Dogs will sleep happily for 12 to 18 hours a day. Ah, to live a dog’s life! But the question is, should they be putting in a chunk of that sleep time next to you in your bed?
The opinions on this topic are all over the board, but according to the American Kennel Club (AKC), about 45 percent of dogs in America sleep in their owners’ beds. Twenty percent of respondents said their dogs spend the night in their crate, while 17 percent said their dog’s resting spot was a dog bed. Around 14 percent said their dogs sleep in “various indoor places,” while only four percent said their dogs have outdoor sleeping quarters. Is there anything wrong with letting your pup share your bed, and if so, do the positives outweigh the negatives?
Sleep Disturbance or Canine Comforter?
Quality sleep is extremely important to our mental and physical health. The fewer disturbances one has over the course of a night’s sleep, the more rested they should feel. Perhaps that’s why an estimated 25 percent of couples sleep in separate beds. A variety of factors weigh into this decision (snoring, restlessness, etc.), but if someone is easily awakened/disturbed while sleeping, the obvious choice is going to be having the dog sleep somewhere other than the bed.
Interestingly, a 2018 study found that women actually sleep better with dogs than they do with their human counterparts. The study considers that a difference in human sleep patterns, such as one partner going to sleep and getting up at different hours, could be the culprit. Also, the study suggests that dogs are more adaptable to their human sleep patterns than humans are to each other.
And for those of us who share a bed with our significant canine, we know they don’t remain motionless over the course of an evening. They might start the night on top of the comforter, tossing every now and then before seeking comfort under the sheets. For some people, this is a non-issue and they might even welcome the opportunity to get those nigh time snuggles.
And while sleep disturbances count against a perfect night’s sleep, science tells us there are advantages to sharing a bed as couples and with our dogs. In both situations, the brain is rewarded with a flow of oxytocin, the feel-good hormone, when we sleep with our human and canine counterparts. Oxytocin promotes theta brainwaves, which are known to happen when you’re in REM sleep. Some studies have even shown that the heartbeats of dogs and their owners sync during sleep.
Dominance Debate: Fact or Myth?
There’s a school of thought out there saying dogs make decisions based on their status as dominant or submissive. This has been applied to dogs sleeping in their owners’ beds. Some trainers are firmly in the mindset that unwanted behaviors, including aggression in the bed, are related to dominance. Therefore, some of them will tell you that allowing your dog in your bed is basically telling them they are the king of the world and reinforces a sense of control over their human counterparts.
Others believe the dominant/submissive, alpha/beta school of thought is cliché, inaccurate and “old hat,” if not dangerous, which is a theory supported in a University of Bristol study, which says dog behaviors have been misunderstood for generations and that aggressive dogs aren’t asserting their dominance, rather they are displaying aggression to the punishment they are about to receive.
Rather than believing that a dog’s desire to join humans in their beds is motivated by a sense of dominance, it’s more likely they just want to be comfortable and near their family members. That doesn’t mean there are never problems between dogs and their human in bed, which can be a liability and needs immediate attention.
For example, a dog that’s seemingly protective of one partner might growl at the other as they approach the bed. While this might be the case, they could also be showing aggression to the fact that they are forced to give up their comfortable spot in the bed once the second partner arrives. In any case, working on this possessiveness through positive reinforcement is recommended.
Is It Healthy?
One of the top considerations for people letting their dogs sleep in the same bed is the germ factor, particularly for those who are immunocompromised. Or, if you’re an allergy sufferer, dog dander in one’s bed will be a big no-no, which means the bed is not an option for Fido.
Parasites are another risk factor when the dog shares the bed. The most common is fleas, which are definitely not great bedfellows. Ticks and mites are also parasites that could invade your bed. You can also come into contact with roundworm and hookworm eggs, as they will lay their eggs in your dog’s hair and can easily be shed onto your sheets. While hookworms are not a threat to humans, the same cannot be said of roundworms.
Finally, there is fecal matter to consider. It can get in between your dog’s paws and brought into bed, introducing nasty things such as E. coli and salmonella. If your pup has had a day at the dog park and you aren’t sure the paws are completely clean, it’s always a good move to wipe them down with some canine-safe soap before bedtime.
We all want what’s best for our dogs, and if they jump up into bed every night, eager to be part of the nighttime snugglefest, we generally embrace it. Despite the initial fears of germs or parasites or even some restlessness, most people will say the bed-sharing routine has so many positive aspects, it’s a no-brainer to let them in. For example, many dog owners say it reduces stress and anxiety, offers warmth and protection and even helps them fall asleep faster.
How about you? Does your dog have a mattress of its own in the bedroom or sleep in a crate somewhere outside the bedroom?
If your dog is anxious and has sleep issues, we have something that could be of help. Check out our peanut butter crunch treat called Calm. It supports a calm and relaxed mood, lifts your dog’s spirits, lessens unwanted behaviors. It’s made with an organic, full spectrum CBD oil from CO2 distillate extract. It also includes valerian root, which is known to be a natural mild sedative.