Cute brown chihuahua sleeping with little girl

How Do Dogs Choose Who to Sleep With? 9 Possible Factors

If you have recently adopted a dog for your family, he may decide he has a favorite person to snuggle up with at night. You may wonder how your dog chooses who to sleep with. You may even have hurt feelings that he did not choose you!

So, is it a personal affront if your dog chooses someone else and not you to be his nighttime snuggle-bunny?

Probably not. How dogs choose a family member to sleep with probably involves many factors:

  • Personality match
  • Who your dog initially bonded with
  • Which family member feeds your dog
  • Attention and Affection
  • The temperature in your bedroom
  • Your scent
  • The comfort of your bed and sleep cycles
  • Location and layout of your room
  • Feeling safe and protected

Let’s take a closer look at these factors. Most likely a combination of things helps your dog to choose who to sleep with.

Personality Match

Some personality match studies have been done, but they are mostly limited to how owners pick dogs who match their personalities. Not much has been done about how the personalities of dogs match their owners according to an article in PsychologyToday.com. Bonding is also extremely important. For whatever reason, when a human and dog are really bonded, that is the family member that a dog usually wants to sleep with. See my post on How to Bond with Your Rescue Dog for more information.

Even so, it appears that dogs are attracted to certain personalities for a variety of reasons based on their own individual needs. A dog who needs a lot of attention and affection, for example, will run to the person who provides the most belly rubs and affectionate ear rubs. If a family member is stand-offish, your family dog will most likely be less interested in hanging out with him, and more likely to sleep with the more affectionate person. A dog who needs a lot of physical stimulation may prefer someone with high energy.

Early socialization may also be a big factor. If you adopted your dog from a shelter, he may have memories of bonding with a certain type of individual including their gender or age. Dogs sometimes feel more comfortable around either a man or a woman or perhaps a child that reminds them of someone he bonded to in his past.

First Impressions–Initial Bonding

Your family dog may stay bonded to whoever he first connected with. This can be especially true of a shelter or rescue dog who was initially visited by one member of the family. In some rescue situations, it is recommended that only one person interacts with a dog who has been traumatized. It may even be necessary for that person to make several visits to the shelter to just sit with the dog, offer treats, and gain the dog’s trust. Reading or talking to a rescue dog in an even calm tone is also reassuring.

Being in a shelter is a frightening experience for most dogs. Therefore, whoever provides the most comfort to a dog, will most likely become that dog’s new best friend. It would not be surprising, then, for your dog to want to hang out with that person, day and night!

For Dogs, Food is Gold!

The way to a dog’s heart is truly through his stomach! Since a dog’s natural instinct is to survive, food is a really big deal. Having two squares a day and special treats is a key part of a dog’s happiness. So, whoever feeds him, may also be his favorite sleeping buddy.

Attention and Affection

As with humans, dogs usually warm up to whoever pays them the most attention. But positive attention is the key. If one family member does all of the discipline and occasional scolding and another showers them with love and affection, you may guess which member of the family a dog will want to sleep with.

A good friend of mine said that their large working dog was much closer to her than to her husband. Her husband is very good to their dog but tends to ignore him when he is working around their large ranch. My friend on the other hand also takes their dog along with her when she works in the garden or runs errands. So she is the one he tends to run to and cuddle with most often.

The Temperature in Your Bedroom

This may not seem like a significant factor, especially since dogs can tolerate a wide range of temperatures. But dogs can be uncomfortable at temperatures that are higher or lower than what they prefer.

My sister and her husband have two small dogs with short hair who really don’t like to be cold. They prefer to sleep with my sister and brother-in-law who let them snuggle under the covers in the middle of their bed. Between the two of them, these little dogs get a lot of warmth on cold, winter nights when it is freezing outside.

They literally shake in the late evening when it is chilly and will sometimes run upstairs and jump under the covers before anyone else. They know they will be joined soon and warmed up even more.

Your Scent

Dogs are very sensitive to smells, and this may impact who they want to sleep with. I read a post recently in which a woman said that her dogs hated her husband’s smell. He showered before going to bed at night and used some strong soap like Old Spice, and her dog would always sniff and back away. As a result, he always ended up sleeping on her side of the bed.

A person’s scent may also bring back an earlier memory of someone in your dog’s past which may have either a positive or negative impact.

How Comfortable is Your Bed and How Long Do You Sleep?

According to SleepFoundation.com, most dogs need 8 to 13.5 hours of sleep per night. Even though they will also take naps during the day, like humans, dogs get most of their sleep at night. If they don’t get enough sleep, they can become agitated, anxious, or moody. Again, very much like humans who are sleep deprived.

So, don’t be surprised if your dog does not want to sleep with you if you toss and turn a lot or stay up late at night and rise early. Your dog will not be happy if he does not get enough snooze time!

Room with a View

Your room itself may be an important factor regarding who your dog likes to sleep with. Some dogs prefer sleeping in a bed where they can see out the window. They are better able to keep an eye on things if they hear noises at night. On the other hand. some dogs sleep better with the blinds closed.

In the case of my two dogs, they hear every little noise and if the blinds are open, they also seem to notice any movement outside in the yard. So, I will usually keep the blinds closed and the windows shut when the cats and raccoons are running around at night. Ironically, they sometimes will wander off into another room that has an open window and blinds. On those nights, none of us sleep well when they begin to howl at various critters in our yard.

Safety and Protection

For most dogs, feeling safe and protected is probably the most important part of where and whom they sleep with. Dogs are pack animals and they find safety in numbers and by curling up together at night. I often find myself penned in with one dog laying on top of my feet and the other on top of my covers at the head of the bed.

Even when we start out with both dogs sleeping in their very expensive Best Friends Beds by Sheri (see at Chewy), they always end up sleeping next to or on top of me at some point in the night. Be sure to see my humorous post, the Argument–Sleeping in the Doggie Bed or Mom’s Bed regarding my attempt to get them to sleep (to no avail) in their own bed.