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Your Dog Sleeps on Your Pillow? Here's Why

By Aviram K.
Published in Training & Behavior
July 8, 2021
5 min read
Your Dog Sleeps on Your Pillow? Here's Why
🏥 The information in this article is not a substitute for professional help.
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You just entered your room, ready to get some good night’s rest.

But wait…what is that? Your dog is occupying your spot.

It may be adorable at first, but it sure gets annoying fast when you’re tired.

Why does your dog sleep on your pillow like that? He does have his own comfy bed, after all.

Your dog sleeps on your pillow because it is warm and cozy. Your dog may also be seeking attention, alleviating anxiety, trying to guard you, smelling your scent, or imitating you. Dogs don’t generally need to sleep on pillows. You can easily stop the behavior through proper training.

In this article, I’ll dive deep into the reasons for this behavior and offer tips for stopping it.

Does your dog even need to sleep with a pillow at all?.

Let’s find out.

Why Dogs Sleep on Your Pillow

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Your dog’s attraction to the pillow might be instinctive, a ploy for attention, or to snuggle. It can also be for other unrelated reasons you don’t know about.

The key to narrowing down their motivation is to observe when they do it. So here is a breakdown of some of the common reasons dogs sleep on pillows.

Comfort

Pillows are soft and fluffy. Indeed, you can’t blame your dog for also finding it comfy.

If you have a dog, you know they love a good nap. Adult dogs need between 12 -14 hours of sleep daily. That is way more than what humans need. So, usually, they find a nice spot like the pillow and doze off.

A pillow ticks all the boxes as far as napping places go. So would they choose a drafty crate if they know there is a pillow in the house?

You should ensure that their crate or bed is just as comfortable to encourage them to nap there instead of your pillow.

Security

Most people leave in the morning and only come back in the evening. While you are out of the house, the dogs need to feel safe.

Your pillow has your scent and is reassuring to the dog. Your pillow makes the dog feel your presence through your smell.

The dog may also sleep on things with your scent if the bedroom is inaccessible.

Protecting You

Dogs are very social creatures. Although they are out of the wild, their pack instincts are still as strong. But, unlike their wild cousins, they transfer their pack behavior to humans.

That means they may feel responsible for protecting you from danger. Sleeping on your pillow when you are in bed is one way of being protective.

Although they are also asleep, feeling your warmth and breathing assures them you are safe.

Some dogs even check on you a few times a night. In this case, the dog may view sleeping on your pillow as a service to you.

A Ploy for Attention

A dog likes to bond with other members of the family. They get their fix through playtime, walks, and of course, snuggling.

Unfortunately, you may not always be free to play with your dog. Most dogs will get restless and try to tell you they need some love.

Sleeping on your pillow may be of the ways to get your attention.

Try to schedule playtime so that your dog doesn’t resort to attention-seeking behavior. Also, be careful how you react to avoid inadvertently reinforcing the behavior.

Territorialism

Some dog breeds are aggressively territorial. This long list includes Bullmastiff, German shepherds, and Doberman. It is not uncommon for these dogs to claim a corner of the house as their own. They might decide your pillow is their territory from now on.

Sleeping there can be them telling you it’s their turf.

This usually happens if the dog thinks they are the pack leader. In their head, they are allowed to sleep on your bed.

In some cases, it can be so bad that your dog “banishes” you from the bed.

Imitation

Dogs can communicate with people without saying much. Their observation skills are partly responsible for their ability to understand us. Imitation is one of the ways dogs strengthen bonds with their companions. They can mimic body movements and temperaments.

Your dog could be sleeping on your pillow because they see you do it.

You may be unknowingly responsible for their behavior through reinforcement. For example, offering treats, praise, or just some attention when they sleep on your pillow encourages them to keep doing so.

Do Dogs Need to Sleep with Pillows?

Dogs don’t need to sleep with pillows.

Just like humans, dogs need to be comfortable when sleeping or napping. However, their bodies are differently built. Humans need pillows to support their necks and cushion their heads. Dogs can get comfortable without needing a pillow.

That being said, they could still benefit from a comfortable crate or dog bed. So, when choosing a dog bed, try to think about how comfortable it is for them, too.

Older dogs with joint pains can benefit from orthopedic memory foam dog beds. Bed such as this may sometimes help relieve their joint pain somewhat.

Heated dog beds are also extra comfy during the winter.

How to Stop Your Dog from Sleeping on Your Pillow

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Naturally, you may be thinking bout how to get and keep them off your pillow.

Of course, your approach depends on why they are doing it in the first place. So here are some helpful tips to help you keep your dog off the pillow.

  • Get a Dog Bed or Crate: Buy your dog their comfortable bed. They won’t require your pillow if they have their own safe space. Make sure it’s the right size and comfort level. You should also place it in a warm corner of the house. Avoid drafty places like near a window or door.
  • Positive Reinforcement: Entice the dog to use the dog bed or crate. You can achieve this by placing your favorite chew toys on the bed. You can also offer them treats to lure them to the bed. Additionally, you can leave one of your clothing like a worn t-shirt for them to snuggle.
  • Smooth Transition: Dogs learn routines over time. Suddenly changing things can confuse them or cause anxiety. It would help if you built new habits slowly. For instance, start by placing the dog bed next to your bed/ pillow. Only move it to where you want once they start sleeping in it.
  • Training the Dog: You need them to stay there when you eventually get the dog to use their bed. Add a new command such as “settle” to let them know you want them to remain there. It will come in handy when they try to snuggle at night.
  • Reduce Anxiety: Limiting anxiety-inducing events helps your pup relax. It reduces the chances of your dog needing the pillow. You can help them feel safe by feeding them, letting them pee, and getting them to exercise. You can also get another dog to keep them company while you are away.

You Don’t Have to Share Your Pillow If You Don’t Want To

Hopefully, you now understand what drives your pup to sleep on your pillow, as well as how to get them to stop doing so. But, you don’t have to if you don’t mind sharing your bed with them.

Fortunately, investing in a comfortable dog bed and providing your dog with attention during the day will work for most dogs.

However, you will need to be patient during the transition. Eventually, most dogs successfully leave the pillow with the proper training and conditioning.


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SleepDog BehaviorsDog Training

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