Pros and Cons of Allowing Your Dog to Sleep in Your Bed
About 62 percent of American dog and cat owners keep their animals in the house at night, and of those, about half the cats and one-third of the dogs spend the night on the bed according to the findings of a survey from the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association.
Passionate pooch owners are divided on this issue, and feelings run deep. There are those who swear by their pets and would not have them sleep anywhere other than on their beds, and there are those who just swear at the thought of having their beloved Lassie sharing the bed with them.
Who is right? What are the issues?
There is scientific evidence to suggest that sharing your life with a pet will increase your years. And what better way to bond with your pet than sharing a cuddle at night?
There is also evidence to suggest that brains subconsciously interact, even in sleep, and the peaceful waves emitted by your loved pet can positively influence your brain.
Cons and Complications
Health and Safety Risks
Disease, dirt, and fleas can be picked up by your cute little puppy and brought into your bed.
There's also a danger factor, especially if you have young children. Even the most good-natured dog can snap in self-defense when startled. A child running past furniture or beds where a dog is resting may unwittingly surprise the animal.
The tragic result of an elevated dog’s teeth coming into contact with a small child’s face can be physically traumatic for the child but may cost a startled dog its life.
Loss of Quality of Sleep
Disturbed sleep and restless nights are another bonus that studies show to be gained from sharing your bed with a pet.
It's not just dogs, either. Behaviorist at the Veterinary Specialty Center in Lynnwood, Dr. Lynne Seibert, says that the most common problem with sleeping with cats is that they don't sleep.
"Most of the issues I see are about exuberant play," she says. "They've got a captive audience and end up pouncing and scratching." As is to be expected from an animal that spends all day sleeping!
Family Strife and Jealousy
Jealousy, aggressive behavior, and family divisions have also been attributed to pet sleeping arrangements.
There are many stories of marriages placed in jeopardy because the family pet has assumed the role as leader of the pack and dominates the bedroom as well.
How can you prevent this from happening in your bedroom?
Cesar Milan on the Pack Relationship
Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer, says, “You may prefer to have your dog sleep in bed with you. It is perfectly natural for a dog to sleep with other pack members, and it is also a powerful way to bond with your dog. But don't forget the rules, boundaries, and limitations; it's your bed—not your dog's.”
You must have your “pack” relationship properly established before considering allowing your dog to sleep with you. This means educating your pet that sleeping with you is a privilege, not a right, and that when you say “off,” they must vacate the bed (a married couple needs some privacy after all!).
What an Expert Says
Carol Byrnes gives her opinion on this issue in the following article.
Should You Sleep With Your Dog?
There is much written by experts that suggests that allowing your dog in your bed sends mixed messages, that it lowers your pack status, that a dog who shares a bed considers himself an equal on the pack pole.
On the other hand, plenty of non-experts report that their dogs slept with them for years without a hitch.
Here's my opinion: It depends on the dog and the human.
If you have a healthy working relationship with your dog based on mutual trust and respect and you don't mind waking up with a dog's tail in your face or paws braced against your back, by all means, sleep with your well-adjusted dog - under the covers if you want!
It's not the well-adjusted, respectful dogs who should be banished, but the ones who don't see the humans in their lives as leaders, dogs who would dare talk back or bite you, in (or out of) the bed, who don't belong there. I think it's a shame that great dogs who don't need to be banished are punished for the ones who can't handle it.
The bed doesn't cause the problem, but it can certainly magnify a problem that is already there.
If you are having difficulties with your relationship with your dog, if he is bossy, bratty and disrespectful, then he should not be in your bed at night.
The dog who steals sandwiches from your child's hand and knocks him over in doorways shouldn't share your child's pillow, even if he would be fine sharing yours.
Puppies should learn how to sleep alone so they don't grow up clingy and co-dependent or develop the mistaken impression that the bed is a right, not a privilege.
Dog behavior specialists like Dr. Ian Dunbar, Ph.D., and British behaviorist John Rogerson quote horrifying statistics that the most severe bites to dog owners occur in the owner's bed.
Dogs who would take advantage of their owners when standing upright will certainly take more advantage when their owners are prone.
A bossy dog who thinks it's HIS bed and he's sharing his space with you, might also think he has the right to correct you for bumping his highness in the bed, with dire consequences.
If your dog thinks he runs your house, get professional help for that issue. It's not "The Bed" that is the real problem—it's just a symptom of a more serious issue: an unhealthy relationship.
Velcro-dogs may not be good candidates for bed sharing.
If your dog is clingy and co-dependent, or if he suffers from separation anxiety, he should not be in your bed. A dog who suffers great stress when you are away needs to practice feeling secure when not in your direct presence.
If he is your ever-present shadow, whining because you are on the other side of a shower door, he needs to learn to be ok with separation. Sleeping plastered against you all night only feeds this co-dependence. Nighttime is a great time for him to practice feeling secure with you out of reach.
Some Good Guidelines
• Evaluate your relationship. Are you a good leader? Is your dog emotionally secure?
• Your dog should wait for permission and sleep where you tell him to.
• If you have to be careful to avoid disturbing his highness in bed for fear of eliciting a growl or a bite, boot him out of the whole room, not just the bed, and get help from a behavior professional.
Would You Sleep With Me?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
© 2008 Dean