Dogs can be clingy. Sometimes, it feels like we dog owners don’t get a single minute alone – even when using the toilet or when we sleep!
As a result, we sometimes cannot do anything but ask out loud, Why does my dog sleep between my legs every night?
Dogs love to spend time with us. This isn’t anything new or anything we’re not used to. However, during hot summer nights, having your furry friend lie between your legs can be excruciating.
There are many reasons why your pooch might be doing this. Still, no matter how much you love your dog, some cute behaviors are, at the same time, undesirable.
So, if you’re wondering, Why does my dog sleep between my legs every night?, here are 10 possible reasons – as well as advice on how you can stop your pup from behaving in such a way.
Why Does My Dog Sleep Between My Legs at Night?
In short, there are several reasons why your dog might sleep between your legs. Most of the time, they simply want to stay close to you. Sometimes, however, they are in need of emotional support. This is often the case if there are fireworks or thunder outside.
For your dog, you’re a member of his pack. They are pack animals, and they want to be with you every moment – especially if they are afraid or cold.
If you’re wondering Why does my dog sleep between my legs?, you’re in the right place. We’ll give you 10 common reasons behind such behavior:
Just like humans, dogs love feeling cozy and comfortable when they sleep. Not to mention that they love having their favorite person beside them! This makes them feel similar to sleeping next to their mother.
Human legs are very comfortable for dogs. They are soft, warm, and fleshy, making them an instant heating pad. They’ll feel very comfortable sleeping between them as they’ll feel the warmth on every side of their body.
Not just that, but this way, they’ll share their body heat with you. This is their way of bonding with their beloved pack members.
Small dog breeds, such as Chihuahuas or Pomeranians, are especially prone to this type of behavior, especially during wintertime. They’re more sensitive to cold, and they’ll go to you looking for warmth.
Smaller dogs don’t have as much body fat and fur, which is why they hate the cold. This makes them search for warmth, and your legs are a comfortable heating source!
Sometimes, they’ll think their dog bed is too cold, and as a result, they will dislike sleeping on it. Your legs seem like a much more comfortable and fun place to sleep.
In fact, it is in a dog’s nature to seek warmth. This is why puppies sleep in a ‘dog pile’. Puppies cannot regulate their body warmth, which is why they like to be close to their littermates.
A dog’s body temperature is a few degrees higher than a human’s. As a result, they might feel cold even when you’re not. This is why your doggie will lie on you even during summer, keeping you from having a good night’s sleep.
Some dogs are true scaredy-cats. They are afraid of everything! Loud noises such as fireworks, thunder, gunshots, sudden sounds, unfamiliar people… all of these things might terrify your pup!
Once a dog is scared, he’ll only want to cuddle with you because they see you as emotional support. They feel safer when being around you, especially when they want to sleep, which is the riskiest time for them.
In fact, the number of searches on Google asking the question, Why does my dog sleep between my legs? increases around the time of large holidays, such as Christmas or Thanksgiving. This is because fireworks and firecrackers increase, scaring the dogs.
Of course, some dogs are more frightful than others. They’ll be afraid of insignificant things, such as vacuum cleaners, children, or even people with hats! This can lead to them wanting to sleep with you all the time!
They Want Your Attention
Dogs are like little kids who want to be in the center of attention all the time. Every dog owner has surely asked himself at least once: how much attention does this puppy need?
Some more possessive dogs will become overly jealous when a new pet or a child comes into the household. They’ll start seeing a new family member as a threat.
As a result, your dog will want to stay with you all day long as a sign that they want you for themselves. This is similar to resource guarding – a type of behavior that can become aggressive when a dog wants to stay in control of dog food or any other item in the presence of other animals.
Some pieces of research show that neutered males and mixed breeds tend to be more protective than purebred dogs (although this depends as some dogs, such as Dachshunds, can be quite needy).
Overall, dogs can consider many things of high value, such as their dog bed, toys, or even you… their owner!
