Do Dogs Protect You When You Sleep?

Did you know that more than half of pet owners let their pets sleep in their bedroom? 

If you’re part of these stats you’ve probably noticed your dog barking while sleeping. Or you hear them walking around your bed as if they are guarding you.

These behaviors are all signs of your dog protecting you while sleeping.

Find out if your dog is protecting you when you sleep and why they are doing it. This can help you decide whether you should tolerate this protective behavior or not.

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dogs protect you when you sleep

Does My Dog Protect Me When I Sleep?

Yes. Dogs will protect you in your sleep if their breed is naturally protective or if they are trained to guard you while you’re sleeping. 

All dogs have excellent senses. By sight or smell they can quickly track your physical state, your emotions, and the surrounding environment.

Dogs know when you’re sleeping, and they understand that sleeping puts you in a vulnerable position. That is why they assume the duty of guarding you against potential threats.

Even when your dog is sleeping beside you, there is a big chance that they are still protecting you. That’s because they can hear and smell things we cannot while they are sleeping.

Here are some signs that your dog is protective of you while you’re sleeping.

Barking While You’re Sleeping

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night because your dog is barking? 

You see your dog in front of you barking at the air. This could be a sign that your dog is protecting you.

Most of the time, what they sense as a threat isn’t really a threat to you. But they don’t know that.

You can correct this behavior through desensitization so your dog doesn’t react to every sound they hear, such as a car passing by, people moving around, or thunder and fireworks.

Walking Around Your Bed

Your dog might feel restless at night walking around your bed for no apparent reason.

They might be looking around for possible threats to make sure you are protected while you sleep.

While this might seem like cute behavior, you shouldn’t tolerate it. It will disturb your sleep, and your dog will also lose sleep trying to guard you against a non-existent threat.

Guarding Resources

If you notice your dog becoming very protective of their food, toys, or treats, that’s a sign they might also want to protect you while sleeping.

You may not notice if your dog is guarding you in bed because you’re asleep. But you can look for this hint during the daytime.

Resource guarding is a natural instinct for dogs. However, there is no reason for them to be possessive in the house anymore because they have their basic needs met right away.

Eliminate this to avoid aggressive behavior in your dog. Your dog should be positively protecting you. 

Otherwise, they might bite your partner, kids, or anyone who comes close to you while you’re sleeping.

“Resource guarding” is also a sign that your dog sees you as a “resource.” Training your dog to see you as a pack leader can eliminate this bad behavior.

Getting Excited When You Wake Up

Dogs get excited when you come home from work. They feel the same when they notice your eyes flutter open from a nap.

It means they can finally take a break from being the protective dog and return to being the sweet baby that they are. 

You can tell your dog is excited when you wake up if they wag their tail, have relaxed ears, and have a happy face. 

Not Wanting to Share You With Others

Your dog’s territorial behavior is different from resource guarding. This time, it stems from their desire to keep you to themselves.

Notice how your dog acts when someone gets close to you. They might growl or bark at these people. Some dogs may even try to bite them. 

They only show this territorial behavior with their primary caregiver. Your furry friend might get suspicious if another dog or human sleeps beside you.

Ensure to eliminate this behavior by training your dog to stop aggressive behavior. You can also try socializing with other people and dogs regularly so they don’t see them as threatening. 

Following You Everywhere

Another sign that your dog may be protective of you when you’re sleeping is when they follow you everywhere while you’re awake.

Do they sit and stay with you wherever you go? Perhaps your pooch tries to knock on the door when you leave them outside.

This behavior is not necessarily bad, especially if they are not being aggressive. But it can get annoying.

Your dog might also invade your privacy when sleeping, taking a bath, working, and doing anything else around the home and yard.

Find out more about why your dog is always following you around.

Lying on Your Feet

Your dog may also be protecting you if they lie on your feet. 

Dogs will lie on your feet to show everyone that you are under their protection, whether you’re on the bed or napping on the couch.

Always leave space for your dog to sleep when in bed. Some dogs will get mad if someone takes their position, so don’t let that happen.

Not Wanting to Sleep Anywhere Else

Another obvious sign that your dog wants to protect you while you’re sleeping is when they refuse to sleep anywhere else.

Some dogs cry or even get angry when you leave them outside the bedroom to sleep. Others develop kennel aggression because they don’t have a way to get close to you. 

Make sure your dog is comfortable sleeping alone. Teaching your dog to go to bed at a young age will help with this issue. 

Why Dogs Protect You When You Sleep

There are many possible reasons your dog is protective of you when you’re sleeping. Here are some of them.

