Why do dogs sleep at your feet?

A photo of rumpled covers with little white dog legs sticking out, the rest of the dog under the covers.

According to some dogs, there’s no better place to rest their weary heads than on top of your feet. Dogs love to sleep at your feet because:

  • Affection: Although we might consider feet smelly, dogs love to surround themselves in the scent of their pack. Sleeping at your feet provides proximity and comfort all at once.
  • Safety: Puppies instinctively sleep near their mother’s tail or feet to avoid being crushed should she roll over at night. Adult dogs retain that instinct around their human companions.
  • Temperature Control: Dogs may choose to sleep near the base of the bed, on the floor, or further from your body to avoid overheating.

Dogs in the bed

More than 50 percent of dog owners allow their pets into bed with them at night, including owners with dog allergies. Studies on co-sleeping with dogs report higher numbers of sleep disturbances, possible transmission of zoonotic diseases or parasites, and decreased sleep quality.

But is allowing your dog in the bed a bad idea?

Self-reported sleep quality evaluations indicate the opposite. People who allow their dogs to sleep beside them believe they experience greater comfort and security, and fewer disruptions than when sharing with a human partner. 80 percent of adults with chronic pain reported that the presence of a dog relieved anxiety, stress, and loneliness, improving their sleep quality. Dogs also promote a consistent sleep schedule.

Dog sleeping positions

Dogs sleep in all sorts of different positions. The five most common are:

  • Side Sleeping: The most common sleeping pose. Dogs sleep stretched out on their sides when they feel relaxed and comfortable in their environments.
  • Curled Up: Nose to butt, the classic canine pose. Sleeping this way regulates their body temperature and protects their belly. Dogs adopt this pose when cold or feeling vulnerable.
  • Cuddled Up: Puppies love to sleep in a pile! At that age, they cannot regulate their body heat the way adult dogs can and cuddle with their littermates for warmth and protection. This behavior follows many dogs into adulthood.
  • Belly Up: Paradoxically, this pose seems the least comfortable but indicates the opposite. Dogs sleep on their backs with their bellies exposed when feeling safe and protected. Due to the thinner fur on their stomachs, they also sleep belly up when overheated.
  • Back-to-Back: Most commonly seen in multi-pet households, this pose looks the way it sounds. Two dogs sleep with their backs pressed together, very literally protecting each other’s back. Dogs may also choose a human partner for this.

About the Author

A picture of Melody smiling towards the camera
Melody Lee
Contributing Writer

Melody Lee is a contributing writer for Gentle Beast, and is a CPDT-KA dog trainer. She lives in Manhattan with two feral cats, Littlepip and Alphonse, that tolerate her clicker training attempts. One day, her cats might let her adopt a dog of her own.

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