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Why Does My Dog Sleep Between My Legs? Asked & Answered - PawSafe
Dog Behavior

Why Does My Dog Sleep Between My Legs? Asked & Answered

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

why oes my dog sleep between my legs

Dogs have the weirdest sleeping positions and spots, and sleeping between your legs is a canine favorite. All these canine quirks are what make dogs, dogs, and we love them for it. But we can’t help but be curious about what these little culprits are up to.

Your furry friend will abandon their comfy dog bed just to come and curl up between your legs. Hold on as we go through several reasons why your dog sleeps between your legs and whether you should allow the behavior.

Dogs never fail to amuse us with the cute yet confusing behaviors they frequently exhibit. Just like butt scratcheslying on us is a common sign of affection and bonding. But let’s look closer at the main 9 reasons dogs sleep between people’s legs. 

To Show Love

The canine/human friendship goes back 40,000 years, so no wonder they are a man’s best friend. So deep is our bond that we often find ourselves caught in questions like whether dogs have souls. The more time pooches spend with their favorite person, the hormone oxytocin is released in both dogs and people. 

This happy hormone makes your pup hooked on you, so of course, they’ll sleep at your feet. You’ll notice that your pup doesn’t just sleep next to anyone, just the person they’ve connected with most. 

Because It’s Comfortable

Like humans, pooches fancy comfort, especially when snoozing. Sometimes between your legs is the only comfortable place for your dog to nap, and they need to get there right now. If you think about it, dogs like to sleep where it’s warm, and your legs create a natural hollow that cradles their body. It’s extra warm if they also sleep under the covers.

Your legs provide the barrier that cradles them and also provides warmth. This makes choosing to lie between your legs a pretty obvious one.

For Protection

It’s in the dog’s nature to protect things they consider part of their pack. They will stand between you and everything or everybody they consider a threat. Your dog sleeping between your legs is their way of keeping their eye on you so that nothing befalls you.

That said, some canines may feel uncomfortable with their surroundings. The only place they may consider safe is close to their pawrent. Lying between your legs creates a natural barrier between your dog and the world. You’ll notice other behaviors like pinned ears or whimpering if your pup is hiding between your feet from fear.

Uncomfortable surroundings for your pup, such as a new home, new faces, and new pets, will mostly make your dog uneasy. Aggression and destructive behaviors follow closely if your dog constantly sleeps at your feet from fear. 

Because we encourage it

Many of us like our dogs sleeping on our legs. They provide warmth, and we feel comforted by them sleeping in the curve of our knees or warming our feet in winter. For this reason, we often encourage our dogs to sleep there. Once a dog establishes that this pleases us, we form the habit together with our dogs. 

This is learned behavior built in mutual comfort and trust. Not all dogs learn to sleep between our legs, however. The video below shows the famous Golden Retriever, Nala, “trust falling” into bed beside her owner.

It is likely that Nala did this once (probably by accident) and got a positive reaction from her owner. After that, it became part of their nightly routine as it resulted in cuddles for Nala and fond amusement for her owner. In turn, this cements and reaffirms their bond. It’s very much the same when we let our dogs sleep between our legs. 

Resource Guarding

Some dogs stay unusually close to you because they’re resource-guarding. These dogs, unfortunately, see the dog owner as their property, like a bowl or a toy, and are trying to keep others away. Resource-guarding is canine behavior that stems from anxiety but can manifest as aggression and should be addressed immediately. 

Bed Too Small Or Uncomfortable

A tiny bed where your dog has to curl themselves to fit might be uncomfortable and deprive them of the much-needed sleep. This would push your dog to abandon its bed and look for a more comfortable resting place. Additionally, dog beds made of too-soft pillows don’t offer the support needed for great sleep.

This results in low-quality sleep, which is unhealthy for your canine friend. Dogs searching for a more comfortable place to rest might find the comfort they need between their legs.

Craving attention

Dogs are loyal animals who truly adore their owners and love to feel their love reciprocated. Attention-seeking behavior is one way dogs source your reciprocated love. Sleeping between your legs can be one way to show they need your attention. 

Other ways include whining, barking at nothing, and following you everywhere.

