In many homes, pets are treated like human family members. Alas, there are risks to allowing a dog to share a human bed, and these should be factored into any decision about sleeping arrangements.
The presence of a dog on the bed will disturb your rest, especially if you’re a light sleeper. Canine allergies are aggravated overnight, and dogs can also introduce parasites, illnesses, and filth. Sleeping with a dog can lead to a sense of codependency and blurred behavioral boundaries.
It’s a matter of personal choice whether you share your bed with a dog. Some people would not have it any other way, and that’s fine. However, you need to understand the risks of sleeping with a dog.
My Dog Sleeps on My Bed
There are many reasons why canine company can be soothing overnight, especially if you sleep alone. Dogs offer security and protection, while canine body heat makes them akin to living hot water bottles.
A study in the journal Anthrozoös confirms that sleeping with dogs can adversely affect sleep quality. For some people, this is a risk worth taking as they consider the benefits to outweigh the risks.
If you already have a dog, your decision has likely been made about where the animal sleeps. However, you can train a dog out of sleeping on the bed if it is disturbing you.
Moving home is an opportunity to start over and set new precedents with your dog about sleeping arrangements. If you’re undecided about whether your dog should sleep on your bed, there are some compelling arguments why this shouldn’t be the case.
Why Is It Bad to Sleep with Your Dog?
Despite all the positivity that arises from sharing your bed with a beloved dog, this practice also has risks. In many respects, the dangers of sleeping with dogs outweigh the benefits.
If you’re wondering why sleeping with your dog is bad, the answer is more complex than blanket statements like “dogs carry fleas,” although this is a concern.
Let’s review why your dog should enjoy its own independent place to sleep:
1/ Broken Sleep
Dogs may sleep a lot, but canine dozing habits differ from humans. Your dog will often sleep lightly, remaining alert to any potential threat.
That may offer a measure of protection and comfort, but it’s also a potential disturbance. If your dog hears any noise outside, including passing traffic, it may shift position, bark, or otherwise try to alert you, which could happen multiple times in a night.
Even if your dog doesn’t feel the need to warn you of perceived threats, it may grow bored and restless at night. If your dog sees fit to jump off the bed and search for water or snacks, it will likely wake you up. If the dog decides to play with a squeaky toy in your room, you can forget about a good night’s sleep.
2/ Damaging Relationship with a Partner
Not everybody is a dog lover. The wisdom of dating a canine agnostic if you have dogs is a debate for another website, but sleeping arrangements can be particularly problematic in such a scenario.
Beyond the simple logistics of a double bed usually being sized according to two adults – not two adults and a dog – the presence of a third party in a bed can inhibit intimacy. If one partner has an allergy or fear of dogs, this will be magnified at night.
Sleeping with a dog can also disturb sleep. You may be OK with this, but will a partner say the same? The presence of a dog on the bed could spark arguments and disagreements among couples.
No matter how much time you spend washing and grooming a dog, the animal will always find a new way to get dirty. That’s just par for the course with canines. You may not mind this in your daily life, but think about the impact it could have on your bed linen.
At best, dogs will leave a trail of muddy paw prints on your sheets and pillow. At worst, they could leave urine or feces behind them. That’s not besmirching the way you care for your dogs – it’s just the way things are with furry animals.
Of course, none of this mentions the fact that dogs shed too. If you have a breed that loses fur at a high rate, you’ll be cleaning up after it near-constantly.
Loose fur can be dangerous if you, or anybody that sleeps in your bed, has an allergy to dogs. This allergy is triggered by dander, which are dead skin cells that will be left on your bed linen by your pet.
According to Current Allergy and Asthma Reports, there’s no evidence to support claims that ‘exposure therapy’ strengthens the immune system against a dog allergy.
Sleeping surrounded by dander could trigger an allergic reaction overnight.
A popular idiom often attributed to Benjamin Franklin claims that “if you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.” This is arguably true, not to mention the risk of roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, mites, and ticks.
None of us like to think about it, but the fact is many dogs have parasites. Even if you are up to date with treating your pet for these parasites, they may still attach to your canine companion. The medication just kills the parasites before they can wreak havoc.
Everywhere your dog goes, they potentially leave traces of parasites behind in their dander and shed fur. This is no great concern in usual circumstances, as it’s nothing a duster or vacuum won’t pick up. You’re up close and personal with these pests in bed, though.
