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Why does my dog sleep by my head?

If your dog has been sleeping by your head a lot you might want to know why and what you can do about it.

This post will show you a number of possible causes and what you can do to stop it.

So, why does my dog sleep by my head? Possible reasons are that it makes it feel safer, it has some separation anxiety, it’s being protective or you might have reinforced the behavior by rewarding it when it does it.

There are actually multiple reasons why it might be doing it and it could be due to a combination of reasons. However, there are also a number of things you can consider when trying to figure out the exact reason.

Why your dog sleeps by your head

The different reasons why your dog sleeps by your head will likely come with some clues.

Below are a number of possible causes and what would make them more likely.

It makes it feel more secure

Dogs evolved as pack animals so it is natural for them to want to be around other people and dogs in their pack. The reason why it does it could be that it makes it feel safer especially if it does it at night.

You have inadvertently reinforced the behavior

The cause could be that you have actually been rewarding the behavior. If you tend to give it things such as toys, treats or extra attention when it tries to sleep by your head then it might be doing it more in order to get more rewards.

If you want to get it to stop, it would help to avoid rewarding it when it does it and to try to redirect it somewhere else when it looks like it is about to do it.

It has some separation anxiety

The cause might be that it has some separation anxiety. This would be more likely if it starts sleeping by your head when you would normally leave and it becomes anxious when you are leaving. In this case, it is likely doing it so that it wakes up when you leave.

It’s being protective

It could be the case that it does it because it is being protective. This would be more likely if it sleeps by your head more when other people are around and if it can get overprotective when other people are around.

Related: Why does my dog keep stretching?

Things to consider

When it started doing it

It would help to consider when your dog first started sleeping by your head since it could be the case that there was an event that caused it to start doing it.

If it did start doing it suddenly things that might have happened could include:

  • You inadvertently rewarded it one time when it slept there
  • The place that it normally would sleep became unavailable to it
  • You asked it to come and sleep with you and it learned that its what you want

When it does it more

It would also help to consider if there is a certain time that it tends to sleep by your head more. If there is then it could be the case that the timing has something to do with it.

For example, if it sleeps by your head when there are fireworks outside then it might be because the fireworks are causing it to become anxious.

How to get your dog to stop sleeping by your head

Below are some options you have when getting your dog to stop sleeping by your head. Making use of a combination of them will likely work best.

Train it to sleep somewhere else

One option you have is to train it to sleep somewhere else. By doing so you will be able to redirect it to sleep in a different spot when it seems like it is about to come and sleep by your head. Doing this should also help to get it out of the habit of doing it.

To use positive reinforcement training to train your dog to sleep somewhere else you would train it to lay down in a certain spot and then gradually train it to stay there for longer and longer periods.

I have written about you how you can train your dog to lay down here and how you can train it to stay here.

Deal with its separation anxiety

Since it might be the case that separation anxiety is contributing to its behavior it would help to take measures to reduce how anxious it becomes when you are leaving.

To do this you could do as follows:

  • Make it seem like you are about to leave by doing something such as picking up your keys
  • Reward your dog for not being anxious and repeat these two steps a few times
  • Make more moves towards actually leaving such as by picking up the keys and putting your hand on the door handle
  • Reward your dog for not being anxious and repeat the process a few times
  • Actually open the door and go outside for a few moments then come back and reward your dog
  • Repeat the above, each time staying outside for slightly longer

Avoid negatively reinforcing the behavior

As mentioned above, it could be the case that it has learned to sleep by your head because it gets things that it wants when it does it. Instead of rewarding it when it does it, try to reward it when it does not do it and to redirect it to sleep somewhere else when it tries to sleep by your head.

Make its sleeping environment comfortable

It would also help to make the area you want it to sleep in comfortable in order to encourage it to sleep there more. To do this you could make sure the room is cool, not too bright at night and that there is a space for it to lay down.

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