Sleeping with Dogs in Bed: The Ultimate Guide (plus Infographic)
With so many of us sleeping with our lovable flufflies, there are important questions to be answered.
This ultimate guide on sleeping with dogs will address any issues you may have. And if you’re short on time, no worries, there’s a handy infographic for you…
What we’ll cover in this article are the benefits and disadvantages of sleeping with your dog (as scientific as possible), how to get your dog in bed (or off it), who should avoid sleeping with their dogs, and many more.
So, let’s get started!
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How Many People Are Sleeping With Their Dogs?
As of 2017, there are a total of 89.7 million dogs that are living in households in the United States. In comparison, the number of dogs that were owned in year 2000 is 68 million.
From the graph, you can see that the number of dogs living in households has been increasing steadily over time and is very well expected to increase further in the future.
So the question now is, how prevalent are people sleeping with their dogs?
The answer is 62% of small dogs, 41% of medium-sized dogs and 32% of large dogs sleep with their beloved owners, according to a survey done by the American Pets Products Association.
The huge percentages are self-explanatory…
What’s there not to love about sleeping with our adorable canines? They are our life-long companions and our best friends!
5 Benefits Of Sleeping With Your Dog In Bed
There have been heated debates as to whether one should let his/her dog in bed. But this section only addresses all the good stuffs that come with snuggling with your dog.
1) Lowers heart rate and reduces stress
Monash University in Australia and Pedigree had jointly done a study, and found out that the heart rates of the dogs and their owners were lowered and beat in sync when they were in close proximity.
The researchers tested this by separating the dogs from their owners, strapped heart monitors on both, and started monitoring for patterns.
When dog and human were reunited, both their heart rates fell and sync together.
This is an incredible finding as a lower heart rate generally translates to lower stress levels, promoting a good mental health.
As sleeping with your dog would be the closest you can get for a prolonged period, this benefit is extended too.
And in case you don’t know already realise, your dog can get stress too. So with this, both of you will appreciate this hearty partnership.
2) Provides a sense of safety and security
And that’s not all…
This ‘superhero’ is able to hear much higher frequency sounds, able to differentiate them easily and pinpoint where they came from.
So if there’s an intruder in the house, sounds like squeaks are better picked up by your dog, which he’ll alert you with a bark (hopefully!).
Although most people would assume dogs to be the natural protectors of the house like your favorite Marvel Heroes (or DC if you wish), this may not always be the case. Unfortunately, some dogs are trained to be friendly with strangers - welcoming them with open paws even though there’s malicious intent.
Fortunately, the majority of dogs would eventually learn to protect, but some might need a little training.
Having someone you can trust to prevent you from potential harm will provide the peace of mind needed for a good night’s sleep.
3) Lifts your spirits and fights depression
Are there days when you’re feeling absolutely down and out?
Some of you may have tried different remedies, going for yoga sessions and meditating, but with no improvements to show… until a dog came knocking.
It may not seem like an direct solution, but owning a dog can give you joy and more purpose in life.
Dogs have that childlike innocence and their free spirited nature brings about excitement wherever they are. The more time you spend with you dog, those fairy dust (or furs) will rub off on you.
Given that the ‘darkest’ moments are during the late night and early morning in bed, the environment during these periods play a greater impact on your well-being.
Sleeping with a companion who whole-heartedly and unconditionally loves you, eliminates any loneliness and negativity that you may be facing.
Imagine being on the bed at night looking at a beacon of light during your darkest of days… knowing that its light will still be shining when morning comes, bringing you all smiles when you open your eyes. Its light shows you a direction and pushes you forward, no matter how difficult life is.
4) Provides comfort and warmth
Our body temperature changes depending on the time of day. During the day, it’s usually at its peak and gradually gets cooler during the night.
Temperatures during bed times also affect sleep quality.
In a Dutch study, researchers have equipped participants with thermosuits and raised the temperature slightly. This led to an increase in overall sleep quality, especially in the elderly and people suffering from insomnia.
Although more research is required, there could be good reasons to sleep with warmth.
So, having your dog as a little blanket is not only cosy and comfy, but great for sound sleep too.
As a caveat though, you might want to avoid sleeping with your dog in the summer because too high of a temperature will adversely affect your sleep.