6/ Zoonotic Illnesses
Can sleeping with a dog make you sick? In truth, any interaction with a dog can make you sick, especially if you have a compromised immune system. There’s no such thing as 100% risk-free canine interaction. Sleeping in proximity certainly increases the risk, though.
This is because dogs can carry zoonotic diseases, which are health concerns that can be passed from animals to humans. Some zoonotic illnesses are asymptomatic in dogs, so you’ll have no reason to suspect that the animal is placing you in harm’s way.
Common examples of zoonotic diseases in dogs include:
- Ringworm (despite the name, this is not a parasite but a contagious fungal infection)
- Lyme disease
- Salmonellosis (salmonella infection)
- Toxoplasmosis (especially dangerous to young children and pregnant women)
These are more significant concerns when sleeping because the immune system is less active while we slumber. Sleeping with a dog is risky in the same way that sleeping in a freshly-painted room is potentially hazardous, as any damage is magnified overnight.
7/ Risk of Injury
Another commonly asked question among new pet owners is, “will I crush my dog in my sleep?”
It’s certainly a valid concern. According to Nature and Science of Sleep, we typically adjust sleep position 1.6 times per hour. A small dog could be hurt if you roll onto them.
It’s not just your dog that risks injury when you share a bed. Imagine if you do surprise your dog by moving toward it at night. The dog is likely to react instinctively and defensively, meaning nipping and biting.
8/ Developing Codependency
As pack animals, dogs are rarely comfortable being left alone. As per Veterinary Medicine, many dogs suffer from significant separation anxiety that manifests as destructive and unwelcome behavior.
Dogs can be trained out of separation anxiety, but it requires time, effort, and consistency. If your dog sleeps on your bed, it’ll be even more prone to this issue. The canine is rarely used to being out of your sight if it spends nights with you as well as days.
This anxiety is not just a one-way street, though. What happens if you grow dependent on your dog as part of your sleep routine? There will be times that you need to sleep unaccompanied by your canine companion, such as in a hotel room.
If you’re wholly dependent on your dog to sleep, a vacation without your pet could be ruined.
9/ Blurring Dominance Boundaries
The opinion is split among canine experts about how much emphasis should be placed on dominance training in dogs. It’s undeniable that some dogs need to be reminded that humans rule the roost in a home, though.
If you allow a dog to sleep on your bed, it may become increasingly dominant and territorial in this area. That can be problematic. The dog may start refusing you access to your own bed at night, considering this an invasion of claimed territory.
10/ Setting a Precedent
Consider that allowing a dog to sleep on your bed sets several precedents. Dogs don’t understand nuance, as they live in a world where something is or isn’t allowed.
You can’t allow a dog to sleep on your bed on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, but not Tuesdays or Thursdays because you need to get up early the next day. Allowing a dog to sleep on the bed means accepting the consequences from that point forth.
If your dog sleeps on the bed, it’ll likely expect to be allowed on all other furniture too. Maybe that’s fine for you, but will the same apply to other people in your home? Does everybody in your household feel comfortable with a dog on the sofa beside them?
Also, consider what may happen when you visit friends and family members with your dog in tow. If you often travel with your dog, teach your pet to sleep in an assigned bed. This will prevent awkward interactions with people that prefer not to have a dog sleep on their bed.
Training a Dog Out of Sleeping on the Bed
If a dog is used to sleeping on your bed, it can be tough to break the habit. However, it can be done without ruining your relationship. As with all dog training, it involves patience, persistence, plenty of treats, and a superior alternative to encourage change.
Start by providing your dog with a bed of its own. This needs to be as comfortable and tempting as possible, so you may need to spend some money on this investment. Pick up a memory foam mattress that offers your dog maximum comfort.
Pack this bed with blankets that offer a familiar scent and tempt your dog into the bed with treats. Make a fuss of your dog while it’s in bed. Your aim is to ensure that your dog has nothing but positive associations with this bed.
Start to instruct your dog into the bed, treating and praising it every time it enters. More importantly, immediately offer praise if the dog opts to take a nap in its bed without prompting. Soon, the dog will automatically gravitate to this assigned bed.
It may take time before the dog willingly sleeps in its own bed overnight. If your dog isn’t used to being separated from you at bedtime, it may howl and cry. Consider compromising by placing the dog’s bed in your room to meet your pet halfway.
Nobody can tell anybody not to allow a dog to sleep on their bed. Just ensure you know what you’re getting into when you set this precedent. If a dog sleeps on your bed once, it will expect to do so again. You’ll be making a commitment that may impact sleep for many years.