Separation Anxiety

Dogs suffering from this disorder tend to depend on their owner and feel insecure or even frantic when they are left alone. They prefer hovering around their guardian and may nap between your legs where they are warm, comfortable, and secure.

Should I let My Dog Sleep Between My Legs?

There’s no problem with your dog sleeping between your legs. Studies show that having a dog for companionship can help manage our mental health. So as long as you are both comfortable, this is a healthy way to bond with your dog. 

However, when dogs lie between your legs because they are anxious or resource-guarding, then you need to look at fixing underlying problems. Likewise, if your dog develops separation anxiety, then you need to encourage more independence in your dog to help them cope when they are alone. This means learning that they don’t always need to be stuck to you at all times.

The other reason to stop your dog from sleeping close to you is when they suffer from sleep startle. When they get scared in the middle of the night and wake up thinking they are in danger. This can lead to unexpected behavior like biting whoever is close when trying to protect themselves.

In some cases, dogs may become incontinent and pee in the bed. You can invest in doggy diapers to avoid upsetting your dog by forcing them off the bed and taking your dog to a veterinarian to check for issues like a urinary tract infection.

How To Stop A Dog From Sleeping Between Your Legs

This can be a tricky problem to solve, but it is possible! You may need to try a few different tactics before you find one that works for your pup. Here are some tips to help you get started.

  1. Train Your Dog Where To Sleep

    Training is essential to owning a dog and occurs best when you offer an incentive like treats. Train your young or old dog not to sleep between your legs. Do this by directing them to their bed and offering a treat or praise to associate sleeping in their bed with positivity. You can also invest in crate training your puppy or teaching them to sleep in their place.

  2. Make Them A Comfortable Bed (And Beware Of Cold)

    Spruce up their room and their bed. Dogs, like humans, love comfy beds and rooms. Cluttered spaces might be why your pooch seeks refuge between your legs. A bed full of clatter, even if it’s just toys, may discourage your dog from sleeping there. Likewise, make sure your dog is not cold. Dogs with painful conditions like arthritis may also have trouble settling in their own bed.

  3. Put Their Favorite Toys In Their Bed

    Putting their toys in their bed entices your dog to spend more time in their space. Some puppies love a teddy bear to keep them company, while others enjoy a good chew toy. This will work well after engaging your dog in playtime and a walk prior.

  4. Reduce Hyper Attachment

    As rewarding as a dog sleeping between your legs is, it could mean your dog is overly dependent on you. This can lead to issues to like separation anxiety. The cure for hyper attachment is enforcing distance from your dog so that they spend more time in their “place” and become comfortable on their own. They also need far more exercise.

  5. Reward Them When They Obey Your Command and Go To Their Rooms

    Command your fur friend to get off you using a soft but stern voice. A high-pitched voice can negatively affect your dog emotionally. Rewarding your dog when they sleep in their bed instead of your feet creates a positive connection with the command. 

  6. Remove Stressors 

    Since stress can cause a dog to sleep between your legs, reducing stressors is an effective solution. Obedience training, anti-anxiety supplements, and cultivating trust with your pup minimize anxiety.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here, we answer some of the most common questions readers have asked us about dogs sleeping between their legs.

Why Does My Dog Sleep Between My Boyfriend And Me?

Dogs love protecting and being around their owners, and they don’t always love to share. Your pup sleeping between your boyfriend and you may suggest anxiety over your boyfriend getting too much of your attention. However, dogs may also enjoy sleeping between two people because it’s double the body warmth, with two bodies cradling them on either side. 

How Do I Know My Dog Loves Me?

Dogs show love by wanting to be around you as much as possible, often following you everywhere. They may slow blink or wink at you. They will try to please you and thrive on your praise. Dogs that love you will also try to involve you in activities, such as bringing you a toy to invite you to play.

Final Thoughts

Dogs love their guardians, and being close to them is the best they can communicate their unconditional love. Always being next to you can result in an over-dependent dog, resulting in issues like separation anxiety when you leave for work. Therefore, it’s good to encourage dogs to be okay with sleeping in their own bed.

However, both dogs and humans benefit from snuggling together. So if you are happy with your dog sleeping between your legs and there are no associated behavioral problems, enjoy it as one of the perks of having your furry hot water bottle. 

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe

Author

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.