Party of Three. Or Four. Or More. (In Bed)

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My BoysWe 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.

 

CBV & Dad

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.

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Comments (6)

Cherie

Great post on a tricky topic. We're right there with you guys and the bed sharing. Night one, Munches was sleeping with us.. That night, we tried to crate him but the crate was too small, and then we tried to barricade him in the kitchen until we could get a larger crate (oh the humanity), but he bounded over the obstacles and landed outside our door, crying and whining. I promptly scooped him up and put him in our bed where he sighed blissfully and began to snore softly. He sometimes puts his chin on my neck while he sleeps. Its like a Munches-stole. Even Eduardo, who initially was the biggest doubter of this arrangement, now routinely reaches for him at night. If making room for Munches in our bed, assuaging his fears, and keeping myself warm and comforted at night (he's a great cuddler)* are wrong, then I don't want to be right. ** *Munches did voluntarily depart from our bed when Sloane was still sleeping in our room with us. During her more frequent MOTN wakings, he would retreat to his dog bed, disgusted with the disruption, without looking back. We missed him but understood. Nothing stands in the way of him and his 20 hours of sleep/day. He's back in our bed (oh the reunion) now that she's sleeping through the night, more or less, and is no longer sharing a room with us. ** I am really digging Mark's mask btw. It looks restorative and futuristic.

Sara

Hi Julie. I have no issues with people sleeping with pets - just as I have no issues with sleeping with kids. HOWEVER...the day I kicked my dog out of my bed was a happy, HAPPY one. For this reason only... There are too many kids in there already! She wants to so bad. But I just can't take it anymore. The one that's getting pushed out IS ME. Haha. But I feel the same way about my daughter being there as you do your dog. And so it goes....

Crissi Zito

It is definitely a personal choice and it does get crowded in there some nights. There are nights some of us (and by some us of us I mean Steve) get no room...but as I tell him there is an ENTIRE bed to himself in the spare room! There are actually some nights when I'm traveling I feel like I can feel her in bed with me...I get sad when I wake up and realize I'm not at home and she is not there...my bed doesn't even seem like a bed without her...kinda like my home is not a home when she is gone!

Camesha

Our dog slept with us until we had children. It wasn't an every night thing but she would snuggle up with us regularly. Now she doesn't even try. Once we had kids it got to be too crowded and complicated. :)

Mark

I feel this requires a follow-up post focusing soley on early-morning forced cuddles.

Brian

Interesting post, Julia. When I brought home Dexter, an 11 lb rescue, I thought he'd sleep in his own bed on the floor of my bedroom. That was tough for him since he had slept with his foster mom for the previous 6 months. It worked for one night, and on the second night there was a loud thunderstorm. Well, he's been sleeping with me ever since. He's very good, and doesn't disturb me. I like knowing that he's there. I do make a point of inviting him, and won't let him jump up on his own until then. It's a small bit of setting boundaries, but seems to work.

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