Of all the cute and cuddly things that dogs do (and a lot of their behavior is most definitely cute and/or cuddly), puppy piles have to be near the top of the list.
What is a puppy pile, you might be wondering? It's the truly adorable phenomenon of puppies sleeping together in big, heaping, snuggling piles of cuteness. If you've ever wondered why puppies sleep in big jumbles of aww (or if you hadn't wondered that before, but now, thanks to the power of suggestion, you are), you're in luck because we're breaking it down. Keep reading for everything you ever wanted to know about why puppies sleep in piles.
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Why do puppies sleep in piles?
For little puppies (think little — like too young to be separate from their mom), sleeping in piles is actually a practical matter that serves a few important functions for them.
First and foremost, puppies sleep in piles because they need to for actual survival. When dogs are born, their resting body temperature is anywhere between 95°F and 99°F, with the average coming in at around 97°F. That might sound just fine by human standards, but for dogs, it's actually pretty low. By the time puppies are about three weeks old, they reach their normal temperature of about 101°F. Before this, however, they're at risk of becoming chilled and potentially developing fading puppy syndrome.
While breeders use things like heat lamps and heating pads to help keep young pups warm, sleeping in puppy piles is one of their natural instincts to avoid becoming chilled. That big beautiful pile of wrinkly, soft puppy skin is also a ball of warmth and a safeguard against the elements (especially for dogs born in the wild).
Speaking of being in the wild, the other primary purpose pile sleeping serves for puppies is security. As puppies, these dogs have just gone from sharing a safe, little womb together to being out in the big, bad, scary world. Sleeping in a pile helps recreate the sensation of being together in the womb and makes the mini-doggos feel safe and secure.
Finally, sleeping in piles helps puppies achieve one more of their basic needs: Socialization. Dogs, as we all know, are social creatures and just being all up in each other's physical space—even if they're totally unconscious—can help fulfill that need for a young puppy. This is also why your dog likes to slam against you to sleep. It's all part of achieving that feeling of togetherness that dogs constantly crave.
Do adult dogs ever sleep in piles?
While adult dogs don't generally form literal, physical piles the way young puppies do, they do still retain some of the instincts and needs that drive their younger counterparts to engage in the behavior and many will sleep in groups if given the chance.
Dogs are pack animals, which means that they have evolved to work together as a team. In the wild, dogs (and their close cousins, wolves) hunt together, eat together, travel together, and, yes, sleep together. Wild dogs often sleep close to each other in dens for many of the same reasons puppies sleep in piles. It helps keep them warm if the elements aren't on their side and, more importantly, provides a sense of safety and security. After all, there is power in numbers, as they say.
Why do dogs sleep curled up?
If you have a dog who is an only furbaby in his forever home, how can he possibly replicate the safe warm fuzzies of group sleeping (you know, if you're not willing to share your bed with him, that is)? Solo dogs will frequently sleep curled up to achieve some of the same effects that groups of dogs get from sleeping in piles or big groups.
By curling up to sleep, your dog does a few important things. First, he conserves his own body heat by forming himself into a dense little coil of dog warmth. Second, he gives himself some peace of mind that he's protected. Even though he won't have several of his best buds to back him up if danger strikes while he's snoozing, sleeping curled up protects his most vulnerable parts (like his soft, fuzzy little belly), making him feel less vulnerable overall.
Even the weirdest things dogs do tend to make sense when you dig into the science behind them, and puppy piles are no exception. Turns out, this adorable little habit is actually pivotal in keeping puppies warm, making them feel safe and secure, and helping them bond and socialize with their litter mates at a young age.