August 5, 2014
We sleep with our dog. He never really gave us a choice on this issue, even on the first night he moved in, but we never argued with him about it. Sure, we chatted with a trainer or two about whether or not we should keep it going and when they both shrugged it off, we decided we’re good as a party of three.
Dog People who believe that bed privileges destroy the owner’s standing as a “pack leader”, critically affecting how the dog is trained, mostly fall into the old-fashioned training methodologies. A lot of them buy into all the dominance stuff that’s been discredited by behavioral scientists. There’s a good chance that my opinion on this topic and some others would differ from theirs but here’s how I feel: my family doesn’t care about who’s in charge when we cuddle up together. Our dog just loves us and thinks our king-sized Tempur-Pedic is the best thing ever. He’s right. It is.
So how do you decide if bed privileges are the right choice for you? Here are some thoughts to consider.
Help or Hindrance?
My job keeps me up at night – it’s a stressful one, not joking. But I’ve noticed when I’m just about to give up and start my workday at 2AM, if I reach over and pull CBV close he eases everything. I hear his little breathes and tiny snores and sweet sighs and I find it extremely comforting and therapeutic. In under 30 minutes, I’m back to bed like a normal person who likes to sleep at 2AM.
So this is a personal choice. If you prefer that your dog not sleep on the bed with you, then case closed. It’s your decision, pure and simple. There may be a rare exception, but I can’t think of any reason why a dog should have to sleep on your bed.
Of course, if he’s accustomed to sleeping on his human’s bed and you abruptly evict him, he’s likely to tell you how he feels about it. You may have to do some behavior modification to convince him that other bedtime arrangements are acceptable alternatives, but that’s doable. If you want your dog off the bed, the only real issue might be a human bed partner who prefers them on.
So, should you let your dog sleep with you?
Here’s the good news. My unscientific survey of veterinary behaviorists concluded that as long as your pets are good at sleeping with you, it’s just fine to sleep with them but there are a ton of annoying, disruptive, dangerous, or otherwise inappropriate behaviors your uncrated and unsupervised dog can do at night.
If your pup likes to chase the cat at night or can’t reliably hold his bladder until morning when given freedom to roam the house while you’re sleeping, crating the dog might be a smarter decision. Intense snuggling and licking behaviors (from the dog) can really affect a good night’s rest. Or if you’re living with an elderly dog that could potentially hurt themselves with an independent jump off the bed – maybe you should consider setting up a space of their own on the floor.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Is my partner unhappy with the arrangement?
- Is my dog displaying aggressive bed behaviors (i.e.: Owner-guarding**. The wife is in the bed, dog growls at the husband when he tries to get in bed.)
- Is my dog interrupting my sleep to the point of serious issues like lack of focus at work or frequent illness?
- Do I have allergies that are getting worse by the dog sleeping with us? Is this decision bad for my health?
- How’s my dog doing at night? Do we have a growing list of undesirable behaviors happening? How can I help him to be more successful overnight?
**Note: Canine aggression is not something to play with. If the level of your dog’s growling or other bed-related aggression is intense; if you are trying to work with it and not making progress; or if someone is getting bitten, please seek the assistance of a qualified positive behavior professional.
Julia Rohan founded Rover-Time in January of 2012 and received her formal training at CanineLink, a program for aspiring dog trainers, based in Chicago. Julia lives in Albany Park with her husband Mark. Together they co-parent Chauncey Billups Vanderhoff, an over-confident, territorial, and anxious 8lb. Chihuahua-Terrier mix that melts her heart hourly.