There is a lot of chatter in the pet community about whether or not a dog should be allowed to share your bed.
Studies—yes, they have dedicated research studies to this thing—are starting to pile up proving that co-sleeping with your pet cat or dog might be better than sleeping alone. Keep reading to learn more about whether you should let your dog sleep in bed with you and how to stop unwanted behavior problems arising from co-sleeping.
Co-Sleeping With Pets Is Not For Everybody
If you have certain health conditions you should definitely avoid allowing your dog to sleep on your bed at night.
This includes people who:
- Have a compromised immune system: When your immune system is weakened you are more prone to germs and infection. This puts you at a higher risk of becoming ill from pet-borne pathogens. [mks_separator style=”blank” height=”5″]
- Have severe pet allergies or asthma [mks_separator style=”blank” height=”5″]
- Infants and young children: It’s not just the germs that you have to worry about. Allowing a dog to sleep with an infant puts them at a greater risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Your pet can accidentally roll over on them or smother them. For small children, you also have the risk of having your dog bite them by mistake if they are abruptly woken or are having a nightmare.
The Rules of the Bed
Research has shown that about 60 percent of all dog owners let their canine friend sleep with them. For many people sleeping with their dog makes them feel safe and protected but also because it simply makes them feel good or comforted.
If you choose to let your dog sleep with you, here are some tips for making sure you don’t lose any sleep over it:
- Train your pooch to sleep in a specific area of the bed and stick to it.
- Give them space. Make sure your mattress is large enough to accommodate you and your furry pet.
- Don’t let him sleep under blankets or sheets.
- Have a mattress that offers good motion and edge control to lessen the chance of sleep disruption.
- Should your dog wake you at night, refrain from giving in to them by playing with them or giving them a snack. It can lead to them thinking it’s OK to wake you at night.
- Take your dog out to use the bathroom close to bedtime.
Bedtime Pet Behavior Issues Arising From Co-Sleeping
As mentioned earlier, a dog can develop behavioral problems from being allowed to sleep in your bed or the bed of a family member at night. There are both non-aggressive and aggressive behaviors that a dog can develop.
Non-Aggressive Bed Behavior
- Peeing at night
- Chewing on hazardous materials or cords
- Destroying property
- Trying to play on the bed when you are trying to sleep
- Chasing other pets around the house at night
- Getting into your food cupboards
Some dogs will develop aggression or dominance issues when they are allowed free range of the bed. You are giving them control of a prime spot in the home after all. This can lead them to think they have a higher status or are the ones in control.
You may see the following problems:
- Your dog growling when anyone approaches the bed (bed-guarding)
- Your dog growling at your partner when they approach the bed you are in (owner-guarding)
This is known as status-related aggression.There are different ways that you can deal with this kind of behavior, such as revoking the privilege of sleeping on the bed. Some owners will just take preventative measures and others choose to take modification measures.
Bed and Owner Guarding Behavior
Most of the aggressive bed behavior a dog displays is down to either owner guarding, where the dog feels it is protecting its owner, or bed guarding, where the dog feels it needs to protect its space. The first step most owners will take is to remove the dog from the bed when they show this kind of aggressive behavior. However, it doesn’t fix the issue. To fix the problem you need to do some modification training,
Revoking Bed Privileges
One way to rectify this behavior is to train them to sleep in a new spot, such as a crate, their own designated dog bed, or another room. If your dog has negative associations with crating, you could use alternatives, like this exercise pen from EliteField or child safety gates to keep them in one area. You’ll need to start getting them used to their new sleeping area by training them with treats or toys during the day. This helps them to associate the area with positive things.
Placing a blanket from your bed in the new sleeping area also helps them to get used to the new spot. The goal is to get them to happily stay in the new spot for an hour without any issues. You can then send him to the new area at night.
Training Them to Stop Aggressive Bed Behavior
If you don’t want to ban your dog from the bed, your other option is to train them to stop the behavior when they start it.
Use The “Off” Command
This is to get your dog to leave the bed when you tell them “Off”. It will require a clicker, like the Petsafe Clik-R Trainer and some treats.
Start by using a command like “up” to invite them to get on the bed. When they get on the bed, give them a treat and click. Next, use the “Off” command and then toss a treat on the floor. When they jump off to get the treat, click again.
Once you’ve done this several times, begin using the commands without the treats straight away. If your dog doesn’t respond you can use a suggestive motion to get them up or off the bed but don’t give them the treat yet. Only click and give them the treat when they have responded to your commands.
Next, you want to gradually stop using any suggestive motions so that they are getting up or off the bed with just the verbal command.
Teach Them to Ask
Another trick is to train your dog to ask for permission to get on the bed. This works well when aggressive behavior is status related because it teaches them to be obedient and accepting that you are the boss. You will first need to teach them to sit when commanded. Once they have that down, ask them “do you want to get on the bed?” and then use the sit command before allowing them to hop up. Over time, your dog will sit on his own by the bed and wait for you to give them permission to jump up.
This works best when the behavioral problem is owner or bed guarding, where they growl when you or another person approaches the bed.
The idea here is to change how they view someone approaching the bed. You’ll need some treats for this one. When the dog is on the bed, walk by casually and throw a treat to them on the bed. Be sure not to make eye contact and keep walking past the bed, tossing a treat with each pass. This gets your dog to happily wait for you to pass by because they know they will get a treat. You may need to start off at a distance and then gradually lessen the distance between you and the bed.
This helps to alleviate the stress your dog may be feeling when someone approaches the bed.
If the issue is that your dog growls at your partner when you are in the bed (owner-guarding), your partner will need to be the one to toss treats. When you are in the bed and your dog is with you, have your partner stand at a distance that doesn’t provoke growling but allows your dog to see them.
Let your partner take a step top the dog and feed them a treat, whether they growl or not, and then let them step back. You will need to repeat this until the dog appears happy when your partner steps towards them. Repeat this process, adding steps to the approach until your partner can walk right up to the bed without your dog getting tense. From here, your partner can do the walk by, feed a treat process explained above.
Letting your dog sleep on your bed at night is down to personal choice really. It has both benefits and disadvantages to consider, especially if some of the issues are health-related or behavioral problems. However, you can train your dog to behave properly if they want to keep their bed privileges.