Did you know that about half of the dogs in the United States sleep in their humans' beds? It's true. According to a survey by the American Pet Products Association, 62% of small dogs sleep with their owners, as do 41% of medium-sized dogs and 32% of large dogs. We must have some gigantic beds to accommodate all of those dogs!
Why do dogs sleep with their humans?
There are several reasons, but mostly it's because they want to, and the feeling is mutual. Some dog owners truly enjoy the companionship. Some may invite their pooch in to avoid dealing with unwanted behaviors during the night such as whining or barking. And some feel more protected and safe with Fido standing guard close by, even if he happens to be busy sawing logs. There is a theory that having your dog in the bed isn't a good idea due to the notion that the dog might develop dominance issues and think he's the alpha of the house. Further studies have shown this not to be true. What's really happening? In most cases, dogs just want to be with their humans. Victoria Stilwell, star of TV Show "It's Me or the Dog," says we should take it as a compliment. She says that dogs will only sleep with humans and animals they trust.
Regardless of your reasons for allowing your dog to share your bed, if you decide to do so, make sure you start as you mean to go on. It's much more difficult to oust a dog from the bed after he's been established there than to simply not allow him there in the first place. That little puppy you just brought home doesn't take up much space, now, but how big will he get and how much mattress real estate will he occupy as an adult? He doesn't care how big he gets, but you might.
What's so great about having your dog in your bed?
Well, who doesn't love a good snuggle? Dogs are soft and warm, and if bathed properly, super fun to snuggle with. They provide us company and make us feel safe. Some people believe that their dogs offer them better protection if they are in bed with them at night. Many people believe that their canines help them sleep better, finding it relaxing to listen to their rhythmic breathing. If you enjoy sleeping with your dog and he's not disrupting your sleep, then there's no reason why you shouldn't turn down the sheets for him.
Is there a downside to sleeping with your dog?
In some cases, yes.
If you sleep as a couple with another human, both have to agree that it's a good idea to have the dog in the bed. A disagreement in this area can cause some resentment, so it's best to figure it out before inviting the dog aboard. But what about intimacy? That's a whole other issue that couples handle in a variety of ways. Elizabeth Schmitz, author and love and marriage expert states, "many, many of our successful couples have pets, and many sleep with them...some put them outside the bedroom because they don't want them to watch...some give them a treat to distract them. Some don't mind if the pet stays on the bed." It's all a matter of personal preference. Most experts agree, however, that if your pet is coming between you, physically or emotionally, it's not a good idea to have him share your bed.
Another possible issue with allowing your dog in the bed is allergies. If you are allergic to pet fur or dander, allowing your dog to sleep with you can aggravate their allergies. In this case, the pet should probably be kept out of the bedroom. People with other environmental allergies may also have an issue. Dogs tend to roll and rub up against things, often picking them up and carrying them inside on their fur. A person with a pollen allergy, for example, may find themselves having an allergic reaction to the pollen on the pet's fur.
If your pet disturbs your sleep, he should not sleep with you. It's important to our health and immune system function to get proper sleep, and pets can be a cause of insomnia. They move, scratch, lick, snore, and pass gas (ladies, your husbands might, too, but best not to kick them out if you can help it), often causing sleep disruptions for their humans. The Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Center did a study that found that half of the participants had a dog or cat and 53% of those people with pets said their pets disturb their sleep in some way.
Whether or not these issues are a factor in your bed are for you to decide.
Is there ever a case when a dog should absolutely NOT sleep in their humans' bed?
An outwardly aggressive or dominant dog should not be allowed in the bed. Your dog should not feel that the bed is solely his territory. He has to share, too. A dog should also not be aggressive about the people in the bed. For example, if the dog is snuggled up with wife and husband approaches the bed, the dog should welcome him, not growl as if wife is his possession. Fido needs his own bed, in that case.
Another type of dog who should not be allowed in the human bed is a dog with mobility issues. Unless you sleep with a mattress on the floor, most beds are quite high and can present problems for dogs with joint issues, poor eyesight, or other injuries. A disabled dog can severely hurt himself by attempting to get on and off the bed. Stairs and ramps for just this purpose exist, so those with disabled dogs may want to exercise that option or get their pooch a comfy bed to put on the floor close by.
In summary, whether or not you sleep with your pooch is entirely up to you. As long as it doesn't pose a threat to your health or your relationship with your spouse, you have the green light. The more, the merrier, right?