Bed Warmers

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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Positively Expert: Cathy Bruce, CPDT

Cathy Bruce is a VSPDT and a CPDT and the owner of Canine Country Academy, LLC in Lawrenceville, GA. After a successful career as a Broadway singer/actress, she decided to pursue her love of dogs. As a dog trainer, she strives to educate owners on how to better communicate with their dogs using only positive methods.


33 thoughts on “Bed Warmers

  1. Nicole

    I would love to let my dog Griffen (dogue de bordeaux) sleep in my bed expect for the snoring, drooling and kickiing. Unfortunalty he just doesn't make a very good bed companion. He is great to cuddle when I'm feeling sick though.

  2. Alison

    Hope you feel better soon. One of my saint bernards harry has a twisted spine and hip displaisa and we have an extra large super king bed with a memory foam mattress and he constantly creeps up the stairs for hours for a nice snooze its so funny he loves it!!

  3. dawn

    I have one dog that prefers to sleep with me, one that likes his bed in the corner (or on a bed in the basement next to the heater) and one that sleeps on a twin mattress that I have made up on the floor at the foot of my bed. They picked their spots. I love snuggling with the one that likes sleeping with me. I have not found that it hampers his training at all.

  4. Cassandra

    My dog Zeuse doesnt like sleeping in my bed, hes a pure bred lab we got from a yardsale, he'll sleep in my bed when its just him and our other dog, Treasure who is a beagle mix we found on the streets. Treasure is a bed hog who will walk on top of my boyfriend and make herself comfortable, though she wont do that to me

  5. Lori

    A better way to put it is that my dogs let me sleep with them. I have 3 dogs and 2 cats and all but maybe one cat sleeps in bed with me. 2 under the covers and the rest on top. I have learned to adjust. LOL. Thank goodness I don't have a husband. Lord knows where he would have to sleep.

  6. Amy B.

    We love having our dogs sleep in the bed and miss that terribly on the rare occasion we go away without them! We do not let all of them sleep with us, for various reasons. First of all, there would not be enough room! The very old dogs sleep in their nice warm beds on the floor next to the bed because they could get injured if they jumped off the bed. We also have a young dog with protective/guarding issues, so he sleeps in his crate. We are not having much luck modifying his behavior, unfortunately. We hope to begin working with a new trainer next week. We have never had a dog with this problem, so it is all new to us! He is so good at home that it makes his behavior even more shocking when we try to take him out in public. I feel bad not letting him sleep in the bed, because he loves to snuggle under a blanket next to us when we are on the couch. I have much more empathy for people that have dogs with problematic behavior now!

  7. kerry

    i would love to have mine in bed with me, however my boyfriend is asthmatic and we have to keep the bed a dog free zone. our little sausage dog sleeps in a big comfy bed and we dont hear a peep out of her at all untill we get up the next day. she stretches right out in her bed and goes even longer!!! on a safety note, holly is far too small to get in bed with us, we would crush her she is so teeny!

  8. Harold

    I have a 10 month old Shih Tzu. She spends half her time sleeping with us in bed, the other half sleeping in her crate. it comes down to her. she decides. if she sleeps in bed, she sleeps behind my knees. when she wants down, i can feel her crass over my legs and that's my signal to put her off the bed. she is not confident in jumping down from that height, so i have to read the signal. it works for us.

  9. Alison

    My pooch, a 8 month old shepherd-hound mix, likes to start sleeping in the bed by my feet, but during the night will go back to "her room" (the crate that is next to the bed with a dog bed in it) to sleep. Then in the morning, she'll jump back up to let me know she's ready for breakfast and to go out. I get to snuggle, she's comfortable, so everyone wins!

  10. Joseli

    it sucks to be sick, so hope you feel better. I can't let my dog sleep in my bed as the cat would likely kill us both for it!

  11. Angela

    I also have two dogs both different. . The toy poodle loves to be in bed with us, curls up and no problem. Started when I had just got him as a puppy and had flu. He knew | was ill and curled up with me. The other miniature poodle bitch. Does not like to settle on the bed . when we are camping go on and off the bed unsettled. She has hew own little den under the chair for day time snoozes but when we go to bed likes to stretch out on the sofa preferring a lot of space. One is a "curl up small dog, the other a stretch out as much as I can dog. And if any dog is more dominant it is the bossy bitch that sleeps downstairs and is generally much less pampered!

