As a dog owner, you must have seen your fur ball sleep in some of the weirdest positions. It may sleep on its back, legs up in the air, curled into fetal or sphinx positions.
Some dogs like sleeping in the company of their humans. The dog might curl up around your leg, prefer sleeping on your lap, or have you wrapped up in a bear hug.
Some dogs tend to sleep on their human parent’s head, which is the topic we will explore today.
A dog’s sleeping position may depend on room temperature, how they feel, their health, personality, and how much they trust you.
Your dog sleeping on your head may be its attempt to protect you, bond with you, or get a warm and cozy good night’s sleep.
Other worrying reasons may include anxiety or dominant behavior.
The article will examine possible answers to why my dog sleeps on my head. If you do not want your dog to behave, we will also look for tips that may help.
Why Does My Dog Sleep on My Head?
Some reasons for your dog sleeping on your head may be cute, while others require the vet’s professional opinion. Let us explore possible reasons for the behavior in detail.
1. The Dog is Protecting You
The dog’s wild ancestors were pack animals. The pack members would do their best to care for and protect each other.
The pack leader would sleep at the highest point because it served as a good vantage point. Then, in case of predators or any other trouble, the leader would have been able to take quick action.
Domesticated dogs today do not live in packs but have humans as their family. Your dog loves and cares for you. So it is natural for it to develop a protective instinct toward you.
Another reason for the dog’s protective nature could be its breeding history. For example, breeds like Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, Tibetan Mastiffs, Akitas, and Australian Shepherds make for the best watch and guard dogs.
This is because these breeds have a history of being used for hunting, herding, and guarding livestock. So the dog’s protective trait has survived through years of breeding.
Your dog may try sleeping on your head, especially when you have people over that it does not recognize or other animals in the house. It is your dog’s way of saying, ‘I will protect you.’
2. Your Bed and Pillow Are More Comfortable
Does your dog have its bed, or do you share your bed with the dog? If the dog does have its bed but refuses to sleep in it, chances are the bed is uncomfortable.
The material may not be suitable for summer, leaving the dog all hot and sweaty. Or the bed could be too firm or soft, not letting the dog get into its preferred sleeping position.
On the other hand, the dog may find your bed a comfortable place to sleep. And plopping its head on your fluffy pillow may take the sleeping experience to the next level.
In this case, the dog may not be exactly sleeping on your head but right next to your head.
Another compelling reason your dog puts its head on your pillow is that it mimics your behavior. According to a study by Michigan State University, dogs learn to mimic their owners’ behaviors and traits.
So, the dog sees you resting your head on the pillow and thinks, ‘that is exactly what I am going to do.’
If you share the bed with your dog, it might be a good idea to let the dog have its pillow. And if the dog bed is an issue, see how you can make its sleeping area more comfortable.
Also Read:- Why Do Dogs Sleep Between Your Legs?
3. The Dog is Bonding With You
Dogs are social creatures. They like to be in the company of their human family. So, behaviors like placing its head on your lap, licking you, and cuddling with you while sleeping, could be its way of bonding with you.
Some dog breeds are more affectionate than others. For example, Golden Retrievers, Boxers, Great Danes, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are affectionate breeds that will never shy away from showing their love.
Also, if you tend to stay away for most of the day, the dog will naturally want to be close to you when you come home at night. So while sleeping, the dog may position itself as close to you as possible.
This behavior is normal as long as the dog does not get clingy or show signs of anxiety.
For example, if the dog follows you around, does not leave you alone, obsessively sticks by your side when you are around, ignoring its toys, then you need to discuss its condition with the vet.
If a dog’s clinginess is not addressed, it can soon progress to separation anxiety.
4. The New Puppy is Settling In
Have you seen newborn puppies sleeping? They tend to pile up and sleep on top of one another. This is because puppies feel safe and comfortable with their littermates around. This is how they were in the womb. It also keeps them warm as the puppies’ bodies radiate heat.
So, if you have brought home a puppy, it will try to mimic its old sleeping pattern. Sleeping on top of you may be the only way it knows how to sleep.
The puppy will take some time to adjust to its new surroundings. Getting the puppy to sleep in its crate or bed would be best.
Puppies can get fidgety and have minimal control over their bowel. Therefore, it would not be wise to encourage the puppy to sleep on your head, or you could end up with its pee and poop dribbling down your face.
5. The Dog Wants Your Attention
What better way to get your attention than sitting right on your head? This behavior is hard to ignore, especially if it is a growing or an adult dog.
All dogs would need attention to some degree. But some dog breeds would want to be the center of attention at all times. For example, breeds Siberian Huskies, Retrievers, Border Collies, and Cocker Spaniels require the most attention.
