Should You Let Your Dog Sleep In Your Bed?
Why I Let Yuna Snooze In Mine
Dog owners are split just about halfway when it comes to whether or not they allow dogs on beds. Is it good or bad? The answer is highly dog dependent.
October 21st, 2018
As innocuous as the issue seems to be, dog owners have stirred up long-standing debates around whether or not it’s okay to let their dogs sleep with them in their beds at night.
Just under half of dog owners allow this practice, with approximately 62% of small breed, 41% of medium breed, and 32% of large breed owners cuddling with their pups during their slumber.
I let Yuna sleep in my bed, which puts me in the slight minority (I’d classify her as a medium-sized breed, smaller than most labradors).
Like many other common doggy questions, I believe this is another one that does not have a one-size-fits-all answer. Some people think it’s perfectly fine, while others think it should be an addition to this list of things you should never do to your dog.
Whether or not you’ll condone this practice is highly dependent on your dog’s personality and various tendencies.
However, unlike other issues, this one has an abundance of reasons against the practice. So in this article, I will cover the main reasons why people do not advocate this, and why I still let Yuna in my bed despite all these reasons.
Con #1: Your Dog Will Have Trouble Understanding Boundaries
There is a common school of thought among many dog trainers that allowing a dog onto your bed fails to establish you as the alpha, and this can lead to behavioral problems down the road (Dominance theory is not something I’d like to get into here, but there is more than enough information available online about that if you’re interested).
A human bed is for humans. You need to establish boundaries from the very beginning of your relationship, proving that you are the authority figure. This is a key step in getting your dog to be obedient and to respond well to other commands.
Specifically, there are areas of the house you want dog-free. Many dog owners forbid them not only on their beds, but on sofas, tables, etc. Allowing a dog onto a bed may immediately cause your dog to associate being on sofas and tables as okay as well.
Moreover, getting onto a human bed requires some jumping if you’re a dog, which in many cases is undesired behavior. You don’t want dogs jumping on other furniture in the house. You also don’t want dogs jumping onto other humans.
Ultimately, keeping your dog off the bed could be a large contributing factor to getting that fully-obedient dog you dream of.
Con #2: It Will Not Solve Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety, And May Develop It
Though your dog would really rather be with you at all times, they need to learn to be comfortable being alone.
It’s still up in the air on whether or not letting your dog sleep with you will cause them to develop separation anxiety, but there is a consensus that if a dog already has separation anxiety, the additional 8 hours of nighttime closeness will do nothing to cure it.
Curing separation anxiety is all about teaching your dog to be by himself. If they can’t stand sleeping alone at night, there’s no way they handle you leaving the house.
If your dog has separation anxiety already, you’re not doing him any favors letting him sleep with you at night. Take baby steps to ease his anxiety—perhaps start by putting his bed right next to yours, and slowly moving it further away.
Con #3: Your Dog Can Develop Defensive Aggression
Imagine a situation where your dog sleeps with you so often that he associates the bed as his own. Sounds ludicrous, but this kind of protective aggression is actually a common occurrence among dogs.
Some dogs are very territorial, and once they establish that the bed is their space, any intrusion—even by you—could be met with growls and aggressive behavior.
However, this issue usually comes up in conjunction with other ways owners mistreat or confuse their dogs. Resting with your dog is a natural, soothing activity and it doesn’t make sense that this would develop defensive aggression on its own.
In fact, experts seem to agree that sleeping with a dog by itself will never be the cause of any problem. But it can and will magnify problems that are already present.
If you notice your dog getting defensive with his space, especially in the bedroom, it’s worth your while to examine the big picture of how you’ve been training your dog, and to slowly get them off your bed until the behavior subsides.
Con #4: A Dog Can Be Dirty
Not only CAN a dog be dirty… they almost surely will be dirty!
If you haven’t noticed it yet, your dog picks up dirt outside, and that may be the cleanest thing on their paws. When your dog sniffs around curiously at a mysterious looking puddle, there’s a pretty good chance that’s another dog’s business…
Would highly recommend giving your dog a full wipe down before they hop in your bed.
Con #5: A Dog In Your Bed Can Affect Your Sleep
Dogs toss and turn too. Not every dog sleeps like a little angel. Yuna snores occasionally.
If you’re intent on keeping your dog on your bed, know that you could be sacrificing your own z’s!
Con #6: In Rare Cases, A Dog In Your Bed Could Mean A Bite To The Face
There are individual cases you can find (for example, on this Reddit) where dogs bite their owners (accidentally or otherwise) during their sleep. While I’d say this is rare, it is something to watch out for.
Many dogs have a quick startle reflex. If you inadvertently crush their tail or paw during their sleep, they are not going to react like a human would and wake you up to tell you the problem. They likely will just act out of discomfort—if they bark, you’re lucky.
Some unfortunate owners have taken bites to the face, and emergency visits to the hospital.
Why I Let Yuna Do It: You Will Build a Better Bond With Your Dog
Earlier in this post we briefly touched on the more conservative school of thought which prioritizes setting boundaries for your dog.
At the other, more “progressive” end of the spectrum, there are those that promote above all else the unique relationship between a human and their dog. They still admit the importance of keeping your dog well-trained, but allow practices like these to bolster that relationship.
They argue that “allowing your dog to sleep on your bed causes your dog to have behavioral issues” is a non-sequitur. You can have the best of both worlds—your dog can sleep with you, AND your dog can understand his boundaries. The two issues shouldn’t be lumped together.
The root cause of why your dog enjoys your bed so much is because they want to be close to you. And though a dog is only part of your life, you are their entire life.
To them, you radiate security and warmth. They feel at ease when they’re close to you. Let them express their love.
Not every dog is suitable to be sleeping with you on the bed. Like I mentioned before, each dog should be considered independently.
Yuna is a very mellow, well-behaved dog at home. She naturally understood boundaries the moment she we adopted her. I remember fumbling, trying to get my hands on puppy crates so she’d stay out of our kitchen and bathroom, but she magically knew not to enter these areas and saved me some money and trouble there.
Though Yuna is by my side nearly the entire day (she sleeps in my bed and is allowed to follow me to work), she doesn’t have any signs of separation anxiety. She doesn’t tear anything up in the house, even when she’s alone for many hours.
Moreover, a bark out of Yuna is rarer than a full moon. She doesn’t bark incessantly or display any other concerning aggressive behaviors.
I give Yuna a nice wipe down after our last potty break walk. I use a puppy wipe to clean her paws, legs, belly, and any other dirty spot in general. Admittedly, the sole reason I’m doing this is because I know she will be on my bed later.
Finally, I love sleeping with my four-legged ball of warmth. As winter rolls around in Seattle, I won’t be needing to turn on my heater. It is just another one of the many joys of having a dog.
Check out Yuna’s Instagram for more happiness!