If your dog loves to sleep between your legs but growls, barks, or lunges if another pet or even another human approaches you, this means that he is resource guarding.
This is considered an undesirable behavior, and you should never praise your dog for acting jealous. However, it can be tricky to get rid of resource guarding, which is why it might be a good idea to contact a professional behaviorist.
He Loves to Feel Safe
Most dog breeds were bred to help humans with certain activities. They feel like you are their family member, and they’ll feel safe and protected if they’re next to you all day long.
If you look at wild dogs or wolves, you’ll notice that they always sleep together, even when it’s warm. This is because they love to feel safe, and this also gives them the highest survival rate.
In nature, there are many predators that are looking to attack dogs that are alone. Dogs in packs are much safer than wolves that are roaming alone.
In fact, there is a reason why these dogs might prefer sleeping between your legs. This is because they can feel you moving, especially if you’re getting up. By sleeping in such a place, they’ll know that you are ready to get out of bed, and they cannot miss a thing!
Whether you are going for a cup of water or to the bathroom, your pup will want to be aware of this and possibly even follow you there. This helps them feel safe, and at the same time, this is their way of making sure they can protect you.
We’ve already briefly discussed this. Dogs are pack animals, and some behaviors are imprinted deeply in their brains – even their sleeping habits.
If they stay inside a pack, they will survive. Because of this, all puppies have to sleep with their mothers, and all pack members have to stay close to one another. If they separate, they become an easier target.
Domestic dogs don’t have a dog-only pack that they can stay with. Instead, you are their family, and they’ll choose to stay close to the only community they have – even if this means sleeping on you.
They Want Emotional Support
Some dogs are more emotional than others. They’ll require their owner’s support for many different things. This includes when they’re feeling not just afraid, but also tired, injured, sick, insecure, or anxious.
In fact, many pieces of research show that humans and dogs have similar brain structures when it comes to experiencing emotions. They even experience many similar behaviors as we do during some severe emotional states. As a result, it is believed that dogs can feel many basic emotions.
While dogs likely cannot feel complex emotions, such as shame or guilt, they can still react just like humans when they become anxious, sad, or depressed. They’ll behave lethargically, lose their appetite, won’t b able to sleep, and will lose all interest in participating in social interactions.
When this happens to them, dogs will want to come to you for support. They are social creatures, and because of this, they’ll want to stay around you to feel loved.
He Trusts You
Many times, you’ll have a dog lay on you for one simple reason: They trust you.
Your doggie sees you as the leader of the pack. You are someone they can trust, and this means that they can sleep close to you – or even on you.
Puppies love to follow leadership. Whether it is their mother or a human owner, they’ll want to do everything their loved one does. This is also one of the reasons why dogs sleep in human beds instead of in their own beds – or, at least, why they want to do so.
He Is a Velcro Dog
Have you heard of the phrase velcro dog? Some dog breeds, such as Shih Tzus, Greyhounds, Dachshunds, and Pugs are known for being velcro dogs. They are very clingy, and will want to stay with you all day long.
Velcro dogs will keep following you wherever you go. They’ll even follow you to the toilet, then sit in front of it until you are finished!
Such dogs can’t imagine having to sleep away from their owners. As a result, they’ll want to stay on you even throughout the nighttime. This is the ultimate sign of affection for them, and they would not understand why you would want to get away from them, even for a second.
He Has Separation Anxiety
Dogs with separation anxiety are similar to velcro dogs in that they want to stay with you all day long. However, they cannot take being away from you for a second… they go into panic mode the moment they are away from their owners or littermates.
These dogs will show severe signs of anxiety the moment you leave them alone. Some of these signs include:
This gets even worse the moment you leave your house. In fact, separation anxiety can lead to many destructive behaviors, such as destroying furniture, peeing or pooping in inappropriate areas, or even engaging in self-injurious behaviors.