  12. Tina Kiker

    We have a Golden Retriever that prefers to sleep on the hardwood than her bedding. Never thought it might be because the floor is cooler (she does have a freakishly thick coat). Our Brittany loves our hard marble hearth when he comes in from a hot day, but seems to hate sleeping on anything hard at night.
    We are considering transitioning the Brit from a crate at night to being free to sleep wherever in our room he wants to (he's young, and we are giving him more responsibility). The Golden is older, and was trained by a previous family not to be on furniture at all. Going to be interesting to see if the Brit "demands" to sleep up in the bed with us or in a corner with her!

  13. Carol

    The trick is, how to UN-do the dogs' sleeping arrangements. I'm single, but what to do when my boyfriend wants to spend the night ("etc.")? The small dog that usually sleeps in the bed is kenneled when I leave the house, but if he's kenneled and I'm upstairs in my room, he howls the "death howl" and will do it for a very, very long time - embarrassing AND annoying.

  14. Wendy

    My recently adopted Beagle, Baxter was a total mess when I saw him at the shelter I volunteer at. He was almost shutdown and shaking so hard! HE came HOME!! Since then he has crawled onto the bed. I KNOW this has never happened to him before as he is an ex breeder dog. I have 2 that were surrendered from this guy, they are both beg hogs. The others may join them but I have beds and a couch around the room where they hang out. It's their choice as to whether to come on the bed. My 11 year old dalmatian will "Ask" to come on the bed, usually when HE needs a cuddle which is rare as he nests in a big dog bed with another underneath, lol. They're training is not compromised, so it will continue. Although I DID use your training method for my 60lb boxer X!!!! She sleeps on the couch ( old loveseat) in my bedroom. My room has 6 blessings and is full of love. Every dog is rescued from different parts of the country, the boxer X was rescued of death row In Chesterfield, SC and flown up here to Eastern Oregon. They are ALL entitled to a loving environment. xxxx

  15. lee day

    hi it,s leeday maybe my italan greayhound ramey nicky and my dushound lucy julia are soiled but they love sleeping under my covers but otis my laso maltis mix like seeing in his bed then they come out from under the covers and wach t.v with me

  16. Susie, C.V.T.

    I really appreciate this article! I let my big greyhound sleep with me and love it. He's a dear sweet big giant. But my heeler and border collie are in kennels on the floor. They would take over the bed, my life and house if I let them sleep up there with me! Depends on the individual dog, as you have implied! Again, great read.

  17. Patty Cipriani

    I have 2 beagles and both love to sleep with me. One always sleeps at my feet and the other one has to be touching me (which is nice when's its cold outside we live in Chicago). If its getting late and they are tired they will go to bed before I do.

  18. Katie

    Love this article, especially as I just spent several days sick and snuggling on the couch with my lhasa/terrier. I actually decided not to let my dog sleep in bed with me at night because, even though he's small, quiet, and usually stays in one spot, I find I don't sleep as well when he's with me--and I don't sleep very well as it is... I do sometimes let him join me if I'm napping or decide to sleep in a little after the alarm goes off. Somehow he knows that when I'm in the bed, he has to be invited up, but when I'm not, it's fair game. Such a smart little guy!

  19. Cathy Bruce

    Glad you all enjoyed the blog post! I think someone had asked about "un-doing" sleeping arrangements which is a great question. My answer is that it CAN be done if done properly. When I visit my parents house with my dogs they don't want my dogs on their we bring crates and put them next to the bed so the dog still hears our breathing and senses our presence which is calming. This may take a night or two of adjustment for the dog, but as long as you don't give up if they cry or bark for a night and don't reinforce that behavior, they will eventually get it. I also give a small cookie in the crate before they go to bed. Same thing when my parent's dog stays at our house. He cannot be up on our bed with our three dogs so I taught him to sleep on a dog bed next to our bed. The first night he kept trying to jump up on the bed, but we persevered and now he knows the bed time drill. The key really is keeping them in the same room with you so they do not feel isolated.

  20. Heidi Brewer

    I would *love* my dog to sleep on the bed -- unfortunately he seems to like his own space and prefers the floor. Alas!

  21. Karina

    I live alone with 2 dachshunds and they sleep in the bed with me. I think of it as the pack sleeps together so why wouldn't they be in the bed with me? I don't have a problem with it. They know their place and if I don't want them in the bed, they respect that and sleep in their crate. I couldn't imagine sleeping alone without them. They are great. They have their "spot" picked out. One is down at my legs and the other stays up by my belly so I can spoon him. If it works out for you, do it! Remember- the pack sleeps together!

  22. MP

    I was determined that my rescued rat terrier would not be a bed dog. We spent a month with him getting me up in the wee hours until I gave in and let him on the bed. It was our first quiet night all month! I like to say he's a smart dog, but it did take him a month to train me to let him on the bed. Then the girl rat terrier came in and showed him how to burrow under the covers.

