It’s a common behavior for a dog to sleep between the legs of his owner. Usually, it’s a sign of affection and trust. Although sometimes it can be a sign that something is wrong.
So, even if it seems like a small and innocent behavior, it’s important to know the reasons behind it. This is why it’s relevant to ask ourselves the question: Why does my dog sleep between my legs?
Knowing the reasons why our dog does it, allows us to understand him better and be able to help him accordingly.
What Does It Mean When a Dog Sleeps Between Your Legs?
The 5 most common reasons why your dog may sleep between your legs are:
You Are Part of the Pack
Dogs are pack animals and tend to always be together, even to sleep.
When a dog sleeps between your legs it may be because he considers you part of his pack. It’s a manifestation of affection and trust among the family.
So this may mean that your dog is:
1. Being Affectionate
The fact that your dog sleeps between your legs can be a sign of affection and confidence. It’s a way of expressing his love for his family.
2. Being Protective
Your dog may sleep between your legs with the intention of protecting you. He needs to be close to his pack to care for and protect it.
If your dog is overprotective and he mainly does it when there are other people or animals nearby, most likely, he’s only protecting you from possible danger.
Your dog may sleep between your legs because it makes him feel safer and more protected. When he is afraid, such as rockets, thunder, or any other reason, he may seek comfort by being next to you.
If along with this, we also consider that many dogs feel protected in contained and closed spaces, lying down and sleeping between your legs is one of the best places where he can feel safe.
You Accidentally Trained Him to Do It
There are cases in which we reinforce a specific behavior of our dog inadvertently. When we reward, either with affection or with something that our dog enjoys a lot, he will be more likely to do it again.
If when your dog sits or falls asleep between your legs, by petting him or scratching his belly, you are telling your dog that you like him and it is okay for him to be there. That being between your legs, good things happen.
That is to say, you’re training your dog to do it.
It’s Not Warm Enough
If your dog usually sleeps between your legs in winter weather, most likely he is not warm enough at night.
If your dog does not have a warm bed in a cozy place in the house, it is most likely that he gets under the covers of your bed to sleep next to you looking for the heat of your body.
Has Separation Anxiety
Some dogs don’t like to be alone and away from their family. This can cause them to become anxious and stressed each time they are left alone, or even when they feel that they will be left alone. This is known as Separation Anxiety.
These dogs often follow their owners everywhere and just want to be with them all the time. They will be with their owners, even when they sleep, for fear that they will be left alone.
Some Things Worth Considering
The fact that your dog sleeps between your legs is commonly considered positive and harmless behavior. But, as we saw before, there are cases when this can be a sign of something wrong your dog is going through and that needs to be addressed.
You have to be able to recognize the cause so that, if necessary, we can help him.
A Fearful Dog
Some dogs display specific signs and behaviors when they are afraid. Hiding between your legs can be one of them.
Knowing the symptoms of a fearful dog helps to identify his phobias and fears, so we can help him before the situation gets more complicated.
Some signs and behaviors of a fearful dog that we should be aware of are:
- Lip licking
Recognizing the signs of fear in your dog can allow you to identify the triggers so you can help your dog handle his fears better.
For these cases, my article “How to help a fearful dog gain confidence” can help you.
A Dog With Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety usually occurs when a dog is too attached to his owner and becomes overly stressed when separated from him and left alone. These dogs often want to be around their owners all the time, even when sleeping.
Separation anxiety in dogs is a fairly serious condition. In addition to the suffering and stress the dog goes through, it often triggers behaviors quite frustrating for a dog owner.
Some of the symptoms of separation anxiety in a dog, when left alone, are:
- Excessive barking and howling
- Destructive behaviors like chewing and digging
- Obsessive pacing
If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, my article “How to help a dog with separation anxiety” can be useful.
How to Stop Your Dog From Sleeping Between Your Legs
If you consider that your dog must stop sleeping between your legs, there are some things you can do about it.
Train Him Not to Lay Down Between Your Legs
One solution is to train your dog not to lie down between your legs and teach him to lie down in his bed or any other place you choose.
This is accomplished with positive reinforcement training. This works by rewarding your dog when he does something you want and not when he does something you don’t want.
For this, the following 3 steps must be considered:
1. Don’t Reinforce the Behavior
You have to stop rewarding him every time he gets between your legs. Not only should you not reward him with food or treats, but also avoid rewarding him with attention or affection, such as petting him while he’s between your legs.
2. Redirect the Behavior
For this, it is useful for your dog to learn the “down” command so that he lies down when you tell it to.
When your dog tries to lie between your legs, don’t allow him and take him to the place where you want him to lie down to sleep and tell him the “down” command. Reward him with treats and praise as soon as he lies down.
3. Reinforce the Behavior You Want Him to Do
While your dog is lying on his bed or the place you chose, reward him with treats and give him lots of love and comfort.
Little by little your dog will stop lying between your legs and will relate with good things to lying down in the place of your choice.
Provide a Comfortable and Safe Place to Sleep
Your dog must have his own place and bed where he can be calm and rest. It must be a safe, cozy place without much hustle. It’s not recommended to put it in places where people pass often or where there is a lot of noise.
In cold seasons we must make sure that he has more blankets or pillows and that it’s in a warm place inside the house.
Dogs have a diversity of sleeping habits. By observing and knowing them, we learn a lot about our dogs and our relationship with them.
Therefore, a simple behavior such as our dog sleeping between our legs can tell us a lot about how our dog sees us, our relationship and how he is feeling.
At the end of the day, the fact that your dog sleeps between your legs is an expression of the bond between you and your dog. An expression of love and trust between the two of you.