Did you know that 45% of dog owners let their pets sleep in their beds? While it may be soothing for some to have a warm cloud resting in your bed, many others suffer from insomnia.
Especially large breeds can easily roll over your whole body, hog your blanket or sleep on your pillow.
Although I’d love to, I couldn’t imagine sleeping in bed with my nearly 100 lbs Rottweiler girl. The cuddling part would be great but she has literally 0 understanding of personal space.
But why do dogs sleep on your pillow in the first place? Even when you are not at home or during the daytime?
Reasons for your dog sleeping on your pillow can be simply for warmth or imitation but they can also range from your dog protecting you, over to the soothing effect the owner’s scent has, all the way to territorialism or marking.
Keep reading for more in-depth explanations.
Why Does My Dog Like My Pillow?
There are many different reasons why your dog likes sleeping on your pillow and even prefers it to his own bed or crate.
Dogs love the scent of their owners. Several studies have shown that the pleasure center of the canine’s brain reacts to the owner’s odor more than any other smell.
Your dog will try to stay as close to this scent as possible and will still lay on your pillow during the day or when he is left home alone. It will help him sleep better and stay calm when he feels anxious and alone.
That’s why it’s a great idea to place a blanket with the mother’s scent in your puppy’s crate during the first few nights. The familiar smell will help with the separation anxiety and the stress of being in a new home.
Recommended Reading: How to Survive Your Puppy’s First Night at Home
If you have a dog that tends to be protective, this behavior will occur most during the night. When you are fast asleep, your dog will climb on your pillow to protect you from whatever danger may enter the home.
Your dog knows that you are the most vulnerable when you are sleeping and cannot take care of yourself.
His protective behavior will occur in many day to day situations and is not limited to the bedroom. He will only be sleeping on your pillow when you are doing the same.
If you have a baby, he will most likely choose to sleep in that room because your child is the smallest member of the pack and requires the most protection. Especially family guardian breeds tend to do this.
The amount of security your dog receives from resting on your pillow is related to your scent. Even when you are not at home, your dog wants to be close to you and what place could be better than your own bed full of smells.
Recommended Reading: Complete Guide to Dog Separation Anxiety
Territorialism has to do with possessiveness. Possessive dogs like to claim certain objects or places as their own and will protect them against anyone and anything.
Your dog thinks he owns the bed and only allows you to sleep on it (or not).
He might also show signs of food or toy aggression.
It’s not unusual for a territorial dog to carry toys and treats to your pillow as a sign of ownership. Consult a behaviorist if the aggression gets out of control and you are not allowed on your own bed anymore.
The bond that you have with your dog will determine on which side of the bed he will be sleeping. This could be the reason why your dog likes to lay on your pillow and not on the pillow of your husband/wife or vice versa.
Wolves in the wild like to cuddle close together to strengthen the relationship and to be protected from enemies. Your dog will try to connect with you during hours of vulnerability to show his love and trust to you.
Recommended Reading: How to Bond with Your Dog
Warmth and Comfort
To be honest, this is a very valid reason. Who wants to sleep in their crate when they have a comfortable king-size bed available. The warmth of your body will make everything cozy. Especially your pillow is soft and snuggly and provides the perfect snooze spot.
Marking is a form of territorialism. Your dog spreads his scent on whatever he would like to claim as his own.
He displays his dominance over you or other members of the family and might even show aggression towards them.
Dogs are watching and analyzing what we do every day. The pack leader is the most respected member of the pack and what he does must be right.
You, as the pack leader, are displaying certain behaviors that your dog would like to imitate or copy.
Do Dogs Need Pillows?
Now that you have heard all the reasons why your dog might be sleeping on your pillow, the question emerges if dogs really need pillows for their comfort and health. We, as humans, definitely need this kind of neck support to align our spine during sleep.
But dogs are built completely different compared to us and their narrow shoulder blades provide them with sufficient support when sleeping on the side.
Some dogs might actively seek out cushions or elevated furniture to rest their head on.
In general, your dog will be choosing the most comfortable spot on his own. Keep in mind that your dog is spending 16-20 hours a day resting or sleeping so you should provide him with a high-quality dog bed that is optimized for his needs.
I can highly recommend the PetFusion Orthopedic Dog Bed with memory foam and water-resistant covers. It’s super soft and supports the joints to improve your dog’s overall health. My dog loves the headrest and wouldn’t trade anything for her favorite snooze place.
Recommended Reading: 10 Indestructible Dog Beds (including orthopedic ones)
Should I Still Let My Dog Sleep in Bed with Me?
If your dog is just seeking comfort and security, it’s your choice whether or not you want to keep your dog in bed with you.
If you suffer from insomnia or just feel that your dog is taking up too much space then you can think about transitioning him to a dog bed or crate.
Behavior problems such as aggression, possessiveness or marking should be addressed with the help of a dog trainer or behaviorist. Keep in mind that dogs thrive with clear rules and routines.
Suddenly restricting access to furniture will evoke confusion in your dog and he will have a hard time understanding why he is being punished like that.
That’s why it’s incredibly important to set some house rules before you get a dog.
Boundaries are important and should be reinforced from day one. Changing these rules is not easy and will require patience and a gradual training approach to prevent confusion.
How Do I Get My Dog Off the Pillow?
Provide your dog with the most irresistible and comfortable dog bed you can find, like the one I have talked about above.
During the day, you can place the dog bed in your living room or any other room that you are spending a lot of time in.
- Introduce the bed to your dog and throw in a few treats to create a positive association.
- You can place your unwashed pillow cover in the bed to make it even more enticing.
- Additionally, you will want to add a new command that will teach your dog to settle in his dog bed. This will definitely come in handy at night.
To teach the command “settle”, grab a few treats and lure your dog into the dog bed. Once he is inside, give him the command to lay down and reward him.
Treat your dog every few seconds to let him know that you like him being calm inside the bed.
Command him out of the bed again and repeat the process including the luring. After a few tries, you can add the verbal cue “settle”.
Decrease the luring with your hand and only reward once he completely lays down. Gradually increase the duration of the “settle” and always give a release command when he is allowed to get up again.
Whenever you are seeing your dog calmy resting in the bed, capture the behavior by rewarding him and giving the verbal cue.
At night, you will want to put the dog bed as close as possible to your bed. Every night, you can increase the distance until he is sleeping at your desired spot (as near as possible to you).
Whenever your dog wants to get onto the bed, command him into his dog bed by using the cue “settle”. Stay really consistent with the training and always be clear in your instructions. Be patient with your dog and offer understanding and compassion.
Soon enough your dog will be sleeping completely on his own!
Recommended Reading: Why Is My Dog Twitching in his Sleep?