Co-sleeping is an intriguing and sometimes controversial topic, whether you’re talking about co-sleeping with your human children or four-legged babies. New dog owners often grapple with this decision and wonder if there is a right or wrong answer. Should you allow a dog to share a sleeping space?
Should I let my dog sleep in my bed?
Let’s tackle the pros and cons and talk about the logistics of a dog lover co-sleeping with a canine family member.
Is it a good idea to let my dog sleep in my bed?
Ask yourself first about your personal preferences, your gut reaction to the idea. If having your dog be a cuddle buddy in your bed is appealing to you, you absolutely can allow that. But if you grimace at the thought, you can rest assured your dog won’t feel less loved or wanted if they sleep alone in a crate or other designated spot.
It truly is a personal choice with no right or wrong answer.
About 80% of all owners of dogs and cats welcome co-sleeping. It’s not a weird, bad, or shameful thing to allow your pet access to your bed. If you choose this for your household, you and your pet can thrive. Just realize that not everyone will want to make this choice, and that’s perfectly fine too.
Sometimes people who live alone feel more secure when their fur baby is in their room, either in or near the bed. Your dog’s awareness can help you feel more prepared and aware. Whether or not your dog is a real watchdog, many people feel safer with their dog nearby, especially during the overnight hours.
Sleeping with your dog might even improve your health. Snuggling up with your cuddle buddy can increase your well-being and comfort and reduce feelings of depression, stress, anxiety, and loneliness. There have been scientific links between decreased hypertension and blood pressure for people with increased interaction with a pet.
Other research has shown that having close contact with a beloved pet, like sleeping with them nearby, can lower triglyceride levels and cholesterol. Your dog’s presence in bed can even ease insomnia and improve your sleep quality.
Some studies indicate that letting your dog sleep with you can increase the oxytocin flow to your brain, contributing to you falling into REM sleep faster. If you have PTSD, sleeping with your dog can diminish the frequency and severity of nightmares and increase your comfort in going to bed every night.
Aside from the physical and emotional benefits of sleeping with your dog, one of the most significant advantages to snuggling up together at night is how it impacts your relationship. Sleeping in the same bed can help support socialization and effectively strengthen your bond with your dog.
Things to do before letting your dog sleep in your bed.
If you decide to allow your dog to sleep in your bed, there are some critical steps to take first to ensure the experience is a positive one for you and your pet.
First, make sure your dog is clean. Your dog should not only be shampooed and well-groomed but should also be checked daily before bedtime to make sure they’re not tracking dirt into your bed.
Next, their nails should be kept clipped and smooth to prevent them from scratching you. The co-sleeping arrangement will become frustrating if your pet awakens you with rough or sharp nails.
Finally, make sure to have a plan for flea and tick treatments and follow any relevant protocol. Keeping pests out of your bed is a much easier task than getting rid of them if you have an infestation. Staying on top of pest control will help you both sleep better.
Reasons NOT to let your dog sleep in your bed.
The idea of having fleas in your bed might be a deterrent for some people who might feel that pests represent a good reason to say no to co-sleeping. There are a few other reasons you might decide against allowing your dog to sleep in your bed. Here are some points to consider.
- Sleep quality. Getting adequate rest, both in terms of quality and quantity, is essential, so if your dog disrupts your sleep, it might not be a good idea to share the bed. If you are a light sleeper and tend to wake up at any noise or movement, you might not be the right candidate for co-sleeping. Dogs are polyphasic sleepers which means they sleep many times throughout the day (quite different than humans).
- Personality and overall health. If your dog is dominant or aggressive, it might not be the best cuddle buddy for sleep. If either you or your pet has health issues, sleeping separately might be the better choice. While it’s rare to contract a disease from your dog, it’s not safe to risk it if your health is vulnerable, to begin with.
- Separation anxiety. Crate train your dog first to make sure your pet doesn’t struggle with separation anxiety. Suppose there are signs of separation anxiety already; sleeping in your bed is likely to increase agitation risks when apart. Before co-sleeping, a furry friend should be comfortable sleeping alone in a dog bed.
- Allergies. Suppose you are an owner with pet allergies. In that case, you’ll need to consider how the increase in contact or dander left on the sheets might impact allergy symptoms. Each time your beloved dog goes outside, they come back in with dust, dirt, and pollen clinging to their fur, increasing the likelihood of allergic reactions. Their own skin and hair produce pet dander and allergens that can trigger reactions.