5) A happier dog means a happier you
Let’s face it…
We love to give our dogs what they want, because we love them, and that’s what makes the bond so strong!
If it makes them happy, we’re happy too.
And if letting them on the bed is what it takes, then so be it!
How To Get Your Dog To Sleep With You
So after knowing about the advantages that come with sleeping with your dog, how do you get him to do so?
If your dog is a natural then good! However, some dogs may be unfamiliar with the bed and wouldn’t want to go near it.
So here are the steps for you to take to encourage your dog to jump on the bed:
Step 1: Bring your dog in to the room
It may seem instinctive to just bring your dog on the bed, but it may be counterproductive.
Like humans, we need to take baby steps to be accustomed to a new behavior. Start by shifting his bed to your bedroom. If not, just place a mat or a blanket on the floor of the bedroom near the bed. Teach your dog to lie down on the mat with a “go to bed” or “down” command.
Step 2: Reward good behaviors associated with the bed
Once he’s in the room and on the mat, reward any good behaviors that deal with the bed like noticing it or sniffing it.
A great way to reward is to keep some treats handy in the bedroom.
Step 3: Place the mat on the bed
Shift the mat to a place on the bed like at the foot of it.
Next, teach him to wait for commands. You wouldn’t want your dog to do what he desires especially hopping on the bed on his own because it can create problems in the future.
If he starts to jump on it without you giving the green light, tell him “no” and make him stay on the floor. Wait for some time and say a command like “go to bed” while patting the mat.
If he doesn’t readily do so, you can lead or guide him with treats. As with any good behavior, reward and praise him if he does what he’s told.
Step 4: Repeat the process several times a day
Dogs respond very well to positive reinforcement. Do this process a few times a day to ensure that he knows that this mat on the bed is a comfortable and a good place to be, and gradually increase the time for him to stay there.
Step 5: Associating sleep time
Be sure to take dog out right before bedtime to use the bathroom to avoid additional disturbances at night.
Before you turn off the lights, tell your dog to “go to bed”. Ensure he’s sleeping on his space then pat and praise him. If he moves wherever, just guide him back to his spot.
Step 6: Discourage any unwanted behaviors
This step is very important…
Although you want him to sleep with you, you have to set boundaries too.
This can be done using scoldings, punishment or just plainly ignore.
If he gets out of hand, you may not want to allow him on the bed for a while.
With time, your dog will know that what he did was undesired, and avoid doing it again.
All in all, some dogs are generally more cautious and they need more time. So try to be more patient. Whenever possible, use positive reinforcements. Because with negative reinforcements, it could create negative associations with your bed, and your dog might grow to dislike it.
3 Reasons To Not Sleep With Your Dog
On the flip side of all the good mentioned, is it really all that safe? So here come the negatives of having a dog sleep with you in bed:
1) Disturbs beauty sleep
Dogs like to fidget a lot and make lots of movements including waking up and walking around during the night.
Furthermore, snoring and making noises are not uncommon at all.
Although we care about them and wish the same that they’ll return the favor, it does not always happen all the time. Unlike a human partner who accommodates to your sleeping habits and tries their very best not to disturb you (hopefully applies to you!), your dog may not give you that same treatment.
A recent study done by Mayo Clinic sets out to find out whether having dogs in the same bed or bedroom affects sleep quality.
It started with 40 participants without any sleep disorders being monitored for 5 months.
The conclusion is that human sleep efficiency (% of actual sleep time on bed) was lower if the dog is on the bed, as compared to being just in the room.
How about whether the the dog is in the room compared to when he’s not?
The study shows that the owners still maintained a relatively acceptable sleep efficiency which meant that presence in the room may not be so disruptive.
Newsweek further pointed out that the sleep efficiency is 83% when the dog is in the bedroom, and 80% when the dog is in bed.
To give you a perspective, 85-89% sleep efficiency is considered normal and above 90% is very efficient.
As you can see, having a dog in the bedroom and especially in bed leads to lower sleep efficiency.
2) Brings dirt and bacteria
It goes to say that dogs are explorers. They love to go everywhere - the garden, grass, pavements - and spend a lot of time there. These areas can be filled with dirt and bacteria. Of course, they can’t be seen by the naked eye but you know it’s still there.
More often than not, your dog comes back in to the house without ‘cleaning’ his paws.
