Does your dog sleep between your legs? Have you ever wondered, “Why does my dog sleep between my legs?” We understand! That’s a common issue that pet parents try to understand about their canine companions!
Dogs may choose to sleep between your legs for several reasons. We’ve put together some information about this issue and what you can do if it’s a problem! Let’s get started!
Why Does My Dog Sleep Between My Legs?
Here are some of the most common reasons your dog may sleep between your legs!
1. It’s Pack Instinct
Your dog may sleep between your legs because he’s following his instincts. Our dogs’ wild ancestors lived in packs. These packs usually were made up of families, with a pack leader, females, and young dogs. Being in a pack is an instinct still found in wild canines, such as the wolf. It’s also an instinct shared by our dogs today.
When your dog sleeps between your legs, he may be feeling he’s sleeping with his packmate. This is a place that’s safe and secure for him. In his wild ancestors, canines slept together for the same reason. They found protection sleeping together, finding safety and protection from enemies and predators.
Our domesticated dogs still have this same instinct. What’s more, they’re pretty smart. Sleeping between your legs means your fur baby knows right away when you get up. He’s immediately alert and on guard. Are you safe? Is there some threat? This is the case whether you’re heading to the bathroom or need a drink of water. Your dog wants to make sure you and he are safe.
And if your dog has been adopted from a rescue, he may feel more secure and safe sleeping between your legs. You never know what these dogs have gone through with previous pet parents or at the shelter. So, your dog may not want to be alone and finds security by sleeping between your legs.
2. Dog is Seeking Warmth
Another reason that your fur baby may sleep between your legs is to stay warm! Here, again, this is part of the pack instinct that’s still found in our domesticated dogs.
Wild canines usually sleep together for this reason. Not only are they safer, but they can also share body warmth to help the entire pack survive cold weather. Our fur babies may be looking for ways to share the warmth, too. When puppies are new, they also tend to sleep in a pile for this reason.
Our legs are pretty comfortable for a dog. For one thing, they’re warm, and the skin is somewhat flexible. You could say that we are like a heating pad or a hot water bottle for our fur babies!
You may find your dog doing this most often during the cooler autumn and winter months. However, some dogs may want to do this all year round, which could be a problem if you overheat in the summer.
3. Your Dog Finds Security & Safety with You
Your dog may also sleep between your legs because he’s seeking security and safety with you. If your dog is afraid of storms, loud noises, or even people he doesn’t know, he may sleep between your legs.
During the day, you may notice your dog is staying close to you. He may be like a second shadow or as if he’s Velcroed to your side. These are signs that he may be fearful and anxious.
You may also notice these symptoms if your dog is feeling unsafe:
- Lip licking
- Running away
- Keep his head down
- Tail is tucked between his legs
- Ears are straight back, against his head
If your dog is showing these symptoms, then it’s important to figure out what’s going on. These could also be signs that a dog is ill or in pain. So, you may want to have your fur baby evaluated by a vet to ensure these are not the causes of his feeling insecure.
The vet may determine your dog has an anxiety disorder and treat your canine friend with medications. The medications may ease your dog’s feelings of fear and anxiety.
4. You’re Valuable to Your Dog
Another reason that your dog may sleep between your legs is that he sees you as valuable to him. This may happen when a new baby comes home, you adopt another pet, or a new person moves into the house. These are times when your dog may feel as if he’s competing for your attention. It’s a bit like when kids are jealous of one another. Your fur baby doesn’t want to share you with anyone or anything else!
This can also be called resource guarding. Some dogs do this with their food, for instance. They may guard their food against you, other humans, or pets in the house. But why would your dog see you as his resource and try to guard you?
For one thing, you’re his provider. He depends on you completely for his food and water. He’s also dependent on you for attention and care. So, why wouldn’t he guard you?
Some dogs may become aggressive in guarding you as theirs. One dog breed that’s extremely protective and territorial is the Chihuahua. If you have one of these small dogs, they regard you as their resource and try to keep other humans or pets away!
Sometimes protecting and resource guarding can result in aggressive behaviors. Some dogs have a higher tendency to guard resources, such as dogs that have been neutered, mixed breeds, and dogs that are fearful for some reason.
If you have more than one dog or pet in the house, and one dog that’s resource guarding you, then this can cause problems. It may be necessary to take your dog to a professional dog behaviorist for training and socialization.
You also may want to consider taking your fur baby for a checkup at the vet’s. It’s possible your dog is becoming more possessive due to an illness or anxiety disorder.
5. Your Dog Needs Emotional Support
Some dogs may choose to lay between their pet parents’ legs to get emotional support. Just like us, our canine friends also need emotional support sometimes. For instance, dogs may seek emotional support when they feel:
- Are ill
- Feel insecure
- Have an injury
Dogs can experience some of the same emotions as humans. Their brains have some of the same structures as humans that cause emotions. What’s more, dog brains go through some of the same chemical changes that result during emotional times. During emotional stress, these areas will create the same chemicals as the human brain.
