You get ready for bed at night, you finally crawl in, and your dog suddenly decides they HAVE to be in bed with you. There’s no room, but they don’t care whether you’re comfortable or not. All they want to do is snuggle. Or, maybe you want your dog in bed with you, but they refuse, stubbornly remaining on the floor. Why do some dogs jump on the bed and others won’t? What is it about their owner’s beds some dogs find irresistible and others avoid? Is it bad to let your dog sleep with you? Is it too late to change your dog’s bad bed habits?
The Root of the Behavior
According to a study conducted by the American Kennel Club, 45 percent of dog owners allow their dog to sleep on their bed. Twenty percent say their dog sleeps in a crate, and 17 percent of pets sleep on a dog bed. The remaining percentage sleep elsewhere indoors or in an outside shelter. Why do so many pet owners allow their dog into their bed? For most people, snuggling beside their fur children is comforting (and warm!) Psychology Today states that sleeping with dogs is both historically and anthropologically common. Many historical figures, including Egyptian pharaoh Ramses the Great, Alexander the Great, Queen Victoria, and many others were known to sleep with their dogs.
Dogs who naturally gravitate toward sleeping in their owners beds may begin the habit as a leftover of puppy behaviors, and continue out of habit, even when they’ve vastly exceeded their puppy size. As is the case with many undesirable pet behaviors, if you don’t want your dog sleeping in your bed, the best solution is prevention. Keeping Fido’s bed habits consistent will lead to a happier owner and dog. Is there any harm in allowing your dog into your bed? Possibly. Allowing your dog into your bed could lead to other behavioral problems down the road, including disobedience, acting out, and becoming overly possessive. If you establish that your bed is also your dog’s space, you may impact your dog’s perception of the household hierarchy. Physical height and dominance go hand in hand. If your dog sleeps on the floor, this signifies to your dog that you’re the one who’s in charge. Sharing space on the bed can blur that line, which may lead to Fido acting out, believing he’s the one who’s in control, and not you. Another consideration for bed-hog dogs: if you allow your dog into your bed, you’re also inviting their hair and dander, which can irritate allergies and asthma, and also potential pests, including fleas, ticks, and even bacteria or parasites. Some illnesses or bugs can be carried from your dog’s paws, body, and mouth into your sheets, and into you (Ick!).
Encouraging the Behavior
So, what to do with the pup on your pillow? It’s entirely up to you. Many owners share a bed with Fido, and for some, it’s an essential part of having a dog. For others, maintaining boundaries is what keeps the owner-pet relationship steady. So, before you decide to let your dog up to snuggle at night, you should consider the risks and rewards. Do you have a partner? What are his or her thoughts on having the dog on the bed? Some couples find that their disagreement about sharing the bed with Fido can create tension in the relationship. Not everyone appreciates having the dog take up all the bed space. Are you prepared to deal with the realities of sharing a bed with the dog? Most dogs will move around at night, and may even get down to get a drink and return. Some dogs kick or bark in their sleep, which may disrupt your rest. And unless you keep your dog very clean all the time, or are prepared to change your sheets often, you may also find your bed becomes a haven for fur and dog smell. And during the winter, this means wet dog smell too, and maybe even mud.
Other Solutions and Considerations
If you have a co-sleeping pup, and are wondering how to eliminate the routine, it is possible. Consistency is key. This means not allowing your dog on your bed at all, even during the day, as it sets a precedent that it’s okay to be up there. Also, create a space for your pet that is comfortable and their own. Give your dog a few toys, and use treats to reward them when they do use their own bed. Always be consistent. It’s easy to give in when your dog jumps into your bed at 3 am., but keep reinforcing that your bed is your space, and you will eventually get into a new, more comfortable routine.
Whether or not you decide to prevent or allow your dog into your bed, carefully consider what’s best for you and your household. Consider all the factors, including your dog’s size, age, the size of your bed, your partner’s feelings, and the upkeep required to keep both your dog and your bed clean. For some, the minor inconveniences are outweighed by the benefits: a warm bed, a wagging tail, and a happy slurp at the start of the day.