Would you do the same?
Knowing that you were barefoot outside, you’d want to wash your feet before stepping in the house - the bedroom or bed is out of the question.
It’s shown that homes with dogs are loaded with a greater number of bacteria AND more types of bacteria than homes without dogs.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also warns that sharing the bed can be as dangerous as face licking or kissing which can transmit zoonotic diseases, like parasites, meningitis, plague.
Some other stuffs that can be brought back to your sanctuary:
- Bubonic plague
- Staph infections
- Other bacterial infections
- Fecal matter
3) Destroys intimacy
There can be times when your dog comes in between you and your partner, and you may not even realise it, implicating relationship problems further.
Stories like your partner spending too much time on your dog instead of you are actually quite common (and likewise, you spending more time with your dog than your partner), and is the most common complaint from sex therapy clients.
Like humans, pets can be overly attached - needing to go wherever you go and be around you, whenever. This can be physically and mentally difficult to initiate sex and intimate moments. The extreme ones would allow jealousy to take over, and jump in-between, whenever such moments arise - what a bummer.
Even if you get him out of the bedroom and close the door, scratching or even whining can happen after, spoiling the mood further.
Because of these issues, Dr. Joel Gavriele-Gold, a psychologist, says that animals sleeping on the bed is the biggest issue among couples.
To make matters worse, having a dog in the bed takes up valuable space…
Imagine fighting with your partner for bed space equity, losing, and still have to fight with your dog…
How To Keep Your Dog Off The Bed Or Bedroom
Dogs need positive reinforcements to learn a new habit and forget an old one (just like humans). It may seem difficult at the start, but sticking with it will pay off in the future.
Just like how you got him on your bed, it’s time to reverse that order - well, somewhat.
Step 1: Notice his sleep behaviors
Watching how your dog sleeps will give you insights on his sleeping habits. The goal of this is to recreate something similar for his new sleeping place.
For example, if he tends to sleep while stretched out, get a dog bed which is bigger and preferably, rectangular.
If he likes to curl up like a ball, something oval or round could be more suitable.
Step 2: Teach him to get on the bed
While this may seem strange when your dog is already getting on the bed by himself, the purpose of this is to teach him 2 clear commands: to get on the bed and off it. So unless you ask him to get on, he shouldn’t be on the bed.
You can do this by putting a treat onto the bed, and say something like “up”. Give him the treat and praise him when he does it.
Step 3: Teach him to get off the bed
Your dog should be able to get off the bed upon command too. With the command “off”, place a treat on the floor. Likewise, give the treat and praise him. With repetition of the 2 commands, he should be familiar with “up” and “off” and obediently does so when told. You can reduce the amount of treats given to him after a while and he should just listen to commands.
Step 4: Let him get used to the floor
Make it fun for your dog when he’s on the floor to get him accustomed to it. Do this while you’re on the bed to maintain a distinction.
You can do this by placing his favorite toys on the floor and let him play with it. If he wants to join you on bed, firmly use the “off” command and continue what you’re doing.
Step 5: Create a new sleep place for him
Without the bed, your dog needs a new place to sleep. A best way to do this is to get a dog bed. You can either place it in the bedroom if you still want him around when you’re sleeping or perhaps in his favorite hangout area in the house (make sure it can be dark at night and not too cold).
You can consider placing your shirt that smells like you on the dog bed to entice him to sleep on it.
Just like us, dogs tend to get comfortable with better quality beds (and it lasts longer too). With this increased comfortability, it’ll encourage your dog to stay in his new bed. Things to consider are your dog’s age, budget and sleeping style.
There are some interesting dog beds like orthopedic dog beds which are like long mattresses meant for older dogs and provide additional cushioning. Another interesting one is the heated dog bed if you live in a cold climate and it’ll keep your dog warm all night.
Step 6: Reinforce the behavior
Maintain close supervision when you’re going through the steps and repeat the commands constantly. It’s much harder to change the sleeping habits of adult dogs than puppies because it’s already ingrained (again, just like how habits work for humans). So if you have a puppy, it’s way easier provided you established his sleeping area early.
When it comes to bedtime, things that tire you dog out - like taking your dog for a walk before bed - will help tremendously. It decreases the chance of having him resist going to his new bed.
