I was at home ill in bed the last few days and one of my only comforts as I sat feeling sorry for myself was that my three dogs had been really good about keeping the bed warm for me all weekend! They are wonderful companions when I am sick. It’s like “they know….”
We could get into a whole conversation on what it is and how they actually “know” when we are sick but honestly in that moment the most valuable thing to me was that they kept my side of the bed warm and kept me company. I suspect this is why many dog owners let their dogs sleep in their beds. I was reminded me of an article I read recently about the risks of letting dogs sleep in bed with us. The article primarily highlighted the risks of the spread of zoonotic agents from dog to human. This risk however applies to any scenario where licking or “kissing” might occur not just when a dog sleeps in the same bed as their owner.
Then there is the “behavioral” question. It never ceases to amaze me the expressions on client’s faces when I ask them in a behavioral consultation “where does your dog sleep?” Nine times out of ten, the client gets a sheepish look on their face and almost as if asking ME the question says “in bed with me?” Then before I can get a word out, they will ask “is that okay?” My reply typically is “well, is it a problem for you or the dog?” and the answer will usually be “no.” So my final response is then of course its okay! I am not sure where we all got the idea that its NOT okay for dogs to sleep in the bed with us or that they are being “dominant” if they do so. I must have missed the manual on that one. All I know is that as a dog owner myself, it is of great comfort to me and one of the many wonderful shared experiences I have with my dogs.
That said, there are the occasional situations where the dog sleeping on the bed IS a problem in the household. Typically we see this in a setting where the dog feels the need to protect or guard either the bed itself or the human in the bed. The dog should not have to take on this job and we would want to take a closer look at what imbalances are occurring in the relationship with that human that need to be changed so that guarding or protecting is no longer a job that the dog feels they need to do. Other instances may be ones of safety for the dog. If you have a small Chihuahua and you tend to roll around a lot in your sleep….this could be a problem for the dog!
Lastly, ask the dog. Even if you enjoy having the dog on the bed with you, make sure they derive the same pleasure from it. Some dogs can get overheated and actually prefer lying on a nice cool floor. Other dogs might just prefer having more space to stretch out and do not mind sleeping on the floor or in a comfy dog bed next to your bed. Ask them, they will let you know.
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Articles from Victoria Stilwell
- 2021 Dog Behavior Conference Announced
- Why I’m Not a Purely Positive Dog Trainer
- Becoming a Dog Trainer
- Social Bullying
- Does Your Dog Respect You?