Dogs spend most of the time snoozing – snoozing on the bed, snoozing on the floor, snoozing on the sofa, snoozing on the carpet. However, when you are at home, dogs also spend most of their time snoozing in a different place – your head.
Ever wondered why does my dog sleep on my head? Well, to be honest, your dog has plenty of reasons for sleeping on your head, from instinctual drive and safety to bonding and comfort. The comfort part is for your dog, not for you, but you do not mind sleeping with a furry pillow on top of your head.
This article will explain everything you need to know about the dog’s sleeping pattern and review the top 10 most common reasons dogs sleep on top of their owners’ heads.
THE DOG’S SLEEPING PATTERN
Humans typically follow a binary sleeping pattern that (12 awake hours and eight sleep hours). On the contrary, dogs do not follow the same binary sleeping pattern. Dogs sleep in bursts throughout the day. They can experience sleep-wake cycles of variable lengths. For example, they can go through sleep-wake cycles of 16 minutes of sleep followed by 5 minutes awake.
To be more precise, it has been estimated that dogs spend around 50% of the day sleeping, 30% of the day being awake but lying around, and only 20% of the day being physically active.
WHY DOES MY DOG TAKE SUCH LONG NAPS?
Dogs follow a so-called polyphasic sleeping pattern, meaning they have multiple periods of sleep irregularly scattered throughout the day and night.
Sleeping occurs in two phases in both humans and canines. The first phase is the slow wave of sleep. During this phase, the breathing slows down, the blood pressure drops, and the heart rate decreases. This phase usually lasts for around 10 minutes.
Rapid eye movements characterize the second phase, and it is therefore known as the REM phase of sleep. During this phase, the eyes roll under the closed lids, and it is in this phase, the body might react to dreams (twitching, paddling with the legs). REM is the “deep” sleep phase.
The main difference between our sleeping cycles and the dogs’ sleeping cycles is the time spent in the REM phase. Due to their inconsistent sleeping habits, dogs reach REM less. While humans tend to spend up to 25% of their sleep in the REM phase, dogs spend only 10%. Therefore, they need more overall sleep to compensate for the lost REM and get adequate rest.
Simply put, dogs are flexible sleepers. They are capable of falling asleep out of boredom. Additionally, they are capable of quickly waking up and become immediately alert.
WHY DOES MY DOG SLEEP ON MY HEAD?
As mentioned, there are many reasons why your dog wants to share the bed with you, or more precisely, why it wants to sleep on your head. These are the top 10 most common reasons.
1. Your dog is true to its ancestry
Modern dogs are still faithful to their wolf origins. Simply put, wolves and dogs are pack animals, meaning they prefer doing everything together.
The decision to sleep together and on top of each other is quite practical – it offers better protection and enables significant heat accumulation.
2. Your dog appreciates comfort
This is perhaps the simplest reason for sleeping on your head and pillow. Just because dogs enjoy doing weird and messy things does not mean they do not appreciate comfort.
And what offers more comfort than your memory mattress and malleable, soft pillow? If they were not comfortable, you would not sleep on them either. And it is more than obvious that a human bed is more comfortable than a dog crate.
3. Your dog feels safe with you
Just imagine the scent of hot cocoa on a cold winter day. Comforting right? Well, your dog feels that way about your scent. Simply put, your scent has a calming effect that makes your dog feel relaxed and safe.
Even if you are not at home and your dog cannot sleep on your head, it may choose to sleep on your pillow because it smells like you.
4. Your dog wants you to feel safe
Your dog’s decision to sleep on your head might be for your security instead of its own. Namely, dogs, regardless of their size and actual guarding skills, are extremely protective of their owners.
And how can your dog efficiently protect you unless it is near you, or preferably on your head?
5. Your dog is imitating you
Yes, as unbelievable as it sounds, dogs like mimicking us. Namely, as pack animals, dogs tend to imitate the behavior of the pack leader. Since you are the leader in your dog’s pack, it is only natural for your dog to do what you do.
Imitation is the purest form of flattery – if your dog wants to sleep on your head, it means not only does it want to be like you, but it respects you and accepts your role as pack leader.