- Size matters. If you have a big dog and a small bed, co-sleeping might not be the best option. Again, make it a priority to take care of yourself and ensure you’re setting yourself up for a good night’s rest. Fighting a big dog for a little strip of bed every night will result in sleep disturbance. A small dog will have an easier time finding a sleeping spot.
- Drool and bathroom issues. If your dog is slobbery or is prone to any potty training challenges, co-sleeping won’t be an enjoyable experience. As much as you love your pet, you’re only going to wake up frustrated if your bed is wet from drool or dribbles. This goes as much for senior dogs as a pup. Older dogs can develop issues that can result in the revoking of bed privileges.
- Temperature. Think about the temperature of your home and your own internal thermostat. If you are very hot-natured, you might not enjoy having a furry dog snuggle up with you.
- Weather. If you’re in an area with hot, humid weather, sleeping with a dog might equate to sweaty nights of disrupted sleep. In a geography that is wet and gets a lot of snow or rain, the average pet parent will not want to fight the battle of damp paws every night before bed.
Consistency is key.
One of the most loving and crucial things you can do for yourself and your dog is to stick to the decision you feel is right for you both. If co-sleeping isn’t a good fit, be kind to your pet and make that decision a firm one.
If you are wishy-washy, allowing your dog to sleep with you sometimes but other times relegating them to their crate, you risk confusing, annoying, and stressing out your beloved pet.
Like you, they also need a solid routine that contributes to good quality and quantity of sleep, so the uncertainty of where they will sleep each night is not good.
While consistency is critical, there might be times you have to make a change. If your dog misbehaves, for example, you might have to take away the option to sleep with you. If this happens, work on training your dog in the areas they are having trouble with, and wait several weeks, maybe even months, before trying to teach them to sleep in your bed again.
You’ll also want to be consistent with any boundaries you want to establish with your dog. For example, you might decide that rather than allowing your dog to jump up onto the bed uninvited, you would prefer to have them wait beside the bed while you see to your bedtime preparation routine. Then, once you are ready, invite your dog to join you.
You might also want to make sure your pet knows that going to bed means going to sleep. Training your dog to keep toys out of bed is another boundary you can prepare your dog to respect. Establishing the rules, then sticking to them will prevent frustration and allow you both to enjoy the experience of sharing your sleeping space.
Timing is important.
It will help you get off to a good start if you wait until the time is right before you introduce your dog to the option of sleeping in your bed. A good night’s sleep is important. There are some non-negotiable milestones your pet must reach before they are ready to co-sleep with you.
- Potty training must be complete. Until your dog has mastered potty training and is accident-free, keep them off your bed.
- Crate training must be complete. Once your canine companion can happily sleep through the night in its crate without long-term barking or whining, you can introduce the idea of co-sleeping.
- Size matters. We have already covered the size of the dog in relation to the size of the bed, but you also need to make sure your dog is big enough to be safe sleeping in your bed.
- For example, if you have a Labrador, they will quickly grow to be big enough that you won’t inadvertently roll over and smash them. (You will need to buy them a larger dog bed, though)
- If your dog is a Teacup Chihuahua, it will take longer for them to grow in size and maturity enough to be safe from being squished by a human bedmate that is tossing and turning.
Put the conversation to rest. Should I let my dog sleep in my bed?
Think about you, your lifestyle, your personal preferences, your personality. Factor in the same about your dog. What is their nature? Preferences? Characteristics? If you think co-sleeping will be a satisfying experience for you and your dog, feel free to give it a try. Many allow their dogs to sleep in the owner’s bed with them and wouldn’t have it any other way.
Make sure your dog is clean, well-groomed, and well-trained. You should master potty training and crate training first. Carefully consider the logistics like bed size, dog size, temperature, weather, and allergies. Preparation helps avoid sleepless nights and maintain your own sleep efficiency.
Once you’ve made the decision and allowed your four-legged friend to share your bed, be consistent and avoid flip-flopping back and forth. If behavior or other serious factors cause co-sleeping to no longer be in the best interest of you or your dog, you can reconsider the practice then.
Sleeping together can satisfy the need for emotional closeness, help you feel safer and more secure, and be a fulfilling experience for both pet owner and dog.