It’s funny how many people are shamefaced about the fact that they let their dogs sleep on the bed with them. I guess it’s one of those things that people don’t talk about. I can’t tell you how many home visits I did where prospective adopters confided that even though they said they would have a separate bed for the dog to sleep in, it was more likely that their new dog would sleep with them the same way all their other dogs had.
There is one big advantage to allowing your dog to sleep with you, and that is bonding. I’ve allowed several foster dogs to do this, and in large part, the reason was that the dog was inconsolable, agitated, or terrified. Being allowed to snuggle up with the pack is comforting for many dogs, especially the Velcro breeds (you know the ones). My experience (and the experience of many fosters) has shown that this privilege translates into better overall behavior on the part of anxious dogs. It also has practical benefits: the dogs who sleep on the bed don’t tend to whine, whimper, and cry like the dogs who are made to sleep in a crate. That means better sleep for humans and less tension in the household. Considering that anxious animals feed on human stress, it can create a vicious circle when a dog is allowed to be agitated for long periods of time.
Another good reason for allowing your dog to sleep with you is that it is comforting. It’s nice to feel a warm dog curled up at the foot of the bed, especially on winter nights. Dogs, especially hounds, are great sleepers, and watching them snore blissfully, completely abandoning themselves to the experience, is a joy to watch. They are role models for insomniacs.
There are, of course, disadvantages to sleeping with dogs. The first and foremost is your comfort. There are a lot of dogs who will immediately take advantage of your smallest shift in location to take over that abandoned space. It’s an area where dogs are far superior to humans because they are able to do this without rousing themselves from deep sleep. Instead, they’ll be so far gone that any attempt to dislodge them, even gently, will mean moving dead weight. As a result, you might find yourself sleeping in very uncomfortable positions, which can be agonizing over the long-term, especially if you have any sort of joint problems or are a light sleeper. A lot of people who have owned pets throughout their lives eventually find themselves training their dogs to sleep elsewhere because it has become impossible to get a good night’s sleep. As someone who has woken up with a 50-pound dog sleeping on her head, I completely sympathize and don’t judge.
There are also issues of fastidiousness, of course, which include the dog shedding or drooling. For a lot of people, this is a complete deal-breaker, and I understand completely. Sometimes I dream of a room with snow-white bed linens and fluffy pillows that dogs do not eye covetously. Unfortunately, in my reality, we have to stack pillows up on bureaus when we aren’t around to make sure that Cricket does not incorporate them into her sleep plan.
Even if you’ve decided that you want to sleep with your dog(s), there are still logistical problems to deal with. The first one is how your dog will get on the bed. For many dogs, it’s easy to make the leap up onto the bed, but getting down will be jarring for their joints. This is a key consideration with short-legged, long-backed dogs like dachshunds and corgis. To solve that problem, I recommend getting stairs. That will allow getting on and off beds to remain a low-impact process.
Also, you might find that some dogs are leery of climbing up stairs without walls next to them. If that’s the case, put the stairs flush against the bed (alongside) so the dogs can climb up and then turn onto the bed.
Another issue is that some dogs are not happy to be woken up. If you accidentally kick them or startle them, they might react with nipping. It’s not their fault, of course — they are programmed to defend themselves from sleep attacks. You’ll need to get them used to the idea of being moved around. I suggest putting your legs under the covers and then moving them under your dog, like a shark swimming under water.
So, what about you, dog lovers/enablers? Where do you stand on this? How far do you take it? Any tips?