Pack Behavior

Dogs prioritize humans more than themselves. They are very committed to their pack behavior which they inherited from their wolf ancestors.

As a pack animal, a dog shows submission to their “alpha” in return for providing for them. Protecting their owner is highly rewarding and satisfying to them.

Dogs will make sure they remove any threat posed to their family. They will guard you while sleeping, walking outdoors, or working at home.

Some dog breeds possess more assertive pack behavior than others. Including:

  • Rottweilers
  • Beagles
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • German Shepherds
  • Akitas
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Brittanys.

Encouraged Behavior

Another cause of your dog protecting you while sleeping is that you have previously encouraged this behavior.

You may have patted your dog on the head after hearing them bark in the middle of the night.

Or you might call your dog’s name every time they wake you up at night.

This will reinforce to them that they are doing the right thing.

Be careful about tolerating your dog’s protective behavior. They will think it’s acceptable or good behavior if you unintentionally reward them.

It’s also possible that you unintentionally rewarded the behavior in different contexts. For example, your dog barks at a stranger while going on a walk, and you don’t try to discipline them.

Don’t let your dog get too protective or aggressive in any situation. Don’t make them think you need their protection unless you genuinely do.

Get your dog professionally trained if you want them to protect you or your property.

Past Experience

Some dogs are protective of themselves and others because of past experience or previous trauma.

They may have come from abusive owners, or have experienced being struck by another dog or human in their sleep. Or their last owner may have been attacked at night.

This traumatic experience can lead them to become more alert and protective at night. Your dog will not want you to experience the same thing.

Should I Let My Dog Guard Me When I Sleep?

No. If it’s not a result of deliberate training, protective dog behavior is just insecurity in disguise.

For example, if your dog grew up to be over-reliant on you, they may feel the need to protect you even when unnecessary. 

In other words, what feels like “familial love” is just codependency. 

Some dogs develop a territorial attitude when they don’t get enough attention from their owners. They desire to fight anyone who gets close to you. 

Or, if they have an unstable feeding routine, they may start being more possessive of their food.

How to Stay Safe When Sleeping Next to Your Dog

Now that you know the possible causes and risks of your dog’s protective behavior, here are some ways you can stay safe while your dog is guarding you. 

Socialize Your Dog

Socializing your dog will ensure that it doesn’t get aggressive every time they protect you. 

Some dogs don’t want to share their owners with others because of insecurity.

Allow your dog to bond with other dogs and people so they can feel comfortable when others are around you.

Don’t Let Them Stay Stay on the Bed

Studies show that co-sleeping with your pet can cause sleep disturbances and reduced sleep quality. You can prevent this from happening by keeping them off the bed.

Dedicate a space for them in your bedroom so they can still see you without coming in contact with you. 

Keeping your dog off your bed will also avoid possible injuries if they become hostile. 

Obedience Training

A well-trained dog understands its owners’ boundaries in every situation. They stop barking, growling, or running with a simple command from you.

Training your dog will help you keep their behavior under control, whether you’re sleeping, walking, bathing, or eating.

Enroll them in an obedience training class at a young age so they learn the basics of good behavior and what you expect from them.

What are the Benefits of Sleeping With Your Dog?

While you shouldn’t let your dog engage in territorial guarding behavior, you can let your dog sleep with you if you want.

Dogs can make you feel safer when you sleep next to each other. Particularly for people who live alone.

Having someone to talk to and cuddle to can relieve any stress you experience throughout the day. They can also help people who have insomnia because of the comfort they provide.

Our furry friends have a natural calming effect on people around them. They will boost your mood and make you feel relaxed with their simple presence.

Find out the other benefits of your dog sleeping in bed with you.

Why Does My Dog Suddenly Want to Sleep With Me?

Most dogs suddenly want to sleep with their owners because they want to feel warm. This is most likely why they only get close to you during the cold winter months.

Something might suddenly be scaring your dog, too, causing them to nap beside you for protection. 

It could be the other way around. Dogs suddenly want to sleep with you because they sense danger coming your way, hence their need to protect you.

Check out all the other reasons your dog suddenly wants to sleep with you.

Correct Your Dog’s Protective Behavior

While you can train your dog to be more protective, some dogs’ natural defensive behavior is simply a front for their insecurity or fear. 

Don’t tolerate your dog’s growls and barks every time you’re asleep. Instead, ask them to stop making noise, and take steps to correct their behavior.

Do you notice other weird behaviors of your dog during bedtime? If your dog also likes sleeping on the pillow with you, find out why they’re doing it.