Dogs sleep between their owners’ legs because they like being next to their owner. It provides the dog with warmth, security, protection, comfort, and affection when next to its owner. Just make sure this habit doesn’t interfere with your sleep!
Letting your dog sleep in bed with you can provide you both with a sense of comfort and security. But some dogs pick some strange places to sleep, like in between your legs. This can lead to awkward sleeping positions and an unrestful night’s sleep. Why do they do this?
What You'll Learn
Why Dogs Sleep Between Your Legs
Every dog is different and has a different reason for doing what he or she does. If your dog sleeps in between your legs, there can be a few reasons why.
If you’re in a cold climate or have the air conditioning turned up too high, your dog may sleep between your legs to keep warm.
This is especially likely if it’s not a normal sleeping spot for your dog and the sleeping area is colder than usual. If providing a warmer place to sleep isn’t possible, try covering your dog with a blanket or sleep sweater.
Your dog may sleep in between your legs because it’s trying to get as close to you as possible so they can feel safe.
This can be an extension of dogs’ natural inclination for sleeping in places that offer den-like security, or it can be the sign of something more.
Some dogs are a little insecure or anxious by nature and they need some help feeling protected. Other times it can be situational, such as during a storm or on the Fourth of July when all the fireworks come out.
Some people have luck using anxiety jackets on their dogs, which help them feel held and secure.
If your dog is showing severe signs of anxiety for no apparent reason, though, it might be a good idea to call a professional. Animal behaviorists can retrain anxious behavior, helping the dog be more relaxed overall.
Many dogs feel that it’s their job to protect their owner. In fact, many owners buy dogs for just that reason. Sleeping between your legs is a good vantage point for a dog who’s preparing to defend you against intruders or anyone looking to harm you.
If you sleep with your door open, keeping it closed at bedtime might help your dog feel more confident that no one’s going to get in without her noticing.
If you usually sleep with your door closed, sleeping with it open can allow an overprotective dog the opportunity to check the home throughout the night.
Like sleeping in between your legs to protect you, some dogs become jealous if someone approaches their owner and will guard the owner out of a sense of possessiveness.
Arguably, this can also be because dogs don’t always understand why we cuddle with and hug other humans and can misinterpret it as aggression.
Whether your dog is protective or possessive, if your dog is sleeping in between your legs to prevent a partner or other family member from getting too close to you, it’s definitely time to retrain the behavior.
This is especially true if the dog growls or nips at the person. What starts out as funny, cute behavior can quickly escalate to actual aggression towards the person.
For whatever reason, some dogs are naturally inclined to burrow, whether it’s outside in the dirt or inside under blankets, pillows, and piles of laundry.
She might sleep in between your legs because it provides the same feeling of a burrow or den and she enjoys being surrounded on all sides.
Dogs want a comfortable place to sleep at night, just like everybody else. Sometimes, in between your legs is the most comfortable spot.
The combination of warmth, legs for pillows, and closeness to their favorite human is just too much for some dogs to resist!
Lastly, your dog might sleep between your legs as nothing more than a sign of affection.
Dogs don’t really differentiate between arms and legs the way humans do, so from their point of view, sleeping in between your legs feels the same as being hugged, which they know is a sign of affection from you.
You’re part of a dog’s pack and sleeping as close to you as they can get is a sign of love and trust.
If You Lose Sleep Because of Your Dog
It’s not uncommon for people to lose sleep because of their dogs, whether the dog sleeps in the bed with them or not.
Below are common reasons that dogs will keep their owners awake and how to combat them.
Takes Up the Entire Bed
If your dog is a bed hog, you don’t have to kick him off the bed. Try retraining him to sleep in a specific spot instead.
Although many owners choose the foot of the bed for this, there’s no reason the spot can’t be alongside you if you prefer.
The easiest way to do this is by putting a dog bed or blanket in the area you want him to sleep and train him to go to it. The general steps to do this are:
- Train him to go to the bed/blanket by using positive reinforcements like treats
- Once he’s consistently going to the bed on command, work on teaching him to stay there for longer periods of time
- The more comfortable he gets with his spot, the more likely he’ll be to nap there on his own accord. On nights when he doesn’t sleep there on his own, remind him to go to his bed
- Remain consistent, and with time, sleeping only in his designated spot will become second nature to him
Need Their Own Bed
If your dog is taking over your bed, it might be time for him to get his own. If you’re really struggling with the separation, put the bed next to your own, so he can still be close by.
This way, you both have the comfort and security of each other’s presence, but the space you need to sleep comfortably.
Occasionally, dog owners find that this won’t work because the dog keeps crying and trying to climb back up onto the bed at night.
With enough consistency, the behavior will eventually stop, but if you don’t have the patience to deal with it for that length of time, you might need to put his bed in another room and sleep with your door closed.
Getting a second dog can help combat the loneliness he’ll feel due to sleeping alone after getting used to having a sleeping buddy.
Potty Before Bedtime
If you’re losing sleep because your dog is waking you up to be let out at night, try changing your schedule so that taking him out to go potty is the last thing you do before going to sleep.
If you’re already doing this and he’s still waking at night to urinate, it might be a good idea to get him checked out. If he needs to go in the middle of the night on a regular basis, it may be a sign of a serious health condition like:
- Urinary tract infection
- Kidney disease
- Cushing’s disease
- Liver issues
Although everyone wakes up in the middle of the night here and there, be sure to get it checked out if it happens often.
Let Your Dog Cuddle
There’s nothing wrong with sharing your bed with a dog, as long as you’re both able to get a good night’s sleep. As long as it’s not keeping you awake, let your dog cuddle as close as he wants.
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