Dogs have a lot of quirks, some lovable and others questionable. But if you find yourself with a pup that insists on laying on your face when you lay down, I can assure you that Fido isn’t trying to smother you!
There are various reasons why dogs love to lay on their owner’s faces, none of which include causing an untimely death (so you can try to breathe easy with all that fur in your nose!).
Some dogs frequently lay on or near their owner’s head for comfort and warmth, feeling soothed by the breathing, wanting to take the pillow, entitlement or dominance, overprotective behavior, or separation anxiety. In addition, new puppies will frequently rush to lay by their owner’s face as a way to transition into their new home.
In this article, we will figure out just why your dog insists on laying on your face when you lay down.
It’s a fact that dogs, even canines as a species, absolutely love warmth. From basking in the sun to cuddling up in blankets, if it’s warm, they’ll be attracted.
Much of your heat actually radiates through your head, so all of these factors combined help the behavior make complete sense!
The warmth paired with love for you can make this unique spot on your body one that brings your pup much comfort.
Being close to us is something dogs absolutely love, and what closer spot than your very own face? As pack animals, pups want the constant reassurance and affection of the pack members.
When you lay down, such as on your bed to rest, this grants your dog excellent access to one of the warmest spots on your body. Many pet owners find this behavior adorable and snuggly, so they may even wittingly (or unwittingly) encourage it!
Dependent upon your reaction to your dog plopping on your face, this act can be interpreted as a fun game or comforting choice. Once your dog is consistently positively reinforced, the behavior becomes a habit.
Puppy owners will likely be familiar with the face snuggle behavior! However, when bringing a new puppy home, you must remember that everything is a big culture shock to your little fuzzy one. One day, your baby was playing with their siblings and mother, the next day, they’re being driven into your home!
When interacting with their siblings and mom, huddling and licking the face was likely common. As was laying on various body parts and being very close up. To bond and feel more comforted with you, your young puppy may look to do the same thing in their new home.
The sound of your breathing may also be soothing and comforting for a young puppy. Puppies find this a comfort in their own mothers, and it’s familiar and relaxing. Being as close to your face as possible allows them to feel and hear your breathing best.
Believe it or not, dogs are masters at figuring out how to get what they want. Some dogs may try to lay on your face because they want the pillow under your head!
Dogs observe your behavior like a hawk and seeing you constantly use your pillow makes that object seem very important (on top of the fact that most dogs understand that pillows are comfortable). As such, your pup may be eager to experience the comfort and joy they see you have when your head plops on to that magic pillow!
Dogs are known to be enthused with human bedding, whether it be because they enjoy your scent or love to lick up your sweat.
However, if they can’t get to your pillow from the side or the top of your head, they might just decide to lay on your face until you move out of the way. This isn’t very nice behavior, so be sure to correct it when it happens.
A strong bond can come with unintended side effects - such as overprotective behavior or jealousy!
In a wolf pack, each member of the pack looks out for one another. Also, in a wolf pack, each member forms a solid familial bond with the other. As such, the same can ring true at home with your four-legged best friend.
When your pup forms that attachment to you, they may be inclined to be protective over you. Laying on your face (which a dog doesn’t associate with limiting your breathing!) can be a way for your dog to protect you against whatever your pup perceives as a threat.
Much like toddlers, dogs look to their beloved people with such affection and admiration that some pups begin to feel jealousy if they feel like their human is being swayed by something else.
A study in 2014 shows that dogs do, indeed, feel jealousy as an emotion. By placing their entire body on you, particularly your face, your dog can express possessiveness or show to whatever or whoever is taking your attention away that you belong to your dog.
Although some may find this behavior flattering, it isn’t very good for your dog to be that controlling over you - so it’s best not to reinforce this behavior.
Spoiling our dogs comes naturally to us, and it’s not a bad thing!
But spoiling your dog too much can cause your pup to lack boundaries, thus manifesting into entitled or dominant behavior. These behaviors are not mutually exclusive and are quite different but stem from the same root: not setting rules.
In some cases, by laying on your face, your dog expresses their dominance over you or their entitlement to your space and attention.
Dominant behavior in dogs includes marking you with their scent and trying to take your spot. Entitled behavior appears very similar but maybe less pressured. Both happen because you haven’t set the boundary to tell your dog that this is not okay.
That is why (as much as it may feel ‘mean’ or difficult) you need to set the ground rules for your dog to live in your home. One such rule can be not smothering your face!
Finally, dogs being clingy, constantly placing themselves on you, or needing to be squished as close as possible to your body as if they want to merge into you can be signs of separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety is a behavioral problem in which your pup begins to feel anxious upon your leaving and being left alone.
If your pup becomes a velcro dog, one that is attached to your hip upon realizing that you are about to leave home, your dog may have separation anxiety.
Paired with other characteristics of anxious behavior (such as drooling, destruction of your home, pacing, and refusal to eat or drink), if your dog tries to lay on your face because they believe you’re about to leave them alone, it’s likely due to anxiety.
Separation anxiety is treatable with training, so be sure to seek out a professional dog trainer to help quell this behavior!