Dog and human relationships are evolving. Instead of referring to themselves as “dog owners” people increasingly consider themselves “pet parents.” Traditional boundaries are shifting. One of those changes? More and more folks let their dogs sleep in bed beside them.
“62% of small dogs, 41% of medium-sized dogs and 32% of large dogs sleep with their owners.” – American Pet Products AssociationAdvertising
So, is letting your dog into your bed a good idea? What’s the best way to go about it? A 21st century pet parent should consider the risks involved, from basic cleanliness to romance problems.
Why We Love Sharing Sleep with Dogs
Not only are you having a sleepover with your best friend every night, they’re like a hot water bottle that never cools: perfect for a cold winter night. Those are just two of the enjoyable benefits of your dog sleeping in the bed. The trend is certainly catching on. The AKC cites statistics of where dogs sleep these days:
- In a crate: 20%
- Outside their shelter: 4%
- In a dog bed: 17%
- Various places indoors: 14%
- In their owner’s bed: 45%
“Your dog should be able to stay on the floor while you’re in bed for at least 10 minutes, and then you should be able to invite your dog up on your terms,” – Steve Brooks, Everyday Health
A protective dog also adds a sense of safety. Their proximity can create a real or perceived sense of security when it comes to intruders or unexpected problems in the night. Some dog owners report that the rhythmic breathing of their dog also serves as a sleep agent that helps calm them and whisk them off to dreamland.
Your Dog: Sleep and Obedience Issues
Your dog might be restless and wake you up, sure. But also, you might disturb your dog’s sleep. Your movements—rolling over, tossing and turning—during the night may wake the dog as well, and could be linked to their irritability and other temperament issues.
Additionally, there are obedience and aggressiveness issues to consider. As pack animals, dogs will view the bed as a very special place. Being invited up on the bed and sleeping side by side may build trust, but it also levels the playing field. Once the dog decides the bed belongs to them, they may feel like they’re the ones allowing you on it.
This is why several pet experts suggest that allowing your dog in the bed be a special invitation, not expectation.
“You don’t want to find yourself on the edge of the bed or being pushed off the bed by your dog in the middle of the night. It then becomes the dog’s bed, not yours.” – Steve Brooks
Effects on Your Health: Sleep and Allergies
A study by the Mayo Clinic revealed over 50% of those struggling with sleep issues had pets in the bed! Be sure to prioritize your sleep, which is linked to good overall health. If your dog is disturbing it, that’s problematic.
Allergies are another consideration. Many pet parents put up with mild allergies, ranging from pet dander to other environmental factors dogs bring into the home. While this might not be an issue throughout the day, time to “detox” during the night—breathing easy without the proximity of those allergens—may be vital to long term health. In these cases, some recommend that your bedroom be completely pet-free.
Also, transferrable pet-to-person illnesses are a consideration. Dr. Bruno Chomel and others point out that from the obvious to the rare, these may include,
- Fleas and ticks
- Chagas disease
“Our conclusion was, we strongly do not recommend this practice for those with young children, or people who are immunocompromised: elderly people, and so on.” – Dr. Bruno Chomel
Dogs in Bed: Effects on Your Human Relationships
Naturally, a human partner may have the above concerns about sleep, health, and more…or they simply might not be comfortable having a third party in a sleeping space they see as reserved for human intimacy and bonding.
“…animals sleeping in the bed is the biggest issue among couples.” – Dr. Joel Gavriele-Gold, via ABC News
Dog lovers know that a canine companion can be a relationship builder. Couples have even met at dog parks and bonded over playtime with buddies. However, letting the dog in the bed could create issues. Psychotherapist and couples’ counseling specialist Donna Pall states that “dogs can become an impediment to, and a substitution for, intimacy, and frequently incite jealousy among couples.”
For a new relationship, she points out that letting the dog in the bed communicates that they’re your primary focus, and not your partner.
Even if a couple can juggle sleep, intimacy, etc. with a dog allowed on the bed, a key issue is not letting your dog come between you. Literally.
The Bottom Line
Sharing a bed with your dog comes down to personal preference. If it’s working for you and your partner, then great!
The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional veterinary help.