The opposite of that, the moment you come back, they’ll be overly happy and excited. Then, when you’re together, they’ll try to be as close to you as possible. They’ll snuggle and jump in your lap. Many of these dogs will also sleep on their owner’s legs.
Separation anxiety is a bad dog behavior that should be worked out with a professional dog behaviorist. Most of the time, owners won’t manage to get to the root of the problem on their own.
You Allow Them
Photo from: @absolute_kaos1
The final reason might be the simplest one, although you may have difficulty admitting it. Many times, the answer to the question, Why does my dog sleep between my legs? is nothing more than: Because you allow it.
There is no shame in allowing your dog to sleep in the bed with you. All dog owners have likely done this at least once. Unfortunately, this can lead to him creating a habit. Your dog might be sleeping on you simply because he knows that you’ll allow it.
Of course, there are some situations when no dog owner would want their pet to sleep on them. This is usually if you have a rather large dog or if it is very warm outside, and having a heavy dog on your legs only makes it worse.
Also, there are unconscious things that you may do that might have made your dog think that you want them to sleep there. For example, you may have petted them when they laid between your legs, or gave them a belly rub.
Also, if you’ve tried to make your dog get off of your legs, only to then allow him when he is whining, you could teach him that he’ll get what he wants when he is persistent enough. The first time you give up and allow him to do something after you’ve said ‘No’ is when you teach him that he can have things his way.
Things to Consider
When trying to get to the root of the problem, there are some things that you should consider. They can help you get a better understanding of your pup’s behavior. Once you learn what the cause is, you can start working on the solution.
Has your dog always slept between your legs and you’ve just now started to dislike it, or is this a new behavior that wasn’t there before?
Here are two possibilities:
This is a New Behavior
If this behavior has started recently, chances are something happened that triggered anxiety. Think about an event that might’ve happened, such as moving or getting another pet. Maybe you had a child or someone moved in with you. Dogs can become jealous when someone new gets close to their owner.
Also, maybe you’ve accidentally praised your pup after he went on the bed and between your legs. If you’ve instinctively petted him, he probably remembered this as positive reinforcement.
Maybe it was New Year’s recently, or Christmas. Both of these holidays include lots of fireworks that might’ve petrified your dog and caused him not to want to sleep alone ever again.
He Has Always Slept This Way
If your dog sleeps this way most of the time, try to think about what you do most of the time that might’ve caused him not to want to leave your side.
For example, if he sleeps between your legs only on days when you go to work, or only in the morning, chances are he has separation anxiety.
Similarly, if he always rushes to jump on the bed before another dog can do so, he is likely resource guarding.
If he is simply sleeping on you without any rules, then it’s just his natural instinct that tells him he should stay close to you.
How to Stop Your Dog from Sleeping in Your Bed
While having a dog sleep in your bed is a rather cute behavior, sometimes it can become annoying. Not to mention that not everyone wants to share their bed with a dog!
This doesn’t mean that you don’t love your pooch. Quite the opposite – dogs love to have a strong leader who will teach them how to behave.
Also, some people have dog allergies. While they’ll still want to have a dog, sharing a bed might be too much.
But, how can you teach your four-legged best friend how to stop getting in your bed without him getting angry at you?
While dogs don’t feel anger or resentment the same way as humans, it is normal to fear that we might hurt our dog’s feelings. Fortunately, there are ways to teach them how to stop this behavior and make them understand what you mean.
Here is how:
Buy a Comfortable Dog Bed
The best way to teach your dog how not to climb onto your bed is to buy him a dog bed he’ll love. Getting him a comfortable bed is the best solution possible as he’ll have a place to sleep without having to interrupt you.
A good dog bed should be soft, clean, and dry. Also, it should allow your dog to feel warm in winter, but not too warm so that they don’t want to sleep in it during summer.