6. Your dog thinks he is in charge
On a less flattery note, your dog’s tendency to sleep on your head may be its way of claiming the pack leader status. Therefore, it is important to observe your dog’s overall behavior.
Does it show any other signs of dominance? For example, does your dog walk ahead of you during walks? Occasionally humps on you? Or maybe shows aggression towards you? If you answered yes, chances are your dog assumes he is the leader.
7. Your dog is marking you
Alternatively, your dog’s sleeping on your head may be its way of marking you. This is an option if there are other dogs, pets, or even children in the house.
Dogs are possessive creatures and do not want to share valuable resources. This includes food, water, shelter, and affection. Since you are the main source of affection, you are one of your dog’s most valuable resources.
8. Your dog is bonding with you
Newborn puppies instinctively snuggle with their mothers and littermates. For a pack animal, such as your dog, sleeping in a huddle is a natural way of bonding. Being close during an important activity strengthens the bond.
Your dog sleeping on your head is your dog’s way of working on your relationship and connecting on a deeper level.
9. Your dog is seeking attention
Dogs are exceptionally smart and willing to do just about anything as long as they can get your attention. If your dog knows you are not fond of sharing the bed, he may lay on your head on purpose because he knows it will lead to contact and interaction.
Namely, you will wake, talk with him or even pick him up and take him to his bed. It might not be the ideal interaction, but it still an interaction. If you use treats to lure him out of bed, that is an actual win-win situation for your dog – he got both attention and snacks.
10. Your dog might have separation anxiety
A dog seeking attention is cute, but a dog that depends on your attention and presence is dealing with a severe behavioral issue – separation anxiety.
If your dog has separation anxiety, it will be prone to excessive barking and destructive behaviors when you are out of the house. When you are at home, he will be clingy and overly attached to you. Sleeping on your head is just the tip of the iceberg, as dogs with separation anxiety exhibit an array of unusual behaviors.
Unlike the above-explained reasons, separation anxiety is not considered a normal dog behavior. It is an issue and requires proper management. More often than, you will need to hire a professional canine behaviorist to help you and your dog successfully overcome this challenging and widespread behavioral problem.
WHY DOES MY DOG SUDDENLY WANT TO SLEEP ON MY HEAD?
If your dog was an independent freelancer and now all of a sudden insists on sharing the pillow with you, there is probably something serious going on.
The change may not be evident to you, but for a creature of habit, such as your dog, even simple changes can be significant. Changes in the daily routines, your working schedule, or even a slight furniture rearrangement can affect your dog’s sleeping patterns and positions.
Identifying what caused the change can be challenging and sometimes may even require the help of a professional canine behaviorist. This is vital if there is a reason you cannot share the bed with your dog.
SHOULD I LET MY DOG SLEEP ON MY HEAD? AND BED IN GENERAL?
Ever since we domesticated dogs, we are intentionally or unintentionally trying to humanize them. Letting them sleep in our beads is the perfect example.
Based on a survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association, half of the surveyed dog owners allow their dogs to sleep with them. More precisely, 32% of large-sized dogs, 41% medium-sized dogs, and 62% of small-sized dogs share the bed with their owners.
But is the general concept behind sharing the bed a good idea? Well, unless you are allergic to dog hair or dander, there is nothing bad about sleeping together with your canine baby.
However, it is important to regularly treat your dog for external and internal parasites if sleeping together. Finally, it is worth mentioning that sleeping with a dog in its shedding phase is messy. The messiness also applies to dogs prone to night accidents.
All in all, dogs love to sleep. Dogs are physiologically predisposed to prolonged sleeping cycles. In a nutshell, dogs not only love but also need to sleep a lot.
However, dogs do not want and need to sleep anywhere; they want and need to sleep on your head. As strange and uncomfortable as this looks and feels, at its core, this is your dog’s way of telling you how much it loves you and feels safe with you.
So, the next time your dog sleeps on your head, do not blame them. Instead, scootch over and make some more space on your comfortable memory foam-filled pillow.