Does your dog treat you like a pillow?
So, what makes them choose you instead of their comfy dog bed?
Keep reading to find out:
- How you can stop this behavior.
- When you should be worried about it.
- 13 reasons dogs lay their head on you.
- If this means they did something naughty.
- And so much more…
Table of contents
Why does my dog lay his head on me (when he sleeps)?
Your dog lays his head on you when he sleeps because he’s spreading his scent, providing emotional support, suffering from separation anxiety, protecting, and feeling warmth. It’s also an expression of love, safety, trust, attention-seeking, tiredness, depression, sickness, or fear.
13 reasons why your dog lays his head on you while he sleeps
Have you ever touched your furbaby after you petted another dog?
Oh boy, you sure are in big trouble. What on earth were you thinking?
And more importantly, how did you survive it? Although it’s common knowledge that we own our furchildren, it’s also true that they own us.
In fact, they claim us.
This is one of the reasons your dog loves to lay their head on you when dozing off. They’re spreading their scent on their special human so when another dog sniffs you, they’ll know who you belong to.
Sneaky but smart.
Dogs are notoriously territorial, especially with their furmom/dad. Researchers even point out that jealous dogs are pretty much like children.
Feeling down lately? Or, are you suffering from an illness?
If yes, this is why your dog lays their head on you. They sense your distress.
They’re comforting you. It’s as if they’re saying, “Hey, you’re not alone. I’m here with you.”
This is because dogs are empathetic. A study even found out that furchildren not only feel your pain, they also try to rescue you.
They are quick to jump into action. This also shows that if your dog lays their head on you when they sleep, knowing you’re struggling, that you two have a very strong bond.
#3: Separation anxiety
Do you often leave your furbaby home while you work? Or, did you recently go away for a vacation or an out-of-town trip?
If this is the case, your dog has separation anxiety. They’re scared that you’ll be gone again and this time for good.
This is why your pupper is laying their head on you as they slumber. They don’t want you to go without them knowing.
All dogs have protective instincts. They show it differently though.
Some are aggressive, barking at the smallest noises. There are also those that will express this by laying their head on you.
Think of your furbaby as a 24/7 bodyguard. They have your back even as they drift to sleepy town.
Did you know that there are over 471 million dog children around the world? They rank no. 1 in choices for pets.
This is unsurprising.
Dogs are affectionate and loyal. They’re also clingy as hell but we love them for it.
They’re certified stalkers. Good thing they’re cute or we’d call the police.
Such sweet little angels.
But, let me ask you something. Have you ever looked at your furchild and wondered, “Hmm… Does my dog really love me? Or, are they just in it for the food?”
Horrible, I know. This is a question that no furparent should ever ask.
Plus, of course, they do love you. Every single day, despite their mischievous little acts, they prove it.
They wait for you to get home, politely ask for pets, and stare with those adorable eyes. But, let’s pretend we’re skeptics for a minute.
How do we know for sure if our dogs love us?
The answer lies in what’s called affective neuroscience. Big words but it simply means what’s going on in the brain when you feel an emotion.
This is how it works:
Say, for example, you’re reading a horror story. When a part in there scares you, the amygdala gets activated.
Let me give you another one.
When you smell cooking that reminds you of your mother’s dish, the nostalgic feeling triggers the hippocampus in your brain.
How does this work with dogs?
Researchers found out that when your furchild smells you, their caudate nucleus gets activated. This part is the reward or pleasure center of their brain.
Okay, that makes sense. We shower them with praise and treats after all.
But, how intense does this mean? Let me explain the human equivalent of it.
Despite our brains being different from theirs (theirs is the size of a lemon), we actually have a caudate nucleus as well.
This area is activated when we’re in love for the first year. In other words, during the honeymoon phase.
Isn’t that super sweet?
“Love fades,” they say. Well, not a dog’s love.
As you probably know, wolves are the ancestors of dogs. If you keep wondering, “My dog always lays his head on me. What trickery is this?”
It’s actually a wolf thing.
Back when they were out in the wild, the pack needed to huddle for warmth for survival. They also did this as a way to bond with their families.
Now, back to the present.
Your furbaby has evolved but some of their instincts remain. I’m sure your house is warm enough and their bed’s cozy.
But, they’d still prefer to sleep right next to you.
Can you blame them? What’s better than a moving and breathing heating pad?
Plus in their minds, they’re both keeping you warm. A couple of their favorite warm spots to lay their head on are the feet, hands, neck, and armpit.
Dogs are like babies. They’re completely helpless without you.
They don’t grow up and develop the way we do. They can’t get a job, get married, and move out.
You’re all they have.
And so, they are thankful that you take care of them. They feel secure with you.
They lay their head on you while they sleep because they know that they’re safe. They appreciate the love and support you’ve given them.
Every dog is different.
Some will instantly love your presence. There are also those who’ll take some time to warm up to you.
One way to figure out if your furbaby has already gotten comfortable with you is if they lay their head on you as they sleep.
