I’ve let my pets sleep on my bed with me for as long as I can remember. In fact, when I think back on my fondest childhood memories, the ones that I treasure most are the ones in which my dog would run downstairs to wake me up in the morning, sniffing my face and licking my ears, only to wind up falling asleep, himself, at the foot of my bed.
How can you have a bad day after waking up to that?
Now, while letting your dog sleep on your bed with you is great for cuddling and spending time with your pet, depending on the breed and temperament of your dog, this may not always be the best idea.
Furthermore, because dogs are creatures of routine, giving them permission to sleep on your bed even once give him the impression that he’s always allowed to do so.
In this article, we’ll explore some things to consider before letting your dog share the bed with you, as well as some pros and cons of doing so.
And naturally, the first question you’ll need to ask yourself is “should my dog be on my bed with me in the first place?”
Should your dog be on your bed in the first place?
Not every dog is mentally, physically, and emotionally ready to share your bed. So before you give him the green light to hop on up, it’s important to first make sure he’s a good fit.
Here are some questions to ask yourself before letting him into your bedroom:
Is your dog territorial?
Dogs can be extremely territorial when it comes to food, and bedding. In a dog’s mind, if he beats you to the bed, it’s his because he got there first. And if he thinks your bed is his, then you’re going to have a problem on your hands come bedtime.
Aggressive, territorial dogs seek to “own” territory in your house, particularly bedding. Your dog will let you know this he thinks your bed is his by first letting out a warning growl as you approach, then a bark, and if you still haven’t left his space, a bite.If your dog is growling when you come near your bed (or anywhere for that matter) then you need to act immediately to curb this behavior, especially if you have children.
Many dogs can be temporarily snapped out of their aggressive trance by redirecting their thought process with an order or a distraction.
Telling them in a stern voice “No!” and then following it up with a command to “come!”, or distracting him by showing him a dog treat, and then throwing it down the hallway away from the bed.
When he runs to grab it, reclaim your bed, and deny him further access to your bedroom.
However, because you don’t want to reinforce your dog’s bad behavior with a treat, using food as a distraction should only be used as a last resort.
If your dog is becoming aggressive and territorial, then you should enroll him in a professional disciplinary course as soon as possible. The American Kennel Club hosts them regularly and at a decent rate, so if your dog needs to go to “obedience school”, then check out your community pages for a list of AKC training dates/locations.
How’s your dogs hygiene?
your dog been brushed lately? Does he slobber? Has he been rolling around in the dirt? When was the last time he’s had a bath?
These are important questions to ask before letting your dog share the bed with you.
Clean sheets are essential for those with allergies and asthma, as well as those with sensitive skin, as a dirty, begrimed pillowcase can antagonize acne.
If your dog is an outside dog or is not regularly bathed, then fur, dander, and all other dirty detritus are going to end up in your bed with you, making it uncomfortable for the healthy sleeper, and unbearable for those suffering from allergies, asthma and acne. Even sleeping on a hypoallergenic pillow won’t save you.
And let’s not forget about the risk of fleas and ticks…
Regardless of your dogs hygiene, if you are going to sleep with your dog then you will have to wash your sheets, change your pillow covers and clean your mattress more regularly than if you slept alone.
Regardless of how well you maintain your pillows and bedding, if you sleep with your dog, it will likely need to be replaced much sooner than if you keep your pooch out of the bed.
Is your dog restless?
Dogs like to think they’re the sheriff of the house, ever vigilant of real and imagined threats. Shadows, sounds, and the void itself- nothing gets past your pooch without first receiving a tentative sniff or muffled “woof”.
Certainly not at night.
Many dogs feel compelled to patrol the perimeter of the house on steady intervals or at the slightest auditory provocation, coming and going multiple times in the night and disrupting your sleep in the process.
But even if your dog sleeps like a log, you’re not out of the woods yet.
One of the things that makes dogs so adorable is the fact that they’re active dreamers. When they sleep, their little paws twitch and dance, their cheeks puff and deflate like whiskered balloons, and they may even let out full-blown barks. All this in response to the theater of their subconscious.
It’s cute during the day, but not so much at 3:00a.m on a Monday.
So before you let your dog up on your bed for the first time, it’s not a bad idea to first gauge their sleep habits beforehand, as a dog with night terrors isn’t going to do a whole lot of good for the quality of your sleep.
Benefits of letting your dog sleep on your bed
Sleeping with dogs is a practically hard-wired into our genetic code, dating back as far as the days of primitive Man, when our ancestors relied on the warmth and protection of their furry friends to keep them safe throughout the night.
Oh how little has changed…
I mean, who doesn’t want to snuggle into the coat of a big, furry St. Bernard?
Well, below are some of the best reasons to do just that!
Dogs calm us down
Dogs increase our dopamine and oxytocin levels in the brain, chemicals that create feelings of love, pleasure, and trust. They also calm us, reduce our anxiety and ultimately helps us fall asleep. This is especially helpful for those of us who suffer from insomnia.
