My boy is such a sleepy head; he can sleep anywhere and anytime. He seems to be able to sleep in different odd places, and one of his favorite sleeping spots is between my legs. Curious, I began to ask my animal behaviorist friend for more information.
Here’s Why Dogs Sleep Between Human Legs
Your dog may sleep between your legs out of affection or because they are being protective. It’s because they feel safe and protected there or warm and cozy. They might see you as a member of their pack. In a few cases, it could be a sign of emotional problems, or it may even be because sleeping between your legs has become a trained behavior.
Here’s what you need to know about each reason and some things you can do to reduce the behavior.
1. They’re showing you their love and affection
Unconditional love is what most dog owners find so endearing about their dogs, and this is mainly the reason why dogs like to sleep between their owners’ legs.
It’s just a way some dogs use to show how much they love you and trust you, which is a good thing, after all, without trust and love, your relationship is like a house built on sand.
2. They’re Being Protective
It is part of a dog’s nature to protect everyone they hold dear. And so, it might be another reason why your dog goes under your legs to snooze, especially if they do it while there are unfamiliar people or animals nearby.
The cause is confirmed if your dog also does other things like showing signs of stress or even growling when someone comes too close to you.
Regardless of the breed, all dogs learn from their ancestors to stay together as close as they can to alert and be alerted when danger is near.
But, because right now, you’re the closest thing to a family that your dog has got, don’t be surprised if they act a bit ‘overprotective’ to you.
3. They Feel Safe and Protected
It’s common for dogs to feel the safest and most protected when they are near their owners. It doesn’t matter how they do it; whether they are lying, sitting down, or sleeping, the most important thing is to feel your body close to them.
This theory would be more likely true if your dog does it in situations where they might become scared or uncomfortable.
For example, when there is someone around that they don’t know or when there are loud and sudden noises outside.
But why your legs?
Well, there are many theories about this, but in my opinion, the reason is quite simply because your legs are the most accessible part of your body.
4. It’s Warm and Cozy
If your dog usually sleeps between your legs at night or winter, perhaps the most likely reason behind their action is that they are not warm enough.
So, they snuggle up between your legs to exchange body heat with you; what’s better than a cuddle with their favorite person during a long cold night.
The next time your dog goes under your leg, you may want to check the house temperature. It’s a common misconception that dogs are more resistant than humans to cold weather, where in fact, they aren’t.
5. They See You As a Member of Their Pack
All pack animals have a strong instinct to sleep close to the pack leader. They do this to show respect, submission and to protect their alpha.
In your relationship with your dog, your dog may likely see you as their pack leader. Because of this, they may have a strong urge to sleep close to you.
6. It Has Become a Learned Behavior
You may not realize that you may have inadvertently encouraged your dog to nap between your legs. Try to remember what you did the last time they went between your legs. Did you pet them? Did you rub their belly? Or did you give them a treat?
If you tend to reward your dog for doing something, they will repeat it, and over time, it becomes a habit.
7. They are Comforting You
Do you know that your dog can pick up on how you’re feeling? For example, if you’re stressed or not feeling well, your fido may pick up on this and try to cheer you up by going between your legs.
8. They Have Separation Anxiety
When it comes to a dog’s unusual behaviors, we cannot exclude the possibility of separation anxiety being the culprit behind your dog’s behaviors. Separation anxiety is a behavior disorder that causes a dog to panic when they are left alone without their owner.
If your dog has separation anxiety, they may feel depressed at the prospect of being left alone. And so, they might think it’s a good idea to sleep between your legs to keep you from leaving them.
This would likely be the case if your dog also shows other symptoms of separation anxiety, such as pacing or crying when you’re about to leave.
9. They Need Your Support
According to the book titled “The Intelligence of Dogs,” dogs can feel basic emotions, like happiness, sadness, joy, anger, fear, excitement, etc. This means, just like us, there’s a time when your dog needs emotional support too.
Maybe they are tired or feeling unwell. At those times, they may go between your legs to take a rest there.
10. They are Jealous
Have you brought a new puppy or a new human friend home?
Your dog can’t verbalize their objections, so they show their disapproval in other ways, like suddenly sleeping between your legs. Typically, given time, as your dog gets used to the newcomer, they will return to their old sleeping spot.
Should You Be Concerned with This Behavior?
The timing when your dog first started doing and all other things that they are doing can give you the clues you need to determine whether you should be concerned or not.
Perhaps they don’t always sleep between your legs and only go there when there’s a new person around; then they might do it to protect you. Look again through the list of causes that I have described above and see if you can connect the dots between your dog’s behavior and the reasons (see points 2, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10).
If your dog has always slept between your legs, you want to check points 1, 3, 5, and 6.
Providing there is nothing else that would suggest you should take your dog to the vet, the next question will be.
Should You Allow Your Furry Friend to Sleep Between Your Legs?
Ultimately, it all comes down to your own personal, subjective preference. Personally, I don’t mind if my dog lays between my legs once in a while.
However, this behavior might be annoying for some people, particularly if your dog is a massive Alaskan Malamute weighing in at over 180 pounds. No one likes getting the feeling of their feet going numb, especially if it happens on a regular basis.
If you decide it is too much for you, here are some tips you can do to stop this behavior.
How to Stop Your Dog From Sleeping Between Your Legs?
1. Train Your Dog Not to Lie Down Between Your Legs
An effective way to break your dog’s habit is to train them with positive reinforcement. This method works by rewarding your dog for good behavior while ignoring the bad.
The idea is by rewarding them instead of punishing them, your dog will be more likely to become a willing participant in whatever it is you want them to do and do it often.
Here’s how you do it:
- The next time they try to sneak in between your legs, don’t allow them and tell them a firm “no.” Give them praise and reward them with a treat when they listen.
- Stop giving them attention every time they don’t listen to you. This means no petting, no talking, no eye contact, no feeding, no matter what!
- Get up and leave them.
- Come back again after a while, and when they try to lay between your legs, repeat the above steps.
- Repeat this training until your dog learns to leave your legs alone.
2. Address Other Issues
Together with positive reinforcement training, you must also address other issues that may affect your dog. For example, in cold seasons, you must give them more blankets and pillows and make sure that the place where they sleep is warm and cozy, pleasant and relaxing.