Disclaimer: You also have to make sure the bed is of the right size! If it isn’t, your pup won’t feel comfortable sleeping in it. Not to mention that having a bed of inadequate size can cause health problems!
Train Your Dog to Lay Down
Dog training is always a good method to prevent any undesirable behaviors, no matter what it is you want your dog to stop doing. When it comes to this problem, you should teach your dog where to lay down and sleep.
In fact, if you want to share a bed with your dog but don’t want him to be on you, you might even train him in which part of the bed he should sleep, while reminding him that your legs are off limits.
Don’t punish your pooch if he still tries to climb on top of you. He is simply wanting affection. Gently push him to the place where you want him to stay, such as the foot of the bed, then reward him if he listens to you.
Positive reinforcement is always the key to dog training. Punishment might confuse him, but he’ll always understand what treats mean. Also, remember to be consistent. As we’ve said before, every time you decide to let him sleep on your legs ‘just this one time’, you’re teaching him that he’ll get what he wants if he is persistent enough.
Work on Separation Anxiety
Having a dog with separation anxiety is not fun… not to mention that your dog has a bad time every time you leave! Still, it is your responsibility to help your pooch cope with you leaving him from time to time.
While it might hurt you to see and hear your dog whine for hours every time you go out, getting them used to being alone is the best possible solution, especially in the long run.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should suddenly leave your scared dog alone for hours. Instead, go step by step. This way, you won’t shock him.
Begin by doing the usual stuff you’d do before you get outside of the house. Put on your shoes and jacket, and get your purse. Then, sit on the couch instead of leaving. This might help your dog no longer associate certain behaviors with you leaving.
After several days, go to the door. If your doggie follows you, return to the couch. Keep on doing this until he is comfortable enough not to follow you anymore.
Then, try to get outside. Stay in front of the door for a few minutes before going back inside and to the couch. Reward your pup if he didn’t whine or cry after you left.
Keep repeating this, but lengthen the time spent outside. Use positive reinforcements to reward your pooch whenever he behaves nicely. Over time, he should learn that you’ll come back even if you go outside – and not just that, but you’ll be bringing him a treat!
Of course, if a dog has such severe separation anxiety that this isn’t working, contact a professional dog trainer or a behaviorist. Chances are your dog might’ve gone through some trauma that makes him behave in such a way. This is especially the case with adopted dogs.
Work on Resource Guarding
Resource guarding might seem like fun behavior, but it can, in fact, easily turn into aggression. Such incidents aren’t fun, and they can be outwardly dangerous for your dog, people, and animals around him.
If you have a jealous dog, the best thing to do can be described as: Teaching Dog A that feeding Dog B will lead to him being fed.
What does this mean?
Call your non-aggressive dog and give him a treat. Right after that, give the treat to the dog you’re having problems with. If you’re having more dogs, feed them one at a time. The moment you’re done giving treats to the last dog, give another one to the first dog.
If one dog tries to lunge at you to get a treat, block him from doing this or wait until he calms down.
He needs to learn that such behavior won’t lead to anything. Give him a treat when he calms down, then continue feeding the other dogs.
This activity will teach your dogs to wait for their turn, but it will also show them that they will always get a treat, no matter if another dog gets it first.
Don’t Reinforce Bad Behaviors
Doing nothing is the same as agreeing. If you don’t tell your dog that he has to move, he’ll think that it’s perfectly fine for him to keep on sleeping on you.
Many dog owners wonder Why does my dog sleep between my legs?, but then they don’t do much about it other than be annoyed. However, dogs are like little kids. They won’t stop doing something as long as they know they can get away with doing it.
You have to be strict and tell your dog ‘No!’ before he even attempts to jump on you. If he knows the command ‘Down’, you might use that one instead.
Have them lie on the floor or on their bed. Tell them to stay or to sit down. Use a command that you know your pooch understands. Most importantly, be persistent. If you let them get away with it once, they’ll keep on doing the same behavior.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that your dog should never lie in your bed. You simply have to teach him that such behavior is possible but on your own terms.
