Dogs are lovable creatures. They love us and we love them. Some dog owners love their pets so much that they’ll happily let their dog join them in their nice, cosy bed or sleep somewhere in their bedroom. The dog will never say no. Dogs are pack-minded by nature and they enjoy the closeness, but is it okay to let your dog sleep in your room?
The benefits of sleeping with your dog
It’s nice to have our pets around us, but here are some real benefits of sleeping with your dog in your bedroom:
If you’re suffering from insomnia, you might also experience some level of stress, anxiety or depression. Pets generate a sense of calm and relief. They help us counteract unnerving thoughts. Their presence is reassuring and can reduce stress. Their warmth and rhythmic breathing when they’re lying next to us can have a very soothing effect.
We feel more vulnerable when we sleep. Having a dog in the room while we sleep offers us that greater sense of protection and can help us to feel safer physically and emotionally. If you feel safer with someone else sleeping in the bed and your partner is away, your pet is a good substitute. It can also offer you some comfort if you live alone.
Bonding with your dog
Our pets like to be near us. It makes them happy and just like sharing the bed with a partner brings us closer together, sharing the bed with your dog will help you to bond with it. If you work a standard schedule, your dog is likely to spend a lot of time alone and sharing the bed with them can compensate.
The cons of sleeping with your dog
Of course, sleeping with your dog or other pets in the bedroom has its cons, too:
Pets can disturb you while you’re sleeping. You may not feel a smaller dog shifting around in the bed, but you’ll certainly notice a larger dog moving about. You’ll especially notice if you don’t have a mattress with good isolation because when the dog moves, so will you! Dogs dream, just like humans do, and they kick their legs and move around in their sleep while they do it. Dogs are also bed hoggers!
Can disrupt relationships
Of course, physical touch and intimacy are part of maintaining the connection between a couple, but letting your dog sleep in the bed can interfere with this. Ideally, the dog shouldn’t be sleeping between you and your partner. This creates more physical distance between you and may signal to the animal (from their perspective) that they’re in charge. They understand they can sleep wherever they want and could become dominant. If you’re going to let a dog sleep in the bed, make it sleep at the bottom of the bed or on the side of one person.
They can aggravate allergies
Every time you take your dog out for a walk, it will come back with allergens of some kind on its fur. They could be dust. They could be pollen. Then the dog comes into your bedroom and spreads them all over the bed, which can trigger any allergies and is also bad news if you have asthma. Since the allergens can transfer from a pet’s fur to other surfaces, it’s best to keep them not only off your bed, but also out of your room.
Accidents on the bed
Cleaning a pet’s mess of your bed is no fun. You’ll have to steam clean your mattress. It’s not as easy to wash regular bedding in a washing machine as it is to wash a dog bed cover in one. The chances are the mess will have leaked through onto the mattress, unless you’ve covered your bed with a rubber sheet. Yuk!
It could make you ill
Dogs and cats lick their wounds. They can also carry fleas. They could transmit infections if they lick your face or other areas of your body. Be careful about having your dog or other pets on your bed and take them to a vet regularly for check-ups. Be aware that symptoms of plague are more difficult for vets to spot in dogs than in cats, whose symptoms are closer to human ones.
People who should avoid sleeping with their pets
There are some circumstances in which you should definitely avoid sleeping with your dog or other pets. You shouldn’t sleep with them if:
- You’re sick or have a health condition that compromises your immune system. If you have a weaker immune system, you run a greater risk of picking up germs or infections from your pets. Pets can sense when you’re ill and, in their own way, will try to make you better. Dogs, for instance, will lick snot away from your face if you have a sinus infection. This can spread the infection all over your face.
- Babies or toddlers. Babies and toddlers are at more risk from any germs or infections that a pet might be carrying. A dog could also smother them, which could prevent them from breathing, or crush them.
- Young children. The children may want to sleep with the dog by their side, but pets may bite a child that disturbs them while they’re sleeping. This is especially the case if the dog is having a nightmare. For this reason, it’s best not to let small children sleep with dogs by their side.
Letting your dog sleep in your bed may trigger dominance and/or aggression in the dog. They could start to see your bed as their own territory and growl at you if you or your partner comes towards the bed. You need to recognise this and address it.
Is your dog aggressive or dominant already?
The first thing you should do is assess your dog’s behaviour. Does your dog show any signs of aggression or dominance already? You could be making the problem worse by letting them share your bed.
Some dogs are naturally affectionate breeds and will sit on your lap because they want to bond with you. It’s not necessarily a sign of dominance, but some dogs will feel more in control when they do it. Take notice if they start to growl at other dogs (if you have more than one) while sitting on your lap. This may happen once, but if it continues to happen it’s a sign your dog is trying to assert itself.
