A growing number of Americans spend their nights snuggled up with their dogs. In fact, a recent survey by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association found that 42 percent of all dog owners allow their pooches to sleep in the bed with them at night.
And it’s easy to understand why many pet owners do this. “Dogs add companionship if you are single or in a bad relationship,” says Susan Nelson, DVM, a clinical associate professor at the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine. “They provide extra warmth on a cold night. They evoke a sense of security, especially for children who are scared of the dark. They give an added sense of safety from potential intruders. It may also create a greater bond between you and your dog. Let’s face it: It’s hard to beat a warm, furry bundle of unconditional love.”
But is having your dog sleep next to you such a good idea? Opinions from pet health experts are mixed.
The Pros and Cons of Pets in the Bed
Some dog trainers and veterinarians discourage the habit because it shows submission. “People worry that allowing your dog to sleep in your bed will create dominance issues and will teach your dog that you are not the leader of the pack,” says Cori Gross DVM, a practicing veterinarian near Seattle.
However, Dr. Gross, as well as many other veterinary experts, says that these concerns are often blown out of proportion. “If your dog already has dominance issues with you as the owner, then having them sleep in bed with you can be a problem,” says Gross. “But if they do not have those issues, then it will not create them.”
Another concern? Hygiene. According to a recent report by the California Department of Public Health’s chief veterinarian, sleeping with your pet could make you sick. Though rare, a number of infections — from chagas disease to cat-scratch disease — can be spread from pet to person. Other cons include fleas and potential messes if your dog is not yet housetrained.
Still, you can minimize distress over doggy germs with regular and frequent vet visits, which you should be scheduling anyway. The risk is very small “as long as the pet owner keeps the dog current on flea and worm preventatives,” says Gross.
“Your dog should b Aside from dominance and hygiene concerns, there are a few other reasons you may not want to sleep with your dog, says Dr. Nelson. Your dog may keep you up by hogging too much of the bed, snoring, or smelling bad. That’s why Steve Brooks, a certified dog trainer and founder of SteveBrooksK9U in Los Angeles, recommends certain rules for a happy and healthy pet.e able to stay on the floor while you’re in bed for at least 10 minutes, and then you should be able to invite your dog up on your terms,” says Brooks. “Your dog should lay calm on the foot or the side of your bed without constantly pawing, nudging, or pushing. The bed is not a place to chew bones or play; it is a place for a calm massage or sleep. You don’t want to find yourself on the edge of the bed or being pushed off the bed by your dog in the middle of the night. It then becomes the dog’s bed, not yours.”
When Fido Belongs on the Floor
If your dog can’t abide by these rules for co-sleeping, then it might be time to get him used to the floor. This isn’t an easy process, but Gross has a few tips that can help. “If your dog is used to sleeping in your bed, it will be very difficult to wean him off this habit,” she says. “Start by placing a bed just for the dog on your bed and encouraging him to sleep in it for a week or so. Then try moving it to the floor next to the bed.”
Nelson offers additional advice: “If he jumps on the bed, tell him ‘no’ and gently put him back on the floor. This may take several repetitions. If that fails, but you still want him in the room, try keeping him in a crate so he stays contained. Give him toys or a bone to help keep him occupied and content.”
Making this adjustment can take a lot of work and dedication, but Nelson says that it ultimately pays off with a dog that’s happy with his new sleeping arrangement.