Furthermore, the importance of “touch” in the regulation and maintenance of our neurochemistry has come into the scientific spotlight in recent times due to research highlighting the necessity of physical contact in maintaining healthy brain function.
As humans, we need touch. So much so, that an otherwise healthy infant who is deprived of human touch can develop a potentially life-threatening condition called “Failure to Thrive.”1
If you live alone or just aren’t much of a people person, petting and snuggling with your dog is the next best thing to human contact as it releases those same bond/trust/feel-good chemicals inside your brain (and your dog’s too).
Dogs protect us from intruders
Being the pack animals they are, dogs are instinctively protective of their family. In fact, this aspect of “protection” is one of the reasons we domesticated dogs in the first place.
And you don’t even need a big guard dog to feel safe. Believe it or not, one of the biggest deterrents of home burglars aren’t the big German Shepherds or Bullmastiffs, but rather, the small, hyper-vigilant Yorkies and Boston Terriers who bark at the slightest inclination of a break-in.
While they won’t be able to physically overpower an intruder, small dogs are better able to prevent the intruder from ever intruding in the first place by ruining the element of surprise.
But whatever dog you choose, you can sleep comfortably at night knowing that you have an incredibly loyal bundle of fur and teeth who would sacrifice its life to protect you.
Dogs love it
According to a recent poll, nearly half of pet owners buy birthday presents for their pet, and roughly 30% cook meals for them. 2
While this figure may sound high if you’re not a dog owner, I can assure you that as a member of the dog owning community, this level of spoiling really goes on. In fact, just last
Christmas, four of my neighbors dropped off doggie treat gift baskets on my front porch for my yellow lab, Donna.
The point is, we’ll do anything to make our dogs happy. And as any dog lover can attest, the three best ways to make a pooch smile are through exercise, food, and soft bedding.
When we make our dogs happy, it makes us happy. In a roundabout way, I don’t let my dog sleep on my bed for his well-being. I do it for mine.
Disadvantages of sharing your bed with your dog
If you give a pup a pillow, then he’ll also want some blanket. And the middle section of the bed. And some room for stretching his legs…
Of course, letting your dog sleep on the bed isn’t always practical. If it worked for everyone, doggy beds wouldn’t exist.
Regardless of your dog’s breed and temperament, there are going to be drawbacks of letting your dog sleep on your bed with you. Here are some of the most common complaints from dog owners who share their bed:
Dirty dogs aggravate allergies
Pet dander makes allergies and asthma symptoms worse. This means that if you choose to sleep with your dog in spite of these conditions, you’ll need to build up your allergic tolerance through allergy shots. And for those with asthma, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to keep the inhaler at the ready on the nightstand, as well as regularly changing the air filter in your room.
But allergies and asthma aside, dogs are still going to shed, and depending on the amount of time they spend outdoors, are going to track in dirt and filth. This means you’ll need to wash your bedding much more frequently. This especially important for those living in wooded, rural areas where the tick population is highest.
Because if there’s one thing guaranteed to ruin a good night’s sleep, blood-sucking insects would be it.
It makes intimacy with your partner difficult
Dogs don’t really “get the hint” when you want to spend some quality romantic time alone with your partner. If your dog is used to sleeping on your bed with you and you kick him out so you can be with your significant other, then you may have to deal with your dog whining and pawing at your closed bedroom door, which is extremely annoying and totally ruins the mood.
If your dog is the needy, clingy type, it’s best to set bedroom boundaries right away when he’s a puppy, rather than try to reform his whiny ways in adulthood.
Dogs take up precious bed space
Ever heard the term “three’s a crowd”?
Depending on whether or not you’re sleeping with another person, there just might not be enough room for all of you.
And this doesn’t just extend to big dogs. Even the smallest of terriers will manage to find a way to scoot themselves right smack dab in the center of the bed. And they’re sneaky about it, too, taking great care to inch their way into the middle, never taking too much territory at once.
If you find yourself clinging to the edge of the bed in the middle of the night, you may need to consider voting ol’ rover off the island.
Alternative: Get your dog its own bed
If letting your dog sleep on your bed isn’t for you, consider buying Biscuit a doggy bed. They’re cheap, low-maintenance, and they give your dog a sense of healthy territorial ownership.
Plus dogs love them.
A friend of mine has her doggy bed alongside her own. This way she can reach down and pet her dog in the night and be near to him without having to sacrifice the cleanliness of her sheets. Nor does she have to worry about the dog waking her up by coming and going as he pleases.
And did I mention doggy beds are cheap? You can pick them for as low as $14.59. But heck, dogs don’t care. Give them an old pile of sheets and they’ll love it just the same!
Do you let your dog or cat sleep on the bed with you? How do you manage bedtime boundaries with your pet? Share your tips in the comments below!