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There’s nothing as comforting as cuddling with your dog. Many pups seem to feel the same way because they nap in our laps, sleep in our beds, and many even crawl under the blankets and sheets. But why do dogs crawl under the covers? Are they cold? Are they looking for safety? Or is it a throwback to their ancestors?

You might also wonder if it’s safe for your dog to sleep under the covers. Read on to learn more about this quirky dog behavior and whether it’s ever cause for concern.

Why Do Dogs Crawl Under the Covers?

According to certified applied animal behaviorist Mary Burch, PhD, director of the AKC Family Dog program, there are several possible reasons why dogs crawl under the covers. The first is because it could be an instinct left over from the days when early dogs may have slept in burrows. A dark, cozy spot under a blanket might mimic the feeling of a natural den. That denning instinct is also why it’s possible to teach your dog to love a crate.

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Dr. Burch says another reason dogs sleep under the covers is related to temperature. Just like we enjoy curling up in a warm blanket on a cold night, dogs seek warmth too. “Sleeping under covers could help keep a dog warm, and in colder weather, this warmth might be desirable to a flat-coated breed, such as a Whippet,” she explains.

It might also have to do with safety. Sleeping out in the open could make some dogs feel vulnerable – remember those wild ancestors — whereas sleeping under the covers makes a dog feel hidden from predators and other danger.

Yet another reason involves your dog’s early days as a young puppy. Dr. Burch explains if sleeping under the covers means your dog can get closer to you, that could be a throwback to puppyhood. That’s because when they’re in the litter, young puppies sleep with their littermates. Since puppies have companionship and safety in numbers, they may be seeking to replicate that feeling when sleeping under the covers with you. Not to mention, the bed holds your scent.

Can Crawling Under the Covers Be a Sign of Anxiety in Dogs?

Crawling under the covers can be a behavior of anxious dogs. For example, fireworks or thunderstorms can cause a great deal of stress. To find a safe place to let the perceived danger pass, some dogs hide under the bed. Others will crawl under the covers. Dr. Burch says they can essentially hide from the flashes of lightning and therefore feel secure.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel laying on the couch under a blanket.
Anna Fotyma /

She believes it may also have to do with the pressure of the blankets pressing down on their bodies, similarly to a weighted blanket. “These are thought to reduce anxiety and make the person feel calm and secure,” she says. “It could be that blankets make some dogs feel the same way.”

Do Certain Dogs Crawl Under the Covers More Often?

You might find your dog crawls under the covers more while they’re still a puppy as they’re looking to replicate the comfort of their litter. As they mature, they might grow out of the habit. An older rescue dog might crawl under the covers more when you first bring them home, as they’re yet to feel at ease in their new environment. However, many dogs sleep under blankets for their whole life.

There may be breed differences too. “Earthdogs, those breeds that go in burrows, often like to sleep under the covers. These might include terriers and breeds such as Dachshunds,” says Dr. Burch. “Some breeds, such as Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes, will sleep in the snow. When they sleep under the covers, it is thought that this is related to burrowing in the snow.”

Is Your Dog Crawling Under the Covers Ever Cause for Concern?

Many dogs crawl under the covers every night and are perfectly safe. However, there are precautions you should take. Electric blankets aren’t a good combination with bed burrowing dogs. They can potentially be harmful if the dog scratches or digs at the blanket. Dr. Burch says it can also be a problem if the covers are too heavy or the sheets are tucked too tight, and the dog can’t get out. “This can be dangerous if the owner is a sound sleeper and does not realize there is a problem,” she adds.

Belgian Malinois lying on owner's bed under the blanket.
Eudyptula /

You also need to consider your dog’s ability to breathe properly. “If you have ever put your own head under the blankets, you might have noticed that it is hard to get air, or you quickly get overheated. The same problem could happen to a dog,” she explains.

If your dog is crawling under the covers due to anxiety, it’s important to recognize their fear. Work with them to feel more comfortable with their surroundings, so they no longer feel the need to hide. Consider building your dog’s confidence and undertaking behavior modification techniques, like desensitization and counter conditioning. It can also be helpful to work with a professional dog trainer or animal behaviorist.

Can You Discourage a Dog From Crawling Under the Covers?

As long as your dog is sleeping safely under the covers, there’s no reason not to let them. But if it’s impacting your sleep, or you feel they’re at risk of overheating or getting trapped, you can train them an alternative behavior, such as sleeping on top of the covers at the foot of the bed. Dr. Burch suggests covering the area with a towel or small blanket to mark the dog’s area. But she says it might be an even better option to provide your dog with a comfy dog bed, so they feel safe and secure in their own special place.
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