If the dogs are not exercised and engaged in productive activities, they will invest their energy in undesirable behaviors. And if you respond to such behaviors, the dog learns it is ok to behave.
For example, if you give the dog attention, throw it a ball or give it a treat when it sleeps on your head, the dog learns that is what it has to do to get your attention.
6. It Could be Separation Anxiety
And anxious dogs do not do well independently. So the moment you come home, they will cling to you. As mentioned above, if the dog’s clinginess is ignored, it can become separation anxiety.
The dog may sleep on your head because you may not be able to get up without waking the dog up too. It does not want you to leave and will do its best to keep you around.
There can be several causes for a dog’s separation anxiety. According to ASPCA, abandonment, change of owners, and abrupt schedule changes triggered separation anxiety. In addition, leaving the dog alone for increasingly long periods was also the cause of anxiety.
If you are adopting a dog from the shelter or a dog for which human companionship is a must, understand if you are ready to commit. You must be available, consistently train and care for the dog, be patient and trust the process.
If not, you could end up worsening the condition of the animal.
7. The Dog Feels Secure
This is a reason that again goes back to the dog’s wild ancestors. The pack animals would sleep close to each other because it made them feel secure.
Sleeping alone was a threat as predators could have easily attacked them. Sleeping together gave them the advantage of numbers.
This instinctive behavior can be seen in puppies as well. As the puppies grow, they may retain this habit and sleep close to other dogs in the house or close to you if you share your bed with them.
This also goes to show that your dog trusts you. It knows you have its back, and thus it can sleep comfortably on your head.
8. The Dog Feels Warm and Cozy
Does your dog sleep on you only during the winter? If yes, it could be because the dog’s sleeping area is not equipped for the winter season. The dog might be cold.
So, the dog may sleep next to your head because you feel warm and cozy. It could be because your body radiates heat and that helps the dog fight the cold. It could also be your fluffy blankets keeping it warm.
Pets can also get chilly despite their thick and heavy coats. If your dog is cold inside the house, it may show signs like:
If you do not want the dog sleeping with you, ensure it has blankets around its bed to keep warm on those cold winter nights.
9. The Dog is Trying to Show Dominance
Sleeping on your head could also be considered alpha behavior and should not be encouraged.
A dog’s dominant nature is rooted in its wild territorial instinct. They had to be strong to survive in the wild.
In some dogs, dominance as a trait may be passed down through the breed’s evolution. In other cases, the dogs would need a strong human member to guide and command them, or they could assume the role themselves.
So, sleeping on your head is not a sign of protection but dominance. Such traits do not have a place in the life of domesticated dogs. However, if you do not train the dog, the behavior can get out of hand and become dangerously aggressive.
When the dog considers itself to be the leader of the house, it may show signs like:
- Resistance to your commands
- Resource guarding
- Trying to lead the way on walks
- Unnecessary aggression
You need to curtail any signs of aggressive behaviors as the earliest. If your dog has already become dominant, please see a professional behaviorist.
10. The Behavior is Encouraged
Why does my dog sleep on my head? Because you encourage it to. Yes, you could be equally responsible for why the dog leaves all that space in the house and sleeps on your head.
When you brought the puppy home, you let it nap with you. The behavior was rewarded with cuddles, hugs, and kisses. You could not command your adorable puppy to get away from you and sleep in its designated area.
The puppy grows up thinking sleeping on your head is acceptable. In fact, doing so can get your attention and cuddles. The behavior transforms into a habit.
You cannot suddenly expect that the dog you allowed to sleep with you will stop doing so and listen to your commands to stay away. It may obey the commands, but now you will have to spend time training the dog to get over its habit.
Thus, you should be careful of what behaviors you encourage in dogs.
Should I Let My Dog Sleep on My Head?
Yes and no. The answer depends on your personal preference and health. For example, if you and the dog are both healthy, you can share a bed. Studies show that sleeping with canines may improve your sleep quality.
If you feel secure and are comfortable with the pet in the same bed as yours, there is no harm in continuing.
The problem starts if your health needs to be better. For example, sleeping with a dog may not be wise if you are allergic or have asthma. Dogs can carry dust or pollen to the bed, aggravating your condition.
Cuddling with small or medium-sized dogs may be ok. But having a large dog sleep on your head is not good. You may find it difficult to breathe under all that weight. If the dog gets suddenly startled, it may involuntarily hurt you.
So if you like sleeping next to your dog and are safe and healthy, you can let the dog be. But if you want to change the dog’s behavior, the next section will help you with answers.
What Should I Do To Stop the Dog From Sleeping on My Head?