Be sure not to give in to him and make it known that your bed is off-limits. There will be times during the night when he voices out displeasure through whining, moaning and sad puppy eyes. Although it can be hard on you, giving in will be detrimental to progress. What you should be doing is to ignore.
To cultivate this habit, both positive and negative reinforcements can work. Although punishing him by spraying a bottle of water when he gets out of hand or when he doesn’t listen to you can work, it may show that you’re paying attention and he can make the behavior worse.
So, try to use positive reinforcement like praise and treats whenever possible.
Note: If you want to be sure he’s not hopping on the bed when you’re not around, simply close the bedroom door.
Who Should Avoid Sleeping With Dogs
People with Allergies and Asthma
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, 30% of adults and 40% of children suffer from allergies. Furthermore, 3 in 10 people with allergies are allergic to dogs and cats.
This alarming number advises you not to let your dog sleep with you in bed or even in the bedroom, if you have an allergy.
The allergens that your dog carry might not be isolated to just his body. These allergens may be ‘transferred’ to other surfaces like your clothing, curtains, bedsheets, and doesn’t lose their potency after a long time. So even if your dog isn’t in the room, you may be facing inflammatory problems throughout.
Derek Damin of Kentuckiana Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, says people who have pet allergies or asthma should not sleep with their dog or cat or even allow them in the bedroom.
He adds on to say that most pet owners still won’t kick their dogs out even if there are allergy problems (talking about love!).
And recommends that if you wish to do so, you should take allergy shots to build up a tolerance.
Imagine normal sleepers being disturbed at night by their dogs…
What about light sleepers?
If you’re getting awaken by other disturbances other than your dog, be sure to expect the worse.
Dogs tend to make a lot of movements during the night. For example, to get more comfortable, he may scratch or sniff. This is very likely to disturb light sleepers, especially if he’s on the bed.
Therefore, if you treasure your sleep (which you should), then perhaps consider letting your dog sleep outside the bedroom.
Owners with Multiple Dogs
When you have more than 1 dog in the household, sleep gets more challenging.
Having multiple dogs poses a problem because they would want to grab the perfect spot.
There was one instance where an owner of 3 puppies had to spend time at the emergency vet and didn’t get to sleep at all.
When she was sleeping with a couple of the pups one night, the 3rd one jumped in and landed on another. This led to a fight breaking out and what was left were blood and the pup who tried to join the gang had the tip of his ear bitten off.
Such incidents may not be so common but they can still happen. Even with minor incidents, it can very well disturb sleep.
Another point to note is that dogs are pack animals, and they like being close to each other for the warmth and the feeling of safety. So when they’re together, the chances of creating a din are much higher compared to when they’re all isolated.
How About Your Baby Sleeping With The Dog?
Sure, the image of your dog sleeping with your baby can be adorable and bring smile to your face.
But, pediatricians and pet experts agree that it may not be the wisest of decision to let your dog sleep with your infant.
The reasons are firstly, there’s a chance of suffocation. As dogs like warm areas, they could very well jump on your baby’s face (remember, they might not accommodate or know what’s wrong or right). If this happens to you, you can easily brush it off, but what about your helpless baby?
Secondly, the fur from the dog can affect breathing, and can trigger any allergies.
The president of the Australian Veterinary Association, Dr Mark Lawrie, adds on to say that any child under the age of 10 should never be left alone unsupervised with dogs (even if the risk is low).
And this advice shouldn’t fall upon deaf ears. There are news of horror stories and they are more common than you think. In recent times, a two month baby boy and a 3 week old baby were mauled to death. What’s worrying though is that there were no signs of the dog being aggressive and had never caused problems.
So, always stay on the conservative side…
Always remember - your baby’s safety comes first.
Phew! That was a long one.
Hopefully, you’ve gained a good understanding on everything that’s needed to be known about sleeping with your dog in bed.
Although research shows that having dogs in bed can have its disadvantages, it doesn’t touch on the other benefits that comes with it - the more intangible ones.
There’s a growing consensus though…
If you want the best of both worlds, having a pet in the bedroom can be beneficial, but probably in his own dog bed instead of yours.
Still, it all boils down to your own personal preference!
Where would you let your dog sleep? Your bed, in the bedroom, or which area in the house? Let us know!
If you like this guide and the infographic, make sure to share it with your dog-loving friends and families.