Our pets do many things that are confusing to humans. It can be difficult for us to understand their language and know why they make certain noises or behave in strange ways. One thing many people wonder about is why their dog sleeps with their head on their neck.
A dog’s preference for sleeping on your neck isn’t to assert dominance – it’s either to guard you, share body heat, or most likely just to be close to you. Simply put, your pup is just trying to cuddle!
There are also a host of other reasons that could be behind your dog’s sleeping arrangements, which we’ll address next.
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Why does my dog like to sleep on my neck?
It’s always difficult to nail down an exact reason for specific dog behaviors because we can’t speak to them ourselves. The best thing we can do is make an educated guess based on what we know about dog behavior.
One common myth that might have you misinterpreting your dog’s behavior is dominance theory. This theory describes dogs working in structured, hierarchical packs, where alpha dogs are in charge.
This is flawed for a number of reasons. First, the theory came from studying wolves. We assumed dogs worked the same way, even though they’re completely different after being domesticated for so long.
Second? Even wolves don’t work this way! The studies have been disproven.
By understanding that dominance theory is a complete myth, we can rule out the idea that your dog might be trying to show dominance over you when they lie on your neck. While some dog owners think this, it’s incredibly unlikely.
More likely is that your dog wants to be close to you. This may go back to their puppy days when they piled with their siblings close to their mamas. It may also be a result of dogs being incredibly social creatures.
Keep in mind what a dog gets from laying on your neck. They are close to you, yes, but they can also feel your heartbeat, breath, and movement.
These are all comforting things that ensure them you’re okay, and that you’re staying in place while they sleep. You can’t move without them noticing!
Because of this, a dog lying on your neck could also be a symptom of separation anxiety. If your dog is very clingy, gets stressed when you leave home, or has behavioral problems that escalate when you’re away, you may want to look into separation anxiety and what you can do to make your pup more relaxed.
Other reasons your pup may lay on your neck is to guard you and keep you safe while you sleep, or to share body heat in the cold.
Is it bad to let my dog sleep on my neck?
Typically, as long as you’re comfortable with this behavior, it’s fine to let your dog sleep on your neck.
Two main problems can arise when dogs are allowed to do this:
- Territorial behavior
Injury can occur if your dog puts too much weight on your neck, or lies on your face and restricts your breathing. You’re more likely to be injured by your large dog sleeping on you since they weigh more, but small dogs can cause unintentional harm too.
Territorial behavior can be recognized when your dog begins guarding you or your head from other people who approach, or even from your own hands.
If your dog is growling or snarling, it’s time to stop this behavior before it gets out of hand. Especially because it’s happening right by your face!
Why does my puppy lay his head on my neck?
This behavior does seem more common in puppies. We can only guess it’s because they’re used to behaving this way around their families and continue snuggling close to you after they’ve been adopted.
My dog wraps around my neck!
Depending on you and your dog, it may seem really cute for them to wrap around your neck—or it may be painful or worrying.
Make sure your dog isn’t able to choke you when lying this way. If you have concerns or are uncomfortable, put an end to the behavior and teach your dog to cuddle another way, like in your lap.
How can I stop my dog from sleeping on my neck?
We’ve established that it’s unlikely to be problematic, but if you do want to stop your dog sleeping on your neck the key is consistency and patience.
Try not to yell at or scold your dog for laying on you, as it can damage your relationship. As we discussed above, your dog isn’t trying to do anything wrong. They won’t understand why you’re so upset.
Instead, simply move your dog’s head off of your neck and tell them “no.” You may also need to relocate them, either to a better snuggling position or off of the furniture completely. Repeat this process until your dog has learned that sleeping on your neck is not okay.
This could take a long time, especially if your dog is used to sleeping on you in this way. If your dog is hurting you or you’re concerned about injury, you might push things further and not allow them on the bed or couch at all. This way, you’re catching them before they’re able to hurt you.
Also provide other comfy places for your pup to sleep. This is especially important if you’re not going to allow them on the furniture any longer. Dog beds, a comfy crate, or even their own pillow on your bed can help them feel secure without literally suffocating you!