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Is it OK if our dog sleeps in our bed?

February 24, 2015
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I do not know how many times a year we are asked, 'Is it okay if our dog sleeps in our bed?' The reality is there is nothing inherently wrong with your dog sleeping in your bed, and contrary to popular belief, sleeping in your bed does not make a dog dominant. If you do allow your dog to sleep in your bed, you're in the majority. In an informal survey I conducted via FaceBook, 75 respondents (77.32 percent) indicated that their dog is allowed to sleep in bed with them, whereas only 22 respondents (22.68 percent) indicated that their dog was not allowed to sleep with them.

However, sharing a bed with a dog is not for everyone - and not all dogs are fans of sharing sleeping space. Therefore, before inviting Sparky into bed, please ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is your partner comfortable with your dog sharing the bed? If not or if you are unsure, a discussion with your partner is in order.
  • Is your dog housetrained? Until a dog is has gone at least six weeks without an accident inside, I wouldn't think of allowing the dog to sleep anywhere other than a crate.
  • Is the dog going to enjoy sleeping in bed with you or is he perhaps happier sleeping in his own crate or bed? Sleep habits vary widely between people and pets. If any one of you is a restless sleeper, the others may be miserable. Many dogs are just as content to sleep beside your bed in their own bed or crate.
  • Is your pet going to be safe? A small dog could easily get hurt if someone accidently rolls over on him, and he may even bite in that situation.
  • Is there room enough for everyone? A 6-month-old golden retriever puppy is still growing for another seven to eight months. As space shrinks, allowing the dog in bed may no longer be as popular.
  • How will you feel about sharing the bed if you, your partner or the dog are sick? Some people desire closeness when ill, while others cannot stand being touched.
  • Do you have other pets, and how many in bed is too many? Always keep in mind that the bed may become a valued space that one dog may choose to resource guard.

My wife and I have had 10 dogs in our life together, and only two have had bed privileges. Gus, our cairn terrier, had privileges for a short time, but lost them because he would grumble every time we moved. He was simply of the temperament that he did not want to be disturbed when he was sleeping (I am sure we all know people like that). Gus really was more comfortable and well rested when he slept in his kennel in our bedroom. Tikken, our golden, was allowed in our bed once she was completely housetrained. During the winter months a better foot warmer could not be found; however, in the heat of the summer, she would often choose to sleep on the floor. If one of us was restless, she would simply hop off and sleep elsewhere. While there were times when I described Tikken as the 'great immovable object' because she would not move when I tried to stretch out, allowing her to share our bed worked well for all of us.

So ultimately, the decision is up to you. There is simply no right or wrong answer about whether or not you choose to allow your dog to sleep in your bed. If it works for you, never apologize for letting your dog in your bed. If you would rather not share your sleeping space, that is OK too. Just remember, once you start letting your dog sleep with you, the dog will expect it. If you change the rules months or years down the road because you now have a child, a new partner or some other life change, it will take time and work to help your dog adjust to new sleeping arrangements.

Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) in Bangor and the 2014 Association of Professional Dog Trainers Dr. Ian Dunbar Member of the Year. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner, Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, and Certified Professional Dog Trainer. He produces and co- hosts a weekly radio show and podcast,The Woof Meow Showheard on The Voice of Maine (103.9FM, 101.3FM, 1450AM & woofmeowshow.com) every Saturday at 7:30 a.m. and Sunday at 8:30 p.m.

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