Though the subject is still somewhat taboo in today’s society, it has been in practice for many thousands of years already. For instance, aboriginal Australians slept with their dingoes nearby for warmth and protection from evil spirits. It is said nobility around the Renaissance era liked to have their pets in bed with them to attract fleas - saving their owners from any nasty bites.
Today, research has shown that a little less than half of pet owners sleep with a pet in their bed or bedroom. With many pet owners working full time, allowing a dog to sleep with them increases time spent together - and makes up for all those hours apart during the day. Women tend to do this more than men (25% versus 16%, respectively), but both do it nonetheless.
And though over the years you may have heard that this should be absolutely forbidden, more recent research has debunked that myth. Indeed, whether or not you should let a dog sleep in bed with you can depend entirely on you and your pet.
The negative sides of sleeping with a dog in your bed
It’s not all rainbows and butterflies. Sharing a bed with pets can have serious consequences on your health and lifestyle if you are not well prepared. Make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into before you co-sleep!
Dogs can disturb your sleep
You might get a more restful night if your dog doesn’t sleep in bed with you. Indeed, dogs are polyphasic sleepers, while we are monophasic sleepers. This means that while we only have one sleep cycle over a period of 24 hours, they experience up to 3 wake/sleep cycles per night time hour. It’s not unlikely for our pooches to get up several times in the middle of the night to dig and make themselves more comfortable, or to go drink some water from their bowl for instance. If you’re a light sleeper, and especially if it’s difficult for you to fall asleep, all this moving around could disturb you and prevent you from recuperating during the night. To add to this, dogs (no matter how big they are), like to take up lots of space in the bed! The closer they are to you, the better, so don’t expect them to be polite and stick to their side of the bed!
Sharing a bed with you can aggravate a dog’s behavioural issues
For a long time, it was believed that sharing a bed with a dog caused behavioural issues. As it turns out, these issues probably already exist within the dog’s personality, but sharing a bed with him can aggravate them. For instance, a dog with separation anxiety or over-attachment issues who sleeps in bed with his owner is more likely to feel distressed when unable to sleep with you. This may lead to whining, crying, or excessive barking. An aggressive or dominant dog who sleeps in bed with his owner is more likely to be possessive and see the bed as his territory. He may growl, bark, or worse, try to bite anyone trying to get onto the bed.
Side-note: this can also create serious intimacy issues for a couple! If your pet displays any of the above behaviours, you should change your sleeping habits immediately and consult an animal behaviourist for help.
You’re going to have to change your sheets, A LOT
If you’re sharing a bed with your pooch, know they don’t have the same concept of hygiene as we do! Most dogs shed, so you’ll be finding fur in your sheets every day. Not to mention any dirt, leaves, or grass that your pooch may have carried in from his last walkies. Some dogs drool, and unfortunately, some dogs like to wipe themselves after they go for a poo - and they don’t care if it’s on your satin sheets! If you’re letting a dog in bed with you, you’re gambling the cleanliness of your sleeping space!
You’re putting yourself and your pet at risk of diseases and injuries
Though cases of disease transmission between a dog and a human are rare, they are not unheard of.
A dog’s lick can transmit meningitis or staph infections like Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Dogs may also carry fleas and worms, which can then nestle in your sheets and transmit nasty diseases. Though you may not be allergic to dogs, your pooch can bring various allergens, such as pollen, into your bed, and this could easily aggravate your symptoms. People whose immune systems are weak or have been compromised (cancer/HIV positive patients, or young children, for instance), should not be sleeping in bed with a dog, as it could make them weaker.
Size is also a consideration - tiny dogs are more likely to get squashed by their humans during the night, and vice-versa if it’s a large dog with a child! To add to this, some dogs such as Corgis or Dachshunds can struggle to jump off of high surfaces, which can lead to back and hip issues if allowed to happen. Breeds with fragile bone structures, such as Italian Greyhound puppies, can easily break a leg if they jump down from too high.
The positive sides of sleeping with a dog in your bed
But of course, it’s not all bad. If you don’t mind the odd fur in your sheets and both you and your dog are in perfect health, then there’s no reason not to share a bed. In fact, it can even help you get a good night's sleep!
Dogs warm the bed
During the winter, and especially for dog owners who live in colder climates, this is a very important point! Dogs release a lot of body heat, so they are perfect for keeping your toes warm on a cold night!
Sleeping with a dog helps you feel relaxed
It has been scientifically proven that spending quality time with an animal releases oxytocin in our bodies, which in turn leads to a feeling of happiness. Sleeping with a pet will make an owner feel overall more positive and comforted. They will also feel less stressed and lonely. According to a study conducted by the Center for Sleep Medicine on Mayo Clinic’s Arizona Campus, many dog owners affirm that their sleep isn’t affected by their pet sleeping in the bed with them, and that their presence in fact enhances the quality of their sleep (as long as the dog isn’t sleeping underneath the sheets).
Having a dog by your side will make you feel safe
Your pooch has excellent hearing and is a light sleeper - which is perfect if you’re looking for a guard! Many owners assert that having a dog sleep in the bed with them increases their feeling of safety and security. Indeed, your pooch will alert you if anything out of the ordinary is happening around you, whether it’s a fire that has started in your kitchen while you were fast asleep, or a burglar who has broken into your home. With a dog by your side, you can rest easy: you have your very own alarm system and body guard, so you know nothing bad can happen to you!
Sleeping with your dog increases the pet-owner bond
Just as it is the case with children, co-sleeping can help you and your dog bond. Since you may not have much time to do this during the day, sleeping with your pup can be the perfect way to build on that connection you two have!
What to do if you want to share your bedroom with your dog
In the end, it’s your decision, based on what’s important to you and your pooch. But there are a few things you can do to make sure your co-sleeping runs smoothly if that’s what you’ve decided you want to do.
Stay clean and healthy
Sleeping with a dog doesn’t need to be avoided as long as both pet and owner are healthy. Make sure you take your pet to the vet regularly for check-ups. Keep up to date with regular flea, tick and worm treatments, and bathe your dog often. Closely monitor your dog for any signs of behavioural problems. If in any way his behaviour becomes alarming, consult an animal behaviourist.
Find a compromise
If you want your dog to be near you and vice-versa, but you’re not sure you want to deal with the fur and the drool, you could find a compromise and move your dog’s bed into your room. That way, you will still benefit from your dog’s presence all the while not suffering any of the consequences of sharing a bed. To help your dog stay in his bed, you can place an old shirt or blanket carrying your scent in it. Dogs also like to sleep in an elevated position, so if you purchase an elevated bed, your pooch is sure to appreciate it.