Ahh, time to relax and watch a movie after a long day at work. You sit down on the couch while your pup enthusiastically comes to join you — and promptly turns around and sticks his bum in your face.
Your first reaction might be to give him an absent-minded scratch while you turn the TV on. But then your next thought might be, why does he do this? Is there some reason that dogs seem to enjoy sleeping with their bums facing their owners?
Let’s find out!
Bum’s the Word: And Why Is it in My Face?
It's a common behavior for dogs to sleep with their bums pointed toward the people they love. Whether snuggled up on the couch watching TV or if they’ve been invited into your bed, they will curl up next to you or lay on their side with their bum pointed in your direction.
Is it a snub? Are they putting themselves in the prime position for passing gas and watching the mayhem that ensues? (We wouldn’t put it past some scheming pups! They sure look like they’re laughing when you react to their stinky display of bad manners.)
Well, that might be a reason, but probably not. There are a few more practical reasons that dogs sleep with their bums pointed toward their owners — and none of them have to do with playing jokes on you.
1. Love and Trust
As part of their instinctual behavior, dogs will position themselves defensively when they lay down. By placing his back toward you, your dog is demonstrating that he loves and trusts you.
He doesn’t expect any threats to be coming from you and feels comfortable with his back toward you. In other words, he knows you’ve got his back if need be!
Another reason might be that your dog is putting himself in a prime position to protect you. If any threats come for you, he’s ready to leap to his feet and face them on your behalf.
Your dog may also be displaying his submission to you. He has accepted that you are the leader of the pack and is respectfully facing away from you. Remember, eye contact is a sign of dominance for dogs and it tends to make them uncomfortable unless they’ve been socialized to accept it.
This often happens with shelter dogs or other dogs who have trust issues. If it seems that your dog is sleeping in this position to avoid you, it’s a good idea to spend some time lavishing your pup with affection. He may need some more positive interaction to reduce anxiety.
4. Looking for Affection
Did you know a dog’s bum is peppered with nerve endings? That’s why they seem to like it so much when you scratch or rub their bum.
When you’re watching TV, your hands are free for gently scratching your dog’s bum. He is quite aware of this and is putting himself conveniently in reach for you to show him affection.
5. Scent Marking
Do you know why dogs often sniff each other’s bums as a way of greeting? They have scent glands back there under their tails that are unique to every dog.
Sometimes dogs will place their bums toward you because they’re marking you with their unique scent. Walking around with their scent on you lets other dogs know that you are part of your dog’s pack. It might seem a little gross to us but really isn’t a big deal overall.
6. Don’t Like Frontal Contact
Dogs aren’t really wired for face-to-face contact. As you’ll notice, most dogs will avoid it — unless they’ve been well-socialized from a young age.
So the idea of facing toward you while they lay with you is a little odd to them. It’s a much more comfortable position for them to face away instead.
7. There’s a Problem
Unfortunately, not all the reasons a dog lays in this position are positive. If your dog is having a problem with his bum, he’ll put it toward you in an attempt to show you.
A common cause is flea infestations, which will often be accompanied by a foul smell and excessive licking on your dog’s part. Another cause might be tapeworms or other intestinal parasites, symptoms of which can be diarrhea and a bloated stomach.
In general, if you notice that your dog seems uncomfortable and is scratching or licking at his back end a lot, it’s time for a trip to the vet.
Is This Normal Behavior for Dogs?
Ask any of your dog-owning friends and you’ll generally find a resounding yes. Their dogs often sleep with their bums faced toward them as well. So you can rest assured that it isn’t some weird outlying behavior your dog picked up somewhere.
And, after reading through the reasons, you can see that most of the time it isn’t anything to worry about. It just means that your pup loves and trusts you!
But what if this behavior becomes excessive or overly intrusive? For example, if your dog starts getting into bed or sitting on top of you. Then it might be time to establish some boundaries so that both of you feel comfortable and respected.
Setting up clear rules around where your pup can sleep in relation to you can help him understand what behaviors are expected when spending time together.
Is This Bad for My Dog?
Sleeping in this position isn’t bad for your dog — as long as you’ve determined the reason is one of the positive ones on our list.
If your dog sleeps this way out of anxiety, it would be good for you to spend some time helping him to feel more comfortable with you. And, of course, if your dog is suffering from parasites or other problems, a trip to the vet is in order.
For your sake, you may also want to make sure your dog is clean in that area. Most dogs take care of their own hygiene in that respect, but some dogs (especially long-haired ones) could use a helping hand. Having a bum in your face is bad enough without it being a dirty one!
How Can I Stop This Behavior?
Even though it’s not a bad thing, you may not be too delighted with your dog’s bum in your face all the time. In human terms, it isn’t really the most endearing thing to do. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to stop the behavior.
First, it’s important to establish clear boundaries around where your pup can sleep in relation to you. Set up some rules and consistently enforce them – this will help him understand what behaviors are expected when spending time together.
Second, try to provide plenty of alternative comfortable places for your pup to rest such as beds or rugs further away from yours. Dogs spend about 12-14 hours a day sleeping, so investing in a comfortable dog bed for him will be greatly appreciated.
Finally, reward any positive changes in behavior with treats or verbal praise! With consistency and patience, your pup should soon learn what is expected of them when it comes to sleeping arrangements.
Overall, it is completely normal for dogs to sleep with their bums facing toward you. This behavior does not pose any danger or harm to the dog (unless he’s trying to alert you to a problem).
If it makes you uncomfortable, you can gently train him to stop sleeping in this position. Otherwise, just snuggle up and enjoy spending time cuddling with your pup!