2: Your Dog Is Trying To Regulate Their Temperature
Like humans, dogs must maintain homeostasis in order to keep their bodies functioning. When they become too hot or too cold, they’ll often seek external ways in which to adjust their body temperatures.
If you catch your pup laying by the door, it could be that they are trying to cool down or warm up, depending on the time of year.
Even if you’ve got great draft protection on your doors, they can still project radiant warmth or coldness due to the external temperatures outside of the room your dog is in.
In the summertime, this could mean that your dog will choose to sleep by a door that is on a wall facing away from the sun, or even by the door that leads out to the garage or mud room, which are often kept at lower temperatures than many other parts of a house.
In the wintertime, your dog could be laying by the door that is receiving the most direct sunlight, which warms the entire area. Dogs thermoregulate just as we do, so a warm sunspot in the winter is just as appealing to them as it would be to us!
This is also why many dogs will sleep or lay against a wall, too!
Reason 3: Your Dog Is Waiting For You
We know that dogs have object permanence and several studies supported this including the work of Zentall and Pattison.
This means that your dog knows that you are on the other side of the door somewhere, even if they cannot see you. Because dogs have such a strong sense of smell, they can also often smell you on the other side of the door even if they did not actually see you walk through the door.
If you catch your pup lying by the door, it could be that they have been waiting for you to come back through it. Your dog lying in front of a particular door is also a good way of telling where your spouse or child is, especially if they happen to be your pup’s favorite person!
If you happen to have a pet camera that monitors your dog while you are away from home, you might also catch them sleeping by the front door in anticipation of you returning home.
Reason 4: Your Dog Has Separation Anxiety
If your dog does nothing when you’re gone except sleep by the door, there may be more to it besides missing you.
Separation anxiety is when your dog feels stressed, anxious, and helpless without you being there. It is more than just missing their owner as some dogs with separation anxiety seem like they can’t function without their owners.
How do you know if it’s separation anxiety or if your dog just misses you?
Dogs with separation anxiety may potty inside when they don’t normally do that. They might also bark or howl nonstop, be destructive, and show signs of stress like panting when they haven’t moved much and the temperature is not hot.
While these seem like tiring activities, some dogs seem to shut down and just sleep in one spot all day, like sleeping by the door.
Separation anxiety is a common issue in dogs, and one that is best handled by an experienced trainer. In many cases, I’ll prescribe medication to help the pet calm down and this can often make the work with the trainer more effective.
If you think your pup laying by the door all day may be due to separation anxiety, schedule a consultation with a reputable local trainer who can determine how to best help your dog.
Reason 5: Your Dog Needs To Go Outside
Some dogs can be very subtle in the cues they provide to their owners about needing to go outside to potty. Going and laying by the door (especially if it’s outside of their normal sleeping hours) may be your pup’s signal that they need to go out and potty.
If you catch your pup laying by the door and don’t normally see them sleeping there at any other time, it could be their way of telling you that they need to go outside. They may also be laying by the door not because they have to potty, but because they want to go outside in general.
Reason 6: You Could Be Encouraging Your Dog To Sleep By The Door
All sleeping dogs are adorable and all dogs can lay in goofy ways so it’s not strange to want to exclaim to the world how adorable your pup is! But while this attention toward your dog by the door may seem harmless, your excitement could mean a lot to your dog and be teaching them certain behaviors.
Positive reinforcement is something that you do to reinforce or encourage a certain behavior. A common example of positive reinforcement is telling your dog to sit and then giving them a treat right after they sit.
This is part of a process called operant conditioning and is one of the primary ways in which dogs learn (the other being classical conditioning).
By giving your dog attention through pets, excited exclamations, or petting your dog while they’re lying by the door, you are using positive reinforcement.
Your dog might be thinking, “My human loves when I lay by the door! I’ll keep doing it to make both of us happy!” and will most likely continue sleeping or laying by the door.
Reason 7: Your Dog Feels Comfortable
If your dog looks super content and comfortable sleeping by the door, that might just be the reason!
Sometimes, your dog lays in the weirdest of places just because it’s comfortable, even if we ourselves don’t feel like it’s a comfortable spot.
Our dogs can lay in all sorts of weird positions and in interesting locations, so sleeping by the door may just be their favorite spot to snooze.
If you’ve got a rug or mat by the door, your dog may have decided that it makes a good bed, and thus will seek that space out when they are feeling tired just as they would a regular dog bed.
Similarly, if you’ve got a dog who has sensitive skin or who dislikes certain textures, and the area by your door is different than other parts of your house, your pup may choose to lay or sleep there because it’s more comfortable on their skin than the carpeting, tile, or wood in other parts of your home.
Why Does My Dog Sleep By My Bedroom Door?
If your dog sleeps by your bedroom door at night while you are sleeping, then it’s likely your dog is acting as a guard or wants to be near you.
Dogs crave companionship, and while not all of them may be up for a snuggle in bed, they can find other ways to still be near you, such as laying by your bedroom door.
Is It Bad If My Dog Sleeps By The Door?
In general, no, it is not a bad thing if your dog sleeps or lays by the door. However, there may be certain situations in which you’d rather your dog slept somewhere else, especially if they frequently block the door.
Let’s look at some ways to discourage your dog from sleeping by the door:
Don’t Provide A Positive Response
As mentioned before, positive reinforcement encourages behaviors and actions.
If you don’t want your dog to sleep or lay by the door, it’s important to ignore your dog when they are laying by the door and instead encourage them to move elsewhere and provide a “jackpot” response with lots of praise, excitement, and even treats or a chew once they’ve moved to the area you want them to be in.
If you see your pup moving towards the door to lay down, you could say “ah ah” and then redirect them to the place you actually want them to be.
Teaching them a cue such as “Go To Your Bed” is a great way to redirect them from the door and back towards their bed to sleep.
Give Your Dog A Spot Of Their Own
Providing your pup with some options on where to sleep is always a good idea. Having multiple beds (especially one or two of different types and materials) gives your dog the option to choose where he’d like to sleep depending on how he’s feeling. I usually tell owners that they can offer a warmer bed with encompassing edges or a cooling mat bed to determine what surface and temperature are preferred by their pup.
Crates are also a great choice, even if you don’t plan on crating your dog throughout the day. The doors on the crate can be left open so your dog has free access to the crate, and they can be encouraged to sleep in there instead of by the door.
Don’t Punish Your Dog For Laying Or Sleeping By The Door
While it can be frustrating if we go through a door and trip over our dogs, it’s important to remember to never yell at or punish our dogs for laying or sleeping there.
When punishment is used with dogs, it can create unintended consequences and lead to incorrect associations between the punisher and their actions.
Instead, we should give our dogs a cue to move to a new location, and then reward them (with treats, play, or even just lots of praise) when they move to those locations.
With consistency and patience, your dog will opt to sleep in those more appropriate locations rather than laying by the door.
While we may never understand how a dog can find sleeping by the door comfortable, it’s important to respect their decision to do so unless it creates a danger to the dog or members of the household.
More often than not, our dogs are laying by the door because it provides them comfort in some way, or because they feel the need to protect their home.
Rarely does it cause issues, but if you find your dog’s preferred sleeping location is creating a tripping hazard, using positive reinforcement training methods to encourage your dog to sleep elsewhere is a good idea.