If you are ok with the dog sleeping on your head, there is nothing to worry about. But, if you are looking for ways to get the dog to sleep in its designated area, here are some tips that can help.
1. Invest in a Good Dog Bed
If you want to prevent your dog from sneaking up on your bed at night, ensure it has a good bed to sleep in.
When choosing a dog bed, consider factors like size, age, sleeping position, and health of the dog. Other factors would be the material and design of the bed and how easy it would be to clean and maintain.
For example, opt for a rectangular bed if your dog is big-sized and generally stretches and sleeps. On the other hand, if your dog sleeps in a curled-up position, a round bed with elevated edges would be ideal.
If your senior dog has achy joints, you can invest in orthopedic beds made from memory foam. These beds are designed to support the dogs and provide them stability.
2. Start with Obedience Training
Training is a good way to mold the behavior of the dog. The time you spend training your dog can positively help strengthen your bond.
But remember that positive reinforcements work much better on pets. If you scream and shout, the dog may grow fearful of you.
Positively trained dogs are more likely to obey your commands and develop good habits.
You can start with simple commands like sit, stay, no, and get down. When the dog obeys, give it a treat and shower praises. The puppy may learn the commands in four to five weeks but use consistent reinforcement for the training to stick.
3. Encourage the Dog to Sleep in its Own Bed
Now that the dog has its bed and you have started with obedience training, next, encourage the dog to sleep in its bed.
For example, you could lead the dog to its bed by walking over to the bed or using commands like ‘go to bed.’ Once the dog reaches its bed, give it a treat. Next, command the dog to settle down.
Use these commands repeatedly over a few days so the pet knows where it has to sleep. Then, if the dog gets up at night, you can redirect it to its bed with a treat. But be careful, or the dog may wake up only to get a treat from you.
Surround the bed with the dog’s favorite toys, so it is tempted to stay in. Also, keep a blanket around, so the dog does not get cold during the night.
4. Do Not Let the Dog in the Bedroom
This may sound harsh, but if your dog refuses to listen and sneaks up on your bed, you will have to stop it from entering the bedroom.
If you are continuously disturbed while sleeping, it can negatively impact your health. And you cannot take care of the dog when you are sick.
Instead, you can place the dog’s bed near your room or outside the bedroom door. You can use commands like stop and reward the dog when it obeys. You could also use pet safety gates to reinforce the boundary between your bedroom and the rest of the house.
5. Work on Developing a Bond with the Dog
Spend quality time with the dog during the day. Give it attention, take it for walks, and play with it so it can be ok sleeping alone at night.
If the dog clings to you when you return home, there could be two reasons for the behavior. One that the dog misses its favorite human. So try to spend time with the dog in the morning or take it for walks at night.
Second, your highly energetic dog has no outlet to spend its energy and would pounce or cling to you because it is restless and may want to play.
In such cases, it would be best to have someone look after the dog when you are away. It could be a family member or a dog sitter. Doggy daycare is another idea you can explore.
6. Ease Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety
According to ASPCA, you can use the counterconditioning training method for dogs with mild separation anxiety. The dog is fearful of you leaving; it does not want to stay alone. Turn this into a good situation for the dog.
For example, when you leave, give the dog a puzzle or a toy with treats that would keep it engaged for 20 to 30 minutes. Then, when you return, take the toy away from the pet.
So the dog knows it can access high-value treats only when alone.
For moderate cases, you must condition the dog to be ok with your absence for short periods. Then gradually increase the time your dog stays alone.
Contacting a vet or a professional behaviorist for severe cases would be best. They can come up with a desensitization and counterconditioning plan customized to your pet.
Why does my dog sleep on my head? The dog could be trying to protect you, bond with you, or simply because it feels secure in your company. It could be instinctive behavior as pack animals slept in piles for warmth and comfort.
If the dog does not have a bed or is uncomfortable, it will sneak up on your bed. Also, if the floor is cold, your fluffy bed and blanket would be much more tempting to sleep in.
Other reasons could be separation anxiety and the dog trying to show dominance.
If you are ok with the dog sharing your bed, you can let the dog be. But if you do not want the dog on your bed, you can use positive reinforcements and train it to behave in the desired manner.
In severe cases of anxiety or disobedience, please seek help from a vet.
Elena Gherman is a highly skilled and knowledgeable animal care expert. At the start of her career, she gained practical expertise with multiple animals. In addition to that, she works as a DVM veterinary editor for Joy Pet Products, which focuses on offering reliable information on pet health and wellbeing. She meticulously reviews each piece of writing before it is published to make sure pet owners get the most precise and updated information possible.