Humans and dogs have been sleeping side-by-side for millennia. Though the practice may have started as a means for nighttime protection and warmth, it’s evolved into a cherished tradition of human-canine bonding. Many pet parents have no problem sleeping through the night with the dog in their bed. Others may have to choose between restful sleep and nighttime snuggles.
It’s never fun to look into your dog’s big, hopeful eyes and tell them “no,” but sometimes, keeping them out of your bed may be best for both of you. Let’s dig a little deeper into the pros and cons of letting your dog sleep in your bed and how to find a solution that’s best for your sleep and your relationship with your dog.
Benefits of letting your dog sleep with you
If your dog is well-adjusted and well-behaved, you may find that you sleep better and feel more connected when you let them sleep in your bed. Co-sleeping is a great way to bond with your dog, especially if they’re alone most of the day while you’re out of the house for work or school. Even though you’re asleep, it still counts as quality time, and it may go a long way in helping your dog feel happy and loved.
Dogs can be a source of warmth and security at night—like a weighted blanket—which can make it easier to relax and fall asleep. If you don’t share your bed with another human (or even if you do), you may feel safer drifting off to sleep with the knowledge that your dog will wake you up if there’s an emergency, such as an intruder or house fire.
Sleeping with your canine companion in your bed may also help decrease feelings of loneliness or sadness at night. Plus, hanging out with your dog may help reduce anxiety and put you in a better mood. If you often struggle with racing thoughts keeping you up at night, letting your dog sleep in your bed may actually help calm you down, making it easier to fall and stay asleep.
Quality sleep is essential for your physical and mental health. If you sleep better with your dog in your bed, great! If not, it may be time to find new sleeping arrangements for your furry friend.
Drawbacks of letting your dog sleep with you
Unfortunately, sleeping in the same bed as your dog doesn’t always lead to a good night’s sleep. Depending on your dog’s size and temperament, your current sleeping arrangements, and whether you have asthma or allergies, co-sleeping may be disruptive for you and your pup.
Allergies and asthma
When you sleep at night, you’re probably spending more time in one place than you do during any other part of the day. If you’re allergic to anything in your bed—like dust mites or, yes, pet dander—eight hours of constant exposure can trigger allergy symptoms that get worse at night and in the early morning.
If you or your partner are sensitive to pet dander, sleeping with your dog may leave you waking up with a runny nose or itchy, watery eyes. Allergy symptoms (and even some over-the-counter allergy medications) can make it harder to get a good night’s sleep, leaving you more tired throughout the day. Allergic reactions can also release chemicals in your body that cause you to feel even more fatigued.
Even if you’re not allergic to animal dander, co-sleeping with your dog can still aggravate nighttime asthma and allergy symptoms if they track pollen or other allergens into your bed.
Whether they snore, hog the bed, toss and turn, or growl in their sleep, some dogs just don’t make great bedmates. It’s natural to wake up a few times during the night, but sleeping with a restless pup may increase sleep interruptions and make it harder to fall back asleep once you’re up. If you also toss and turn in bed, your dog’s presence may make it harder to find a comfortable position and increase the time it takes for you to fall asleep in the first place.
Even if your dog sleeps soundly and quietly, co-sleeping can still lead to sleep disruptions if you’re naturally a light sleeper or you tend to overheat easily at night.
Other potential co-sleeping issues
Though allergies and sleep disruptions are the main reasons many people choose not to let their dog sleep in bed with them, they’re not the only potential issues that may arise from human-pet co-sleeping. Other drawbacks of allowing your dog to sleep with you can include:
- Exposure to fleas
- Interruptions in your sex life
- Accidental bites or scratches from a sleepy dog
When is co-sleeping bad for your dog?
Sometimes, co-sleeping isn’t a great option for the dog either. Older dogs with arthritis may find it painful to get in and out of your bed, and a soft mattress may not be great for aging joints. Dogs with separation anxiety, territorial tendencies, or other behavioral issues may need a designated bed of their own to help with training. If you’re unsure whether your co-sleeping arrangements are good for your dog’s health and well-being, ask your vet or a professional trainer for advice.
Transitioning away from co-sleeping with your dog
When the drawbacks of co-sleeping outweigh the benefits, it’s probably time to start rethinking your sleeping practices. Fortunately, you probably won’t have to kick your dog out of the bedroom completely to fix your sleep problems.
If you’re already in the habit of letting your dog sleep in your bed, it’s going to take some time and patience to retrain them. Be prepared for your dog to whine and plead with big, sad eyes—stay strong! Giving in and letting them sleep with you will only make the transition more confusing for your furry friend.
Get a bed that your dog will love. Look for one that’s big enough for their favorite sleeping positions and has a similar firmness to your mattress. Then, add a blanket, pet bed warmer, pillow, or anything else to make their new bed feel every bit as comfortable as your bed.
Keep your dog’s new bed in your room, and give them treats and plenty of praise when they lie on it. Put their favorite toys or stuffed animals on or near the bed—your goal is to teach your dog that good things happen when they use their new bed.
Place their bed near yours, at least at first, so they don’t feel like you’re banishing them too far away. (Bonus points if you can reach down and pet them without getting up.) If you need to, you can gradually move their bed farther away once they’re used to the new sleeping arrangements.
Start training your dog to stay off your bed. Once they’re comfortable in their new bed, try to make it harder to jump on your bed at night by using a dog gate, crate, or even furniture to block their access to your bed. If they still hop into bed when you’re trying to sleep, you may need to train them to understand the “off” command. You can practice this when they get on your bed during the day, giving them treats for jumping off the bed on your order.
Teaching your dog to sleep in their own bed isn’t easy, but you can help ease the transition by taking these steps throughout the day:
- Giving your dog plenty of attention and snuggles;
- Setting aside extra time to play with your dog and help them get exercise;
- Using puzzle toys to give your dog mental stimulation;
- Implementing a consistent bedtime routine, so your dog knows what to expect each night in their new bed.
Maximizing sleep and hygiene while co-sleeping with your dog
If you can’t bear the thought of looking into your dog’s eyes and telling them they can’t sleep with you, there are steps you can take to help reduce allergens in the bedroom and set yourself up for a great night’s sleep.
- Take your dog outside before bed. Give them a chance to go to the bathroom and run around a little before settling down for the night, so they’re less likely to wake you up while you’re trying to sleep.
- Show your dog that the bed is a place for calm and quiet. Keep toys and rowdy play out of your bedroom to help your dog understand that bedtime is time to wind down and go to sleep.
- Train your dog to sleep in a specific part of your bed. If you usually sleep better with your dog near your feet, at your side, or somewhere else, train them to stick to that area throughout the night so they don’t disrupt your shuteye.
- Invest in a mattress cover. Waterproof covers can protect your bed from nighttime accidents, and hypoallergenic mattress covers can help keep some allergens from building up in the fabric of your mattress.
- Wipe your dog’s paws and fur with a damp towel when they come in from outside to reduce the pollen and other allergens they track into your home. Wipe their paws again just before bed to help keep them from bringing dust or dirt onto your sheets during nighttime snuggles.
- Use an air purifier in your bedroom to help trap pet dander and other airborne allergens.
- Change your bedsheets at least once a week.
So… should you let your dog sleep in your bed?
The answer depends on your situation. It’s not inherently bad to let your dog sleep in bed with you, but it may not be worth it if co-sleeping comes at the cost of your sleep quality or respiratory health. Ultimately, it’s up to you to weigh the pros and cons of letting your dog sleep in your bed and decide what works best for both of you. No matter what you choose, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to bond with your dog throughout the day and create a routine filled with happiness, love, and a healthy amount of sleep.
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