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?
12 replies on “Do You Let Your Dog Sleep on the Bed?”
I don’t have a dog (YET), but when I dogsit Georgia The Plott Hound I ended up giving in and letting her sleep with me because it did SO MUCH for her peace of mind while missing her human. I used to be his housemate so shared dog duties in exchange for rent discount, but she wasn’t ever ever allowed to sleep with me because while she loves to cuddle, she’s not great at sharing small spaces AT ALL.
I had a twin there and a twin last time she stayed with me (queen now, yo!). She’s allowed to sleep with him so I think that’s also part of it. She’d also do the beat me to bed thing – I pace at night to wind down and I could see my bed through the hall and she’d sit on it and stare at me balefully. Cuddle time now!
Pictured: Georgia The Dog almost pushing me off the bed in just-moved-in-and-dogsitting-days, my legs the red lump on the left.
Aww. I miss sleeping with a Plott Hound. Does she snore? Ours snored beautifully.
One of our dogs sleeps in the bed. It helps that he has a designated spot at a corner by the foot on my side (although he’ll also spoon with the hubs, head on pillow, pointy bits out). Our other dog is in his crate until he wakes up at 4am-ish, at which point husband lets him out and he spends the rest of the night in bed with us. This boy is more a cuddler/bed stealer, which is part of the reason why he sleeps in the crate. Although, last night, when husband went to “rescue” Schubert, Gershwin decided to curl up on husband’s pillow :).
We’ve also learned that bed sharing is much more successful when the dogs sleep UNDER the blankets. You don’t have to try to pull your blankets out from under 80 pounds of sleeping dog, and you can use your dog as a foot rest!
I like the under the blankets tip!
Our dog sleeps on the bed too. I can feel our previous dog’s ghost objecting, but that dog was twice the size of this dog!
Your previous dog’s ghost is sleeping on the bed too, probably.
“CAN’T STOP ME NOW! HA!”
The bedroom is off limit for our dog. I’m too sensitive for her hair to not choke on her presence through the night, my mum can only accept hair everywhere if the bedroom is (more of) a hair free zone.
Dog has a pillow and a piece of duvet in her own bed, I think she’ll be fine ;)
Breathing is non-negotiable. :)
I planned to have SO MANY RULES about the dog sleeping on the bed. But then she was so sick that it was just easier to know where she was. And now? She’s a bed sleeper. In fact, if you can’t find her after 9 pm, she’s probably asleep on the foot of the bed, waiting for us to come join her. I definitely feel a little ashamed of it, but it’s so comforting and she’s such a good sleeper, doesn’t mind getting kicked in the ribs or moved off the bed.
I should have thought of this for my article, but the reason I was able to catch that my dog Maggie was starting to bloat was because she sleeps on the bed and was becoming agitated and licking the comforter. If we hadn’t caught it quickly, she would have died. That’s an excellent reason to sleep with your dog that I completely forgot.
I love the dogs that beat you to bed at night. It’s so cute.