When your dog is a puppy, it’s probably cute that he or she snuggles up on your neck. But as your dog becomes larger, it becomes more of a nuisance. You might be wondering — exactly what type of behavior is this?
Is your dog protecting you? Guarding you? Or even showing dominance?
Why does my dog lay on my neck?
If you’ve ever seen a giant pile of puppies, you know that they generally try to sleep as close as they possibly can together. This provides protection, warmth, and — perhaps most importantly — comfort. Dogs will snuggle into each other when they are in a litter or when they are “bonded” to another dog.
It’s likely that your dog is doing the same to you when she lies on your neck. She’s trying to get as close as possible to you and to create as much fur-to-skin contact as possible, which often happens when necks are entwined. You’ll see this type of behavior in even the smallest puppies when they’ll rest their necks and heads against each other.
When your dog lies on your neck, she’s also showing profound trust and love — because she is vulnerable, too. By putting her neck around yours, she’s also saying that she trusts you not to injure her.
Of course, if you’re in an unfamiliar situation, or if something strange is going on in your house, your dog may also be lying on your neck because she doesn’t trust the situation. You may find that your dog is more likely to sleep on your neck if you’re camping, for instance, because your dog is guarding you against the unknown while also snuggling close.
Why does my dog sleep on my neck?
When dogs sleep on their human’s neck, it’s largely for comfort, security, and safety. They feel as though they belong there; it’s a place where they can snuggle in close. A dog’s goal is often to get as close to his human as possible, barring physically nesting beneath them. So, you can rest assured that your dog is happy and comfortable when he sleeps on your neck.
But you may have noticed that your dog positions himself toward the door, or occasionally raises his head and growls.
In addition to sleeping on a human’s neck for comfort, many dogs also do it to protect them. Dogs were bred initially as guard dogs; to sound the alarm if a person was in danger. Dogs can produce this type of “guarding” behavior with people, too.
The same behavior a dog will have around a precious toy or bone can be the same behavior they will display around their “person.” Your dog may seem dead asleep but suddenly alert if there’s a sound they don’t recognize. In this case, they are sleeping on your neck to protect you –they know that sleeping is a vulnerable position for you, and they hope to make it a little less dangerous.
That being said, comfort is a large factor, too. When your dog sleeps on your neck:
- He’s warmer. Your neck generates a lot of heat, as your blood flows very close to the surface. He may snuggle throat to throat to keep himself (and you) warm.
- He’s relaxed. He knows exactly where you are and knows that he will wake if you get startled, too. That can help a dog on edge relax because they know that they’re successfully guarding you.
- He’s comfortable. You are, quite frankly, soft. A dog can rest on a person simply because they’re comfortable to rest upon, even in soft beds.
When you see the factors involved, it’s easy to see why many dogs might be inclined to sleep on a person’s neck.
Why does my dog lay his head on my neck?
A dog will lay his head on your neck because it’s comfortable or warm, or because he’s guarding you. Some dogs may simply retain this behavior from puppy-hood; they remember snuggling up against their pack members, and then against you, and continue to do so well after they’ve grown large.
Your dog placing his head on your neck is never a threat nor is it a dominance display. Many people are concerned it could be dominance, but it’s the opposite; your dog is protecting you because you are the leader. People are vulnerable when they eat or sleep, and dogs will often display “guarding” behaviors during this time.
But also some dogs may just do this because they are sleepy and because it’s comfortable.
What if you hate having your dog on your neck?
If your dog is particularly large, it’s probable that it’s not the most comfortable position. There are a few things you can do:
- Shift your dog to the side. Remember that your dog is wanting to be close to you and to snuggle. If you move your dog too far, he might just come right back. Position him in a way that’s comfortable for you both.
- Make sure your dog has a blanket. If he’s trying to snuggle for warmth, it’s possible that he’s just colder than you are. Dogs are more sensitive to temperature changes than people.
- Settle your dog somewhere else. It’s always possible to teach your dog, with treats and conditioning, to sleep on the foot of the bed. Your dog likely just needs reassurance of what you want him to do.
But remember that your dog is displaying the behavior because he loves you, and he wants you to be safe.
Why does my dog rub himself on my neck?
When dogs sleep on a person’s neck, they will occasionally rub themselves on their neck, too. Why does your dog rub himself against your neck?
Just like cats, dogs will rub themselves on their humans to assert their “ownership.” That’s not dominance; it’s just the way that they display they like things. Dogs rub their scents all over something that they like, so other dogs know that it’s “theirs.” So, your dog may be rubbing himself and his head on your neck because he loves you; it’s instinctive.
Dogs may also rub themselves against you because they are engaging in grooming behavior. When dogs are in a puppy pile, they will frequently start grooming each other. This is for cleanliness as well as bonding. Rubbing against you could dislodge dust and dirt from your fur, if you had fur.
Your dog may also be trying to get comfortable. If your dog is trying to find a good sleeping position (and has settled on your neck as a great option), he may just be squirming and worming himself in, so he can sleep more comfortably.
Regardless, something rubbing against your neck is usually not very comfortable. You can discourage this type of behavior through redirection. If you find that your dog frequently rubs up against your neck, try moving him ad giving him attention. Look at when your dog starts this behavior; it could be that your dog is nervous about something in particular (such as new sounds, a new roommate, or a new pet), and is trying to warn you or protect you.