Should My Dog Sleep in My Bed?

By Ryan Llera, BSc, DVM; Lynn Buzhardt, DVM

Should my dog sleep in my bed?

Pet owners everywhere ask this question. Some people say, “Yes”. Some say, “No”. The real answer is: It depends.

What does it depend on?

Whether or not you allow your dog to sleep in your bed depends on his health and your health.

Your Dog’s Health

Point: If your dog has musculoskeletal issues, like arthritis, climbing on the bed can be a real effort, and soft beds do not support aging joints well enough. Painful dogs may prefer comfortable padding over a solid surface that is low on the ground. Plus, older dogs may become incontinent. Weak, aged bladders leak when the dog lies down. Uh-oh…wet bed sheets!

Counterpoint: If your arthritic dog is small, you can pick him up and place him on the bed. If he is large, you may provide a ramp or steps to make climbing on the bed easier. Placing pee pads on the bed will keep the sheets dry, if your dog does not wiggle off of them.

A dog that spends a lot of time alone while human family members go to work or school, may feel isolated. Seeping with his family can provide a much needed connection.

Your Health

Point: Some people are specifically allergic to dogs. Prolonged close contact to dogs exposes them to pet dander and may result in respiratory symptoms. But even people who do not have pet allergies can suffer increased allergic symptoms when co-sleeping with their dog. When dogs are ouside, dust and pollen clings to their fur and can exacerbate human allergies. They may leave that dander, pollen, and dust on the bed coverings, so the allergic effects linger long after a dog leaves the bedroom.

Counterpoint: Wiping your dog with a damp towel before he comes inside is a good daily routine that will decrease the amount of outdoor pollen and dust he carries inside. Bathing your dog, using HEPA filters in your home, and frequently washing your bed linens will reduce your exposure to allergens, which may allow your dog to re-claim his spot on the bed.

"Some dog owners do not sleep as well with their dog in the bed."

Point: Some dog owners do not sleep as well with their dog in the bed. Light sleepers are awakened when their dog rolls over, kicks, or scratches. Others are annoyed when their dog snores too loudly. Lack of sleep can make you grumpy and impact the immune system, which can affect your overall health. Dogs do not suffer from lack of sleep, even when they have a restless night, because they have time to nap during the day and make up for lost nighttime slumber.

Counterpoint: Training your dog to sleep at your feet may minimize the disruption if he moves during the night. Many dog owners feel more secure and actually sleep better when snuggled next to their furry friends. Dogs tend to calm people and can lower blood pressure and stress levels.

Dogs also provide a sense of safety. Heavy sleepers may rest better knowing that their canine companion will warn them of a nighttime emergency, such as a fire or an intruder. Dogs help insomniacs rest better, too. People who have difficulty sleeping report that the rhythmic breathing of their dogs helps them to sleep. And people who ordinarily sleep alone, feel better lying next to a warm living being. Whatever the reason, if a dog helps a person sleep better, that is a significant health advantage.

Point: Dogs carry certain intestinal parasites, fleas, and ticks that cause human illnesses. Sleeping with a dog increases human exposure to these parasites and vector-borne diseases. Very young, very old, and immune compromised people are particularly at risk of infection.

Counterpoint: Your veterinarian can prescribe year-round, broad-spectrum parasite control (common products are Heartgard Plus, Simparica or Simparica Trio, Nexgard or Nexgard Spectra, Interceptor or Interceptor Plus, and Revolution Plus to name a few) which can protect both your dog and you from parasites and vector-borne illnesses.

Do I want to sleep with my dog?

If you do, you are in good company. Lots of people allow their dogs to sleep on their beds without any problems. Research shows that almost half of dogs sleep with their owners, so sharing beds is a popular practice.

Size matters when it comes to sharing the bed. About 62% of small dogs are allowed to sleep with their human families, as compared to 41% of medium-sized dogs and 32% of large dogs. It appears that humans are willing to share their beds…just not too much of their beds!

Does my dog want to sleep with me?

When considering a dog’s perspective, some dogs get too hot when sleeping in a bed and prefer to lie on a cool floor. Others like to change sleeping quarters several times a night—sleeping first on the kitchen floor, then the bathroom rug, then the sofa. Sleeping at ground level makes this easier. Also, some people are restless sleepers and disturb their dog’s slumber.

Some dogs want to sleep on the bed, but not with their owners. They take ownership of the bed a little too seriously. If your dog guards the bed or guards a human family member too forcefully, his aggressive tendencies may buy him a ticket off the bed.

Should my dog sleep in my bed?

Dogs usually understand they are not the boss of the family. Part of that social structure relies on the fact that people tower above dogs. When lying down on the bed, a dog and his owner are on the same level which may encourage the dog to exhibit aggressive tendencies.

Some dogs are not aggressive, but simply overreact when startled. If you roll over in bed and startle your pet, he may not intend to bite, but an unintentional bite hurts just as much as an intentional one. But, if you and your dog do not have health issues or behavioral issues that would make sleeping together an unhealthy situation for either party, co-sleeping should be just fine. Sleep well!

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