    I cannot emphasize enough that you need to maintain a flea and tick preventative program. I had two deer tick bites, with soreness and fever, and had to go on antibiotics, even with the dogs on preventative (the ticks could jump on me during our walks, of course).

  23. Alisha

    I have a year old maltipoo who I let sleep in my bed. I did have a problem at one point though; she started to growl and try to bite every night at bedtime when I would get into bed. I guessed it was a territorial thing. Everytime she did it I removed her from the bed. She stopped after a while.

  24. Mary Grace White

    I can't imagine what my life would be like if I didn't have a dog in my bed waiting for me to come to bed at night. My first dog "Chopper" a dachshund/cocker mix spent his last hours in my bed with me holding him as he took his last breath. He was on the left side of the bed and to this day, if I roll over to my left side, I wake up. My present dog "Harvey" is a German shepherd/ Corgi mix and can be a bed hog at times, but he's getting better. I too have been at home sick and it is such a consolation to have my buddy there, but if I ask him to get off the bed, he's very complient and when he comes back into the room, he'll walk up to the bed and "ask" permission ( he just looks at me with those big brown eyes) and if I say "no" he'll simply lie down on the floor, waits a few minutes then asks again. I can't refuse him a second time!

  25. Hayley

    My dog sleeps with us - starts between us on the duvet (in warmer months) or under (in very cold times!)... He then adjusts to take over a good third of the bed, and by morning, ends up on the top of the duvet either between my husband's legs or his head resting on mine. Once or twice I've woken up with him laying on my back with his nose pressed to my cheek - good job he's only cairn terrier sized!!

  26. Caitlin

    My little Chi mix is definitely a bed dog. As soon as I get into bed, he leaps up there with me, crawls under the covers, and curls up against me. It's amazing how much of a blanket hog he is, considering he only weighs 15 pounds!!

  27. Hayley

    And to add to my earlier comment, he is the BEST lie-in partner 🙂 Funniest thing is when he whines to go out for a wee in the morning - husband gets up, lets him out; Fred then comes straight back upstairs and plonks himself down in the husband's vacated (warm!) spot, so husband has no space. Haha! Clever little dude! I love my dog 🙂

  28. Kate

    My Staffordshire Bull Terrier loves nothing more than cuddling up to me in bed. His snoring gets a bit much sometimes but otherwise I love cuddling up with him. Even my dog sitters have him sleeping with them!! He is also the laziest dog i have ever know I have to literaly kick out of the bed in the morning for a walk!!! I love my staffy he really is my little baby.

  29. Helen

    We have a rescue Staffordshire bull terrier, she has slept on our bed every night since we adopted her and we are all very happy with the arrangement! she has her own bed that she uses in the daytime but when it's bedtime she knows where she wants to be! She is a people dog and is at her most content when her people are with her! She is such a snuggle monster!

  30. Erato

    I guess there are many good reasons to believe allowing a dog to sleep in your bed is wrong, because an untrained dog, with an inexperienced owner (especially is it's dominant by nature) will almost inevitably decide that he OWNS the bed at some point. But I also firmly believe that any dog that has a sense of his own place in the pack, and an owner who is at least mentally-stable and predictable, can be allowed to do anything, including sleeping in bed with us. It doesn't take much, but there are some people who should avoid it... however those should probably avoid having dogs in general. Personally I know about a really bad case of a bed-sleeper (a young male doberman that was treated like a baby his whole life and never trained or even taught any manners), but my own cocker spaniel puppy has kept me warm in bed this whole winter and we both love it 🙂 Added bonus: Puppies are WAY warmer than, for example cats that also share the bed with me 😉

    That being said, I really love your common-sense approach to dog training and dog owning in general. Thank you for sharing your opinions!

  31. Margaret

    My dog loves to sleep near me in my bed but she does want her own space. She is a 6 pound Yorkie who loves to sleep near enough to see me, but far away enough to roll around.

  32. ANA

    Well i could tell by experience that dogs have an amazing sensitive feeling not just when your sick even when you are sad and depress. when my father pass away my dog use to cry when i was crying just each other on the bed. Just the feeling that i dint want my dog to be depress get me out of a depression. Thats why i love my dog more than my husband because they love just for who you are no matter what .

  33. Darlene

    My Japanese Chin sleeps right between my husband and l. He has been on our bed since we got him at 10 weeks of age. His snoring can get pretty loud but I could not sleep without him for sure. He is my angel from heaven. I love him with all my heart!! He weighs just at ten pounds. His name is Tai Mishka. He does not like to cuddle much but likes the safety of being between us and thats good enough for me!!

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