After a long hard day at work or running errands, nothing is better than coming home to your furry friend.
It can strike a chord of jealousy, however, when your dog is peacefully curled up in your bed, right on the pillow where you lay your head at night.
But have you ever wondered, “why does my dog sleep on my pillow, even when I’m not around?”
The answer, it turns out, is actually pretty simple.
Why does my dog sleep on my pillow?
There are several possible reasons why your dog may prefer to snuggle into your pillow rather than anywhere else.
The first and perhaps most obvious reason why your dog likes to sleep on your pillow is for simple comfort.
Pillows are soft, malleable, and snuggly, making them the perfect place to sleep well at night. It’s comfortable enough that you want to sleep on it, right?
Chances are your pup just thinks it’s a good snooze spot, too.
You know how certain scents are comforting to you, like the smell of hot cocoa on a cold day? Well, your scent has the same calming effect on your dog.
A study done at Emory University in Atlanta1 found that dogs who were exposed to the scent of their owners experienced an increase in the caudate nucleus, a part of the brain which is associated with positive emotions.
Sleeping on your pillow also gives your dog some of your body heat along with your scent, making it the comfiest spot in the whole house for them.
When you aren’t at home (like during the day while you’re at work), your pillow may still be your pup’s preferred snuggle spot simply because it brings them a sense of security.
Your dog may not be sleeping on your pillow just for their own security, but for yours, too.
Dogs are very protective of their owners, and sleeping on your pillow allows them to watch over you through the night. (Some dogs have even been known to check their owners’ breathing to make sure they’re okay.)
This could mean that you have an extra special guardian angel looking over you as you sleep.
Another reason why your dog sleeps on your pillow is that they’re actually mimicking your behavior.
Dogs are born with certain natural instincts, but they also take cues from their pack leader, and guess who that pack leader is?
Your dog views you as the head of your pack and wants to be just like you, so they lay their head where you do and sleep where you sleep.
Remember, imitation is the best form of flattery!
On the flip side, your dog may think they’re actually the pack leader.
Do they run ahead of you on walks, behave aggressively towards you, or show other signs of dominance over you?
This is an indication that they still need some training to recognize you as the alpha of the pack.
If your dog doesn’t try to dominate you but you have other pets or even children or a partner in the home, they could be marking their territory over them, rather than over you.
Dogs can be very possessive, and even though they typically like to travel in packs, they may not want to share the attention and resources their primary human provides.
Sleeping on your pillow is a way for them to spread their scent and assert dominance over others.
Dogs in the wild instinctively sleep in a huddle with their pack members, and families especially make sure to sleep together.
Newborn puppies snuggle closely with their mother or both parents not only for safety but also because sleeping close together helps form and strengthen a close bond.
Sleeping on your pillow could be your dog’s way of connecting with you and strengthening your relationship.
Some dogs will lay on your pillow just to get a reaction out of you. This is more common in puppies, and it’s typically a learned behavior.
Particularly if you have expressed that you don’t like your dog to lay there by picking them up, moving them, or even using treats to lure them out of the spot, they may think this is a clever and fun way to get some touches, playtime or a snack out of you.
Do dogs need pillows?
Unlike humans, dogs don’t need pillows to sleep comfortably, but they certainly enjoy them!
Pillows provide a resting place for their heads, and can also help keep them warm. Small dogs, in particular, like to climb onto pillows and curl up.
If you don’t allow your dog to sleep on your bed, consider investing in a bolster dog bed so they can have a pillow of their own.
Should I let my dog sleep in bed with me?
If you’re comfortable with it and your dog is well-behaved, there’s no harm in letting them sleep in bed with you. Ultimately, it’s up to you and your dog.
On the one hand, sleeping with your dog can be incredibly comforting and reassuring.
A recent survey by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine2 found that as many as 46% of Americans sleep with their pets and that nearly half of the people who sleep with their pets report better sleep.
However, there are some potential negatives to allowing your dog in your bed.
Especially if you have a larger dog, you may find that you’re unable to move and turn over easily or that your sleep is disturbed by their movements.
Luckily, my dog is only a little over 7 lbs. and when he’s in bed with me, he usually prefers to sleep at the foot of the bed near my feet.
How to get your dog off your pillow?
If for any reason this bothers you, and you don’t want to share the place where you lay your head with your dog, there are a few things you can try to keep them off your pillow.
1. Make sure your dog has their own comfy dog bed and start by keeping it in your bed by your pillow and then slowly move it further to the foot of the bed and eventually to the floor.
2. Teach your dog the “place” or “bed” command by luring them to their bed and rewarding them with praise and treats. If your dog has a favorite toy, you can use that in place of treats.
3. Put the bed in a warm spot (like near a vent or heater — but not directly next to it, to be safe) to encourage your dog to sleep there.
4. Place a piece of your recently worn clothing (or even better, an unwashed pillow cover) in the bed for them to snuggle with and still have some of your scent to make them feel secure while you’re away.
There are many reasons why your dog prefers to sleep on your pillow, and most of them are positive and mean your good boy just wants to be like you, make sure you’re safe, or get your attention in some way.
Of course, it’s totally fine, and many pet owners prefer, to let their pups snooze in their bed.
As long as it doesn’t bother you and your dog isn’t displaying signs of aggressiveness or dominance, it’s perfectly okay to share a pillow with your best friend.
- Scent of the familiar: An fMRI study of canine brain responses to familiar and unfamiliar human and dog odors
- Is Fido a bed hog or a cuddle buddy? Almost half of Americans sleep with pets