How obedient is your dog?
Does it sit, lie down, heel etc when you tell it to? Whether your dog does or not is a sign that the animal is more likely to understand there should be a cooperation between them and the owner, not a relationship in which the dog is the boss. It’s just an indication, though. You’re under no obligation to let your dog sleep on the bed with you.
Dealing with dominance
If your dog is being dominant, take them to an animal behaviour specialist and, in the meantime, avoid letting your dog share your bed, if you can. Avoid removing them physically. Dominance can trigger aggressive behaviour from your pet. If you find your dog on your bed, lure them off with a treat. Then limit their access to the bed by closing doors or placing up gates.
In general, try to avoid situations that could lead to aggressive behaviour from your dog, such as rough play. Take a ‘nothing in life is free’ approach and reward the dog for obeying your commands. Work on any new commands for about two to three weeks. If the dog still isn’t responding, take them to an animal behaviour specialist, which if your dog is being dominant, you should do anyway.
How to sleep with your dog
Perhaps you’ve decided you want your dog to stay in your bedroom. That’s up to you, but there are a few tips you should follow:
Set some boundaries
If you’ve decided you don’t want your dog sleeping in your bed, set some boundaries. Buy the dog a comfortable basket in which it can sleep or train it to sleep at the foot of the bed. Establish a separate area if you don’t want it to be in the room at night.
Teach your dog manners
Some dogs are pushy. They jump up onto the bed without an invitation. Train your dog to wait until you’ve invited them onto the bed, if you’re going to have them sleep in your bed with you. We teach dogs to sit and wait to eat and not to go rushing out of the door before we take them for a walk. The same should apply to the bed.
Keep toys out of the bedroom
If you’ve trained your dog well and it follows commands such as ‘drop’ and ‘leave’, it’s a little less of a problem to have toys in the bedroom. If your dog is playful and simply won’t take any notice of your commands, however, clear the toys from your room at night. You won’t get any sleep if the dog decides to play in the middle of the night.
Don’t let your dog sleep under the covers
A lot of small dogs, such as terriers, like to burrow under the covers. Sometimes they’re just looking for extra warmth, but, often, they get a feeling of safety and security under the covers. Don’t let your dog under the covers, however. They could have dirt or faeces on their paws.
Wait until the dog has fully grown
You don’t know how big your dog is going to get, so wait until the dog has fully grown before you let it sleep on your bed. Puppies are cute and adorable, but they grow, of course, and once a dog has gotten used to sleeping in your bed, it’s hard (but not impossible) to train them to stop sleeping in it.
How to get your dog to sleep in their own bed
If you’ve decided not to share your bed with your dog, you should train it to sleep in a bed of its own. Here’s how:
- Buy your dog a suitable bed. Watch how your dog sleeps so you can buy the right bed for it. A large, rectangular bed will be suitable for a dog that likes to stretch a lot, whereas an oval one could be better if your dog likes to curl up a lot. Measure the dog’s size from its nose to the tip of its tail and then add on 6 to 12 inches (15.2 to 30.5 centimetres) so that the dog has plenty of room to move.
- Choose a suitable space for your dog to sleep. If you’ve noticed that your dog likes to sleep in a spot other than your bed(room), put the bed there. The dog needs to be comfortable, so make sure the spot is shaded but doesn’t place the dog in a draught. You can place one of the dog’s favourite toys on there to encourage them to start using it.
- Play with your dog or walk them before bedtime. If your dog is a little tired, they’ll be less likely to fight against you when it comes to putting them to bed. Don’t absolutely exhaust them, but you can take them out for a walk or play with them so they feel a little bit tired before they settle down for the night. When you come back in, guide them to their bed before you take the lead off.
- Teach your dog to obey some commands. Simple commands such as ‘Go to your bed’ should be enough. The process will take time, but you can use treats so that your dog associates their bed with a positive experience. You’ll have to say ‘no’ if they try to climb into your bed, which you’ll likely have to do numerous times. Just stay calm, ask your dog to go back to their bed and reward them with a treat if they do.
- Place your dog on the floor if they climb onto your bed. As mentioned, order your dog back to the bed if they climb onto your bed. Don’t, however, pick them up off your bed and carry them to theirs. Simply lift them off the bed and pop them on the floor. You don’t want them to associate their bed with a negative experience. Avoid punishing your dog or yelling at it if they don’t obey you or if they start whining.
Dogs are truly lovable animals and it’s up to you whether you let them sleep in bed or not. Pets can provide a lot of comfort, but they could also cause you some problems. You have to decide what’s important to you and consider your circumstances, which may make it better to just keep the dog or other pets at a distance while you get that much-needed rest at night.