Well, with your dogs, that is.
Once I begin to lament about my frustrations, I am sure I will hear a collective sigh ring out and I know it will be a well-warranted sigh, but I am afraid it will fall on deaf ears. You see, I let my dogs, Sushi, a Maltipoo, and Samson, a Malshi, sleep with me and my husband. I know, I know, we should put them in a crate or their own bed, but that just isn’t who we are. We like all snuggling up in bed together at the end of the day. My frustration is that my dogs always want to sleep at or on my feet! It drives me crazy! I can’t stretch out and get comfortable, which means I can’t enjoy my restful repose.
Why do they do this??? As soon as I move, they move. Neither of us is getting good sleep. You would think they would tire of constantly being awakened by me! One morning, as I drowsily sipped coffee, I decided I would get to the bottom of this conundrum. I decided to do some research and when I found out why my sweet pups did this, I really felt bad for getting mad at Sushi and Samson. They actually have the sweetest reason for sleeping at my feet.
Dogs are pack animals. They instinctively stick close to their loved ones to feel safe. This allows them to relax and sleep well. Even more endearing is the fact that they also sleep at their owner’s feet because they are protecting you and showing other animals that you belong to them. So all the while, I was getting frustrated with my babies for messing with my sleep, but they were doing this out of love and protection for me.
In a pack, there is always an Alpha, the leader of that pack. To your dog, you are the Alpha. Once you get comfortable, they will get comfortable around you. This is part of their DNA. They are domesticated creatures, but these behaviors will always come out whether or not they have been in the wild.
As you know, sleeping is a vulnerable position to be in. The same goes for dogs. Sleeping with their Alpha allows them to know they are safe and protected and that they can keep you safe and protected, too. It is a pack instinct!
How can I still love my dogs but get the sleep I need? I learned I cannot praise my dogs for sleeping at my feet in any way. I can’t pet them or allow them to continue the behavior because it will make them feel as if the behavior is ok. I know, not rocket science, but sometimes I need to be reminded of these things. When my dogs lay beside me, instead of on my feet, I verbally praise them and give them a little pat of encouragement.
There is no evidence that you should be concerned about your dog trying to sleep at your feet. This is a natural, instinctual behavior. The only time you should be concerned is if the behavior seems to be out of discomfort or a need for soothing on the dog’s part. If other behaviors like aggressiveness, whining, or others that signal a problem accompany the behavior, you may want to look into what is stressing your dog.