Many dog owners share beds with their pets for comfort or simply because they can’t let their dogs down.
A 2015 study found that more than half of respondents sleep with pets in their bedrooms, and another study in 2020 found, not surprisingly, that 86 percent of puppy owners said they were given the choice. , pets reported preferring to sleep near humans.
Newsweek We explore the potential benefits and dangers of sleeping with pets with the help of animal behaviorist Jacky Zakhar, owner of Dog Sense Training and Behavior.
Why do dogs sleep in human beds?
It may have all started on a cold, rainy night right after we got our first puppy. We curled up the puppies in soft, warm beds to share treats and watch movies. A year later, while you endure disturbed sleep patterns and occasional nocturnal sleep, your dog even remembers to open the door to enter the optimal sleeping spot in the house.
“People like to sleep with dogs for many reasons,” Zakhar said. Newsweek. “It gives the dog a sense of security and comfort. Some people think that having a dog sleep in a bed with them is a sign of affection, but it really isn’t. Mental stimulation, exercise, rest, and a dog It’s about meeting a dog’s need for some freedom.” Many dogs prefer sleeping on a hard tile floor to a human bed, but that doesn’t mean they feel unloved.
“Some dogs value sleeping in a bed more than others,” she added. “Although independent breeds such as huskies and herd dogs may actually prefer to sleep outside, there are always exceptions. Breeds that are naturally attracted to human affection. may enjoy being next to their owner, but may also desire to be next to them at times.” Proximity to humans may be the result of feelings of insecurity or possessive aggression. . “
Letting your dog sleep in a bed may seem counterproductive, but data collected by the Mayo Clinic Sleep Medicine Center in Arizona shows that of the 56% of owners who let their pets sleep in the bedroom, 20% sleep. reported that it interferes with On the other hand, 41% said their pets were unobtrusive and even helped them sleep.
“If it provides comfort, helps the owner feel more connected, and if the relationship is healthy and the dog is well-behaved, it really doesn’t matter,” Zakhar said. “For safety, for solitude, having a dog nearby during times of stress can provide a great sense of security.”
A dog in bed can also help treat sleep apnea. Sleep apnea, which can affect anyone of any age, disrupts breathing during sleep and causes a lack of oxygen to the brain and other vital organs. Sleep apnea can increase your risk of stroke, heart failure, depression, headaches, and other conditions.
About 30 million people in the United States have sleep apnea, but only 6 million have been diagnosed with it, according to the American Medical Association.
The American Service Animal Association said, “Service dogs can help with a variety of physical and mental health issues, including sleep apnea.” “Service dogs may also be able to alert people with sleep apnea if they are experiencing significant sleep disturbances throughout the night.”
Of course, having your dog in your sleeping space has some drawbacks, the most obvious being disruption of sleep patterns.
Another obvious drawback to having your dog sleep in your bed is hygiene. We might like to think that our dogs are as clean as a whistle, but in reality, we don’t know what gets between their toes, their fur, or their mouths.
“Like it or not, dogs don’t have the same hygiene habits that we do and carry a lot of dirt and sometimes parasites with them,” says Zakhar.
A lesser known issue is resource guards. This is a serious behavioral problem that can be exacerbated by the habit of letting your dog sleep in your bed.
“Resource-protective behavior is triggered by a dog’s fear of losing access to a valuable resource, whether it’s food, toys, or space,” Zakhar said. “When a dog is anxious and another dog or person approaches something they are protecting, such as a new partner, they may act aggressively to keep the threat away. For many dogs, they can all be viewed as valuable resources. “
Zakhar also doesn’t recommend letting dogs in the bed of couples who plan to have children.
“Welcome a new baby home is a time of great change for a dog,” she says. “Routines change, attention fades, and this can cause a lot of stress. Dogs aren’t born to love babies, despite what pop culture suggests. Children in the house They are significantly more likely to be bitten by a dog than any other group.” And hoping a dog loves a newborn baby is never a safe strategy. “
“Define space boundaries before the baby is born,” she suggested. “It’s safest to use off-limits areas such as the baby’s room or the parents’ bed. Whether it’s feeding the baby in bed at 3 a.m. or giving the dog its own space for hygiene and safety. New parents don’t want dogs competing for attention.” That’s also the best option. “
how to train a dog to get out of bed
It’s possible to develop good habits with puppies, but with older dogs it’s a little more difficult to undo established habits, “but as long as you set your dog up to succeed.” is fine,” Zakhar says.
For puppies, “set house rules first,” she added. “It is a mistake to be tolerant of puppies thinking that they will change the boundaries when they grow up. Teach them how to live with them from the beginning and lead them to success.”
Zakhar recommended crate training as the perfect way to prevent bad habits from forming in puppies and create a safe space for them. “I highly recommend keeping a crate for your adult dog as well. If your adult dog gets injured or has a new baby coming home, they will have their own space where they can feel safe and calm. because there is,” she said.
“Teach both puppies and older dogs boundaries if you allow your dog to be on the bed occasionally,” said Zakhar. “When you pick your child up on the bed or when they ask you to jump on them, give them a clear signal like OK or UP to let them know you have permission. also gives clear cues to let you know you are granting permission, like “OFF or GET DOWN. Just take it off with words so that later they can understand the association and follow the cues.”