Many dogs like to curl up against their owners and sleep with them. This behavior is quite common and not a problem if it happens occasionally.
However, some dogs always sleep touching their owners and it can become an issue in some cases. In this article, we will explain why dogs do this and what you can do to stop this behavior.
Why Your Dog Has to Sleep Touching You?
There are many reasons why dogs have to touch their owners to sleep, so let’s take a closer look at those reasons before we explain how you can address them.
Most dogs are protective of their owners by nature, so your dog touching you while sleeping could be another way of expressing his protective instincts.
This is more likely to be true if your dog is also protective of you around other animals or people. Also, if your dog is facing the main door when he sleeps with you, protective instincts are the most likely reason for this behavior.
Some dogs just want extra attention and if you indulge them when they sleep next to you, it can be the main root of this type of behavior. This is also more likely to happen if you haven’t given your dog much attention recently.
Feeling Safe and Comfortable
Dogs are social animals and they tend to feel safer when they are in a group. Also, many dog breeds are taught to work alongside their owners, so they feel safer when they are close to them. Sleeping close to you can make your dog feel less vulnerable and safer.
Another common reason is comfort and some dogs simply feel more comfortable when they sleep curled up next to their owners. This is likely the reason if your dog rests his head on you and chooses to sleep there instead of sleeping in his own bed.
Your dog could simply be showing affection for you, especially if he likes to get his stomach or back rubbed before going to sleep.
Some dogs suffer from separation anxiety, which means that they tend to behave inappropriately when you leave home or when you are about to leave. This is more likely to be the reason if he tends to lay or sleep while touching you only before you leave home and not after you come back.
This Behavior Was/Is Encouraged
This type of behavior is often encouraged in the beginning and it can be difficult for the behavior to stop without taking measures to discourage it. Most probably you have encouraged this behavior by giving your dog belly or back rubs while laying next to you, which he understood to be a reward for his behavior.
Other Things to Consider
If your dog has to sleep touching you, there are a few things to consider to better understand why this behavior occurs and how to address it.
For example, if your dog didn’t behave this way in the past, consider what else occurred at the same time when he started doing it. Perhaps he also started to show symptoms of separation anxiety or something else that could be the root of the problem.
Also, if your dog doesn’t have to always sleep touching you, pay attention to what is different when he does. He may be doing it more before exercising or being fed, which could mean that he wants to be woken up at a time when this is supposed to happen.
How to Correct This Behavior?
If you want to correct this behavior and get your dog to sleep without laying on top of you or touching you, there are a few things you can do.
Use Positive Reinforcement
The best way to teach your dog certain behaviors is with positive reinforcement training. This is used to encourage your dog to behave the way you want simply by providing a reward when he behaves that way.
You can do this by making the sleeping location for your dog comfortable. Get your dog to the location and whenever he stands there, you reward him with praise or treat. Then, try to get him to lay down by offering a treat.
Repeat this process a few times every day until your dog makes the connection between laying in his own bed and getting rewards.
It is also important to stop encouraging this type of behavior. Don’t reward your dog with belly rubs or back rubs when he lies next to you. Instead, stick to positive reinforcement for sleeping away from you.
Make Your Dog Comfortable
If you make the area where you want your dog to sleep more comfortable for him, say for instance in a crate, you will have a better chance of making him sleep there.
Make sure that the area is not too bright at night, keep the area cool and provide enough space for the dog to lie down comfortably.
Reduce His/Her Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety can lead to many bad behaviors in dogs, including being unable to sleep away from the owner. We have a podcast episode as well discussing, dealing with separation anxiety and how it can help with these behavioral issues, so try to help your pooch overcome it.
There are many reasons why dogs like to touch their owners while they sleep. Some of these reasons are benign enough, like being more comfortable, safe or showing affection. However, this can also be caused by separation anxiety and other reasons and it can become a problem.
You can discourage this behavior with positive reinforcement training and use this to teach your dog to sleep in his own bed.
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