For protection, closeness, and warmth - these are a few reasons your dog might be so insistent on sleeping together with you at night. But is there more to it? It is general knowledge that dogs are pack animals. Not only did their ancestors hunt together, but they also slept together at night for warmth and security. So should you be allowing your dog on the bed? After all, you have spent so much money on that fancy raised wooden dog bed. And if your dog isn’t interested in laying by your side all night, does that mean he doesn’t love you and you are not part of the herd? What is normal?
The Root of the Behavior
If you’ve ever witnessed a puppy birth or just have been around a litter of puppies, you would’ve seen that as soon as they are born it’s their instinct to find and crawl up to one another. That is because it is in their nature to sleep in a pile on top of each other and it’s when they feel most secure and comfortable - snuggled up against their littermates. No wonder they try to replicate that feeling of warmth and coziness with you. Some breeds tend to enjoy cuddles more than others. For example, Retrievers, Collies, and English Bulldogs are more cuddly and most owners don’t seem to mind it. A recent survey found that as many as 50 percent of dog owners let their dogs sleep on the bed. That is not surprising considering the dog privileges practice has been around for centuries.
Your dog wanting to sleep next to you is also a sign of affection and closeness, it means he likes your company and considers you a member of the pack. However, if your dog isn’t one to hop on the bed and snuggle with you throughout the night - don’t worry. Most likely it is because he’s getting overheated and not because he doesn’t love you or view you as the pack leader. There are some dog owners who would prefer it this way and would even argue against it. One of their arguments being hygiene - dogs spend a lot of time outside, stepping on things with their paws that you wouldn’t want to find in your bed. And what if your dog has a house training accident? Cleaning a stained mattress is not fun, neither is replacing one. They can also bring fleas, parasites or ticks to bed which could seriously impact your health. Lastly, some dogs claim the bed as their own, spreading themselves across it and potentially disrupting your sleep.
Encouraging the Behavior
However, according to the Mayo Clinic study, sleeping with your four-legged friend does not necessarily equal to hindered or worsened quality of your sleep. In fact, quite the opposite in some cases. Thanks to your cuddle buddy, you might get a better night’s sleep thanks to feeling more relaxed and safe, so don’t feel guilty about encouraging the bed privileges! Unless your furry friend is a snorer that is, and even more so when there’s more than one. Having two dogs in your bed not only guarantees less space for you, it can also cause tension between them as they could instinctually start fighting over the territory. In that case, it's best (and safest) to have neither of them sleep on the bed with you. Instead, provide two separate places by the bed where they could still feel that they are next to you and live out their protective gene. If you have a smaller dog but a bed that is higher than he can manage to hop onto and you do want your canines’ company - consider getting a small bed ladder (yes, they make these specifically for this purpose!). Unfortunately, if you have pet allergies or asthma, you shouldn’t let your dog on the bed. In fact, it’s healthier for you to have the bedroom to yourself. And don’t worry about your furry friend, they tend to find comfortable sleeping spots around the house just fine and will manage to rest well even without you by their side at night.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Whatever your sleeping preference is, make sure to be consistent. Like humans, dogs can read into things too. Being able to sleep with their owner for months and then not being allowed on the bed at all because your new partner doesn’t like the “dog smell” can not only make your dog feel really left out, but also make him resent your partner for the drastic change. Especially if you just got a puppy - this is the time to be making those decisions that will affect you for years to come. If you’re not sure how to go about raising your pup or you notice your dog being territorial about the bed see a dog trainer about it.
Whether it is a good idea to let your dog sleep in your bed or not is a very individual decision, highly dependant on your health, sleep requirements, and your dog. If you don’t have any allergies or asthma and your canine companion isn’t a snorer that twitches and runs in his sleep, there is no reason why he should not live out his natural instinct to sleep together with you in a pack.