Dogs are very social animals.
They can’t be alone for too long. Plus, each one will have a unique set of needs that need to be fulfilled.
So, if your pupper is laying their head on you as they sleep, this means that something demands your attention.
This can mean that they aren’t comfortable with their sleeping area, they’re intimidated by an older sibling/other people. This can also mean that they miss you and want to spend more time with you.
In other cases, this translates to them feeling under the weather.
Fatigue isn’t always bad.
Sometimes this can mean that they’re spent after playtime. Or that, their tummy’s full and this makes them sleepy.
Just like us humans.
Other times, however, fatigue can be a cause for concern. This is the case with sleeping disorders.
Narcolepsy, for example, is common for puppies and younger dogs. It’s triggered by low levels of hypocretin.
This chemical is needed for normal sleep patterns. If your furbaby has this, they’ll suddenly collapse and fall asleep after the following:
- Greeting their human.
This condition isn’t painful or fatal. Your furbaby will usually wake up after a loud noise.
Breeds that are prone to it are Labrador Retrievers, Poodles, and Dobermans. If your furchild is obese, has a problem with their immune system, or physically inactive, they’re more vulnerable to this disease.
Another cause is insomnia. They’re laying their head on you while they sleep because they can’t rest properly at night.
Insomnia in dogs can be triggered by pent-up energy, stress, arthritis, fleas, peeing problems, etc.
Is it rare for your dog to lay their head on you? This could be happening because they’re depressed.
Dogs experience depression similar to humans.
If they’re moping around and don’t engage in things they used to love, these are signs. Also, if they sleep all the time, this is a symptom too.
Are they big changes that could lead to this? Can you think of any stressful situation that can cause it?
It can be triggered by the arrival of a fursibling, a newborn baby, moving to a new place, etc. They can also feel the pain of the people around them.
Is this you:
“My dog sleeps with his head on me. This is odd since he never does this.”
If yes, then do consider the possibility that your furchild is sick. Behavior change is a sign of illness.
Think about it.
What happens when you’re sick? Isn’t it that all you want to do is sleep?
What’s more is that during this vulnerable time, you’d want your parents to look after you.
But, dogs can’t talk.
Unlike us humans, they can only bark and communicate through actions. Sometimes they can’t even be bothered to do that because their body feels weak.
Don’t freak out yet.
Surely there are other symptoms that should go with this. Research says that two main types of illnesses can hurt your furbaby: infections as well as organic and metabolic diseases.
Let’s discuss each one.
Infections are often accompanied by coughing, vomiting, eye discharge, and fevers. Parvovirus, Kennel cough, heartworm disease, and distemper are common infections in dogs.
As for metabolic and organic sickness, diabetes, heart issues, hypoglycemia, and liver problems are the major issues.
You’ll observe that they don’t exercise and eat as much. Rapid breathing and constant thirst are also surefire symptoms.
But wait, there’s more…
Aside from the two mentioned above, other factors may be harming your dog. These are the following:
- Anal gland issues.
- Hormone problems.
- Food poisoning from human food.
Has your furchild been a “bad boy/girl”?
Have they again done something that you’ve previously scolded them for?
If so, they sense they might get in trouble for it. They see you’re upset, they get fearful and try to show you they don’t want problems.
They can’t fix their mess of chewed-up furniture or toilet paper. But, what they can do instead is try to calm you down. And they do so by laying their head on you with their ears flat.
Note: Some dog parents mistake this as guilt. But dogs are unable to experience guilt since they don’t differentiate right from wrong.
3 tips on what to do if your dog lays his head on you
#1: Figure them out
Each behavior can be interpreted in many ways. Since our furchildren can’t talk, it’s our job to decode their actions.
So, ask yourself:
Is this head-laying-while-sleeping usually their thing? Or, is it something strange?
If it’s their habit then it’s an expression of their love and appreciation for you. And, you shouldn’t be worried.
But, if it came out of the blue, it’s time to investigate.
Watch their body language, facial expressions, and vocalization. These will give you a clue to the underlying issue.
If you suspect that something’s serious, don’t hesitate to contact the vet.
#2: Train them not to
Sleeping with their head on you is undeniably cute. But, what if you have important things to attend to?
Then it can get inconvenient. If it happens occasionally, it’s fine but it’s daily, things can get out of hand.
The solution? Positive reinforcement training.
There are many ways you can go with this. Just remember that the key is rewarding good behavior.
Carry them to where you want them to be. Then, if they stay in the area, shower them with praise, pets, and treats.
#3: Provide their own bed
If you want to be scratched off of your dog’s comfy-places-to-sleep list, make sure that they have their own place to rest. This includes a dog bed, crate, pillow, etc.
It’s little tweaks like this that’ll benefit both you and your furbaby. Keep in mind that he/she’ll need training to stay there.
Once you get the bed, show it to them. Then, mention the word “bed” to your furchild.
After this, reward them every time they sleep on it. You’ll need to be consistent and train them every single time.