For example, if you’re gonna allow him on the bed, call him to come while he is still on the floor.
Don’t wait for him to jump, only to then decide that you’re going to allow him to stay this one time.
This will make him think that he was the one who made the final decision, and not you.
Don’t Let Your Dog inside the Bedroom
Some dogs will wait until you fall asleep, then climb into your bed and onto your legs. If you’re okay with this, let him be. However, if he is too heavy for you or if you don’t want him to climb onto the bed, then don’t allow him inside the bedroom.
This is the only way to let your dog know that the bed is off limits. Also, this will keep you from waking up in the middle of the night with your dog on top of you.
Don’t look at this as a punishment. Your dog has his own bed and he needs to learn to use it. Also, this can help you get a good night’s sleep, especially if you’re a light sleeper. No matter how much you love your dog, you need to think of yourself as well.
Help Your Pup Build Confidence
We’ve already mentioned that some dogs like to sleep between their owners’ legs because they are scared or insecure. This can be caused by negative experiences they’ve had in the past, but also by lack of proper socialization.
Sure, it is best to train your dog while he is young. However, later is still better than never. Your pup is never too old to start learning.
Socialization helps him get familiar with new experiences, new people, and new animals. The more he is used to unpredictable, new things, the more likely he is to learn how to behave accordingly.
Dog training can also help your dog build confidence. He’ll know that you’re proud of him, which can help him feel better about himself. This will also make him feel more independent – possibly even independent enough to sleep in his own bed.
A good idea would be to enroll your dog in obedience classes. This can further help him build his confidence. Even if your dog already knows many tricks, it is always a good idea to refresh his memory.
Another thing many owners wonder is, Why is my dog sleeping under the covers? This is especially the case if it is warm outside! While this is cute behavior and it’s usually not as annoying as having a dog lay down on you, it still leaves us wondering why they do it.
Just like the answer to Why does my dog sleep between my legs?, the cause of this behavior is usually the dog’s natural instincts.
Why Does My Dog Sleep Under the Covers and Between My Legs? Canine ancestors were used to sleeping in dens. They would burrow underground, and then they would sleep. Some dog breeds, such as Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes, still love burrowing before bedtime. This is why some of the best dog beds for Huskies are burrow beds, with a blanket that can go over them.
Unlike some other animals, though, dogs don’t like to spend most of their days in a den. They only use it for sleeping purposes.
If you notice your dog sleeping under the blanket only when you’re laying in bed, this is a sign of affection. They’ll want to be with you, even if that means sleeping in a ‘den’. In your doggie’s eyes, this will keep both of you protected.
By staying under the covers and between your legs, he’ll also get the ultimate heating experience. Your pooch will keep feeling warm no matter the weather outside!
Is Sleeping Between your Legs a Bad Behavior?
There is nothing wrong with wanting to have a dog sleep between your legs. If you’re fine with this and you can sleep throughout the night without disturbance, you can allow your dog to sleep wherever you’d like.
However, some dog experts might argue that you should teach your dog to have boundaries as it can be beneficial for his behavior and confidence. They claim that a dog has to have his own place to sleep, and that you mustn’t allow them to be too clingy.
Also, if a dog is large, you might not be able to get quality sleep with a restless canine sharing your bed. Especially if he likes to sleep on top of you! In fact, many people who wonder why their dog sleeps between their legs have a large dog that makes sharing a bed rather uncomfortable.
If you want your dog to stop sleeping like this, you should act as quickly as possible. The more you allow this behavior to continue, the harder it’ll be to train your dog out of it.
Also, once you start training your dog to sleep in his bed, you have to be strict, but also patient. No dog can learn all commands overnight, and sometimes he just needs more time.
Just remember to be consistent. Any wrong move you make could give your dog confidence that it’s okay to sleep with you. This isn’t helpful if you want to stop him from doing something.
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