Dogs are able to feel fear, anger, love, joy, happiness, disgust, and more. Many pet parents have noticed their dogs seem to be sad and/or depressed at times. If a dog feels like this, you may notice these symptoms:
- Lack of appetite
- Difficulty sleeping
- Sleeping more than normal
- Lack of interest in being social (such as playing, etc.)
When dogs are feeling like this or when they just want to be with you, they may want to sleep between your legs. It’s a place of safety and comfort. However, if you notice your dog seems sad and/or depressed for a few days or weeks, it’s time to see the vet.
6. Your Dog Sleeps Between Your Legs Because You Don’t Mind
Another reason your dog may sleep between your legs is that you let him do it. Some people really don’t mind their dogs sleeping with them. However, if you have a very large dog, this may be problematic. For instance, if your bed is small and doesn’t have room for you and your large dog!
Large dogs sleeping between your legs can be uncomfortable anyway, especially if you’re a smaller person.
It’s possible you may even be “training” your dog that sleeping between your legs is OK. What happens when you and your dog settle down to sleep at night. Does he settle between your legs? Do you rub his belly and scratch behind his ears? If so, then you’re training him it’s OK to sleep between your legs.
7. Your Dog Has Separation Anxiety
Some dogs may sleep between your legs because they have separation anxiety. These dogs tend to stick with you everywhere you go! It may feel as if you have a second shadow. Dogs that act like this are sometimes called “Velcro dogs.” The dogs don’t want to be away from their pet parents. However, not all Velcro dogs have separation anxiety.
If your fur baby has separation anxiety, you may notice these symptoms:
- Vocalizations (whining, crying, excessive barking)
- Destructive behaviors (such as chewing up everything they can get their teeth in!)
- Escaping or chewing out of their crate
- Causing self-injuries
- Going potty where they shouldn’t
Dogs with this condition may also become overly excited when you come home. But that won’t last long if you find the house destroyed!
Dogs with separation anxiety are very unhappy. They need to have someone with them most of the day. In some cases, the vet and a professional dog behaviorist may be needed to help treat and train the dog for separation anxiety.
8. Your Dog Trusts You
When a dog sleeps between their pet parent’s legs, it could also be a sign the canine trusts their pet parent. These dogs are almost completely trusting.
What could be better than your dog trusting you to this degree? Nothing!
How to Stop Your Dog from Sleeping Between Your Legs
If you’re not comfortable with your dog sleeping between your legs, you can try these methods to get him to stop.
Get Him a Comfortable Dog Bed
Sometimes it can help to get your dog his own bed! Make sure the bed is very comfortable, soft, and clean. It should be placed in an area free of drafts, where it can stay dry. During the colder months, make sure to keep your fur baby’s bed away from windows and doorways.
In addition, ensure the bed is the right size for your canine companion. Although, there are some small dogs that love a huge bed! But then there are also large dogs that prefer a small bed! Go figure!
Train Your Dog to Stay in His Bed or Another Area
Another thing to try is training your dog to not sleep between your legs. Instead, provide a comfortable place where they can sleep and train them to stay there. This must be done consistently.
However, if you’d like to let your dog sleep on the bed, but not between your legs, show him where to lay instead. Again, this place must be comfortable, and you must consistently train him to stay there to sleep.
When your dog goes to his bed/or place on your bed to sleep, be sure to reward him with praise and attention.
Reduce Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety
If you’re not sure your dog has separation anxiety or not, then it’s time to visit the vet. Your vet may find your fur baby does suffer from this condition. If so, they may recommend medications and other advice to help your dog.
Another thing is to help your dog become used to being alone. This may not be easy in the beginning, but the rewards are many! The key is to start gradually getting your dog used to being alone. At first, just leave him alone for short times. It can help to do the usual things you do before leaving, too. For instance, grab your keys, put on your shoes, etc. But then sit down as though you’re not leaving.
Do this for several days in a row. After a few days, start to slowly move toward the door and repeat this process. Sit there for a time. Your fur baby may follow you at first but then go back to lay down. Keep this up until your dog becomes used to it.
When your dog is comfortable to this point, then step out the door. Stay outside for a minute and then come back inside and sit down. Each time, stay out a little bit longer. Eventually, your dog may get used to being left alone. But the process may time some time and patience to get to the point of acceptance and feeling comfortable.
Summing It Up
It can take time and effort to help your dog not sleep between your legs if this is a problem. However, in most cases, with patience, positive reinforcement training, and plenty of love, your dog will finally transition to sleep on his own more comfortably!
On the other hand, if you’re happy with your dog sleeping between your legs, then there’s nothing to do but let him be. You and your dog are a pack—you gotta love being so loved by your dog!