Sleeping With Pets
How we behave with our dogs varies from owner to owner. Some of us can’t help but constantly fuss our furry friends, whereas others find the strength to tell them they can’t curl up on the sofa. But there is one commonly asked question amongst dog owners: is sleeping with dogs in your bed is okay? In short – as long as you and your pet are healthy then it’s fine to let your dog sleep in bed with you. In this article, we will run through research and studies on sleeping with dogs, how this can affect their behaviour and the link with dog separation anxiety at night.
Sleeping with Dogs in Your Bed
Common worries when it comes to letting a dog share your bed are hygiene and their behaviour. But although there may be some grounds for concern, these are mainly untrue and there are many positives to co-sleeping.
Is It Safe to Sleep with Your Dog?
It’s true, there can be some health concerns related to sleeping with your dog, such as the risk of aggravating allergies or transmitting diseases, but these are very rare. If you and your dog are both healthy, then having a snooze with your best friend isn’t a problem. A study by Smith et al., “A Multispecies Approach to Co-Sleeping: Integrating Human-Animal Co-Sleeping Practices into Our Understanding of Human Sleep”, revealed that sleeping with our canine companions isn’t something unique to modern times. Traditional cultures such as Aboriginal Australians saw the benefits of sleeping beside their dogs for warmth and protection.
In modern times, there tends to be a focus on the possible negatives, but in fact, many studies have highlighted various benefits of sleeping with our dogs. Recent research published by Mayo Clinic Proceedings suggests that having your pet by your side may actually improve your sleep. Dogs provide warmth, their presence can help us relax, and they may also allow people with insomnia to sleep without their medications. Focusing on the potential negatives causes people to worry unnecessarily; providing you’re both healthy, there is no problem with you and your dog dozing off together at night.
Does It Cause Behaviour Problems?
There are also concerns that sleeping with dogs in your bed will negatively impact their behaviour. There is no proof that issues such as the dog being spoilt or seeing themselves as dominant are directly linked to co-sleeping. If you believe your dog is displaying these behavioural issues, it’s likely there are other causes. For example, if your dog growls when you approach their ‘spot’ on the bed, the problem is your dog unnecessarily guarding items they see as theirs or their territory. Unless your dog is showing signs of aggression, you and your little buddy face no behavioural issues from co-sleeping.
Your Comfort Comes First
Lastly, although there are many positives to sleeping with a dog in your bed, getting a good night’s sleep should be your number one priority. If you see the quality of your sleep dipping when sharing with your furry friend, it might be best to point them to their bed downstairs. While dogs average three sleep/wake cycles per night-time hour, humans are monophasic sleepers (one period of constant sleep over a 24-hour cycle). Dogs also remain alert to sounds during their snooze. With your dog often rousing in the night, it can disrupt your sleeping pattern. In less scientific terms too, you must make sure you’re comfortable, and dog breed may come into play here. A small Jack Russell might be able to neatly curl themselves at the end of the bed but giving up half of your bed for a Great Dane probably won’t be conducive to a good night’s sleep.
Dog Separation Anxiety at Night
Although it’s not likely the cause of separation anxiety, if a dog becomes dependant on sleeping in your bed every night, it could make this worse. There is a chance your dog may be suffering from separation anxiety at night if they become very nervous or scared when left on their own. However, this shouldn’t be mistaken for your best friend simply being keen to spend more time with you.
If you find yourself asking ‘why does my dog sleep on me?’ or ‘why does my dog sleep near me?’, don’t instantly presume there is a problem. Sleeping together is part of their pack instincts and sleeping on you is their way of bonding. Most dogs will be overjoyed to be invited onto the bed to take a snooze with family, and an eagerness to stay close to those around them shouldn’t be a cause for concern.
Just like humans, dogs share a need to form social attachments, so they may show signs of a little separation distress at times, but most learn to cope. Others can find it more difficult and if they are exhibiting any of the following signs, could be suffering from separation anxiety:
- excessive vocalization (barking)
- pacing and restlessness
- whining and crying
- eating through walls
- destroying points of entry
- jumping through open and/or closed windows
Hearing your furry friend stressed or upset isn’t nice at all and, naturally, we empathise with the confused expression we see gazing up at us when we lock them in for the night. This is why it can be easy to just let them on the bed with you each night.
If they are displaying any of these symptoms it would be wise to consult a vet, but there are other steps you can take to help your dog settle.
Take Them on Plenty of Walks
This might seem obvious, but exercise and mental stimulation will help your dog settle better at night. Playing brain games and teaching them tricks will also help keep your pooch happy. A long walk in the afternoon or evening will help calm their nerves.
Provide a Safe Place
Make sure your dog has a quiet place to feel safe and warm during the night. Sleeping in a nice cosy bed consistently will help them become accustomed to their bedtime routine.
Make Bedtime Fun
Make bedtime a positive experience with your dog by playing with them before you head upstairs. Leave them with all their favourite toys and reassure them that bedtime doesn’t have to be scary.
Gradually Move Their Bed
If your dog is used to sleeping in the bed with you, suddenly shutting them downstairs can be a drastic change. Dogs like routine, and if you want to encourage a new one you should do it gradually. Let them sleep on the floor in your bedroom, then outside the door, and so on. Build confidence in your furry friend until they’re comfortable sleeping where you want them to.
Overall, sleeping with dogs in your bed can be absolutely fine, as long as you and your dog are healthy, and the presence of your furry friend isn’t disrupting your own sleep. If it seems to be causing bad behaviour, the likelihood is that there is another cause for this. Seek advice or carry out training to discourage this behaviour so that you can both get a good night’s sleep. If you’ve decided it’s time for them to cosy up downstairs but are worried about dog separation anxiety at night, following the advice in this article should help make the switch stress-free.