I remember my aunt crawling into bed every night followed by a German Shepherd named Silver, a Golden Lab named Custo, and a little mutt named Tidbit. I was always jealous of the way they loved her and wanted to be with her. She would work long days and arrive home late in the evening. From the moment she arrived until she left for work again the next morning, these pups were glued to her. There were many other family members home throughout the day, but their bond with her was special.
I am neither a veterinarian nor a medical professional. The information in this article has been researched and sourced at the end of the post if required. All safety and medical issues or questions regarding your pet’s health or symptoms should always be brought to the attention of your veterinarian for clarification, assessment, advice, and treatment.
It never crossed my mind that having her dogs in her bed might be considered poor pet parenting or bad for her health. It wasn’t until I was an adult and had my own dog that I started hearing mixed ideas of the benefits and dangers of sleeping with your dog.
How a Dog Can Make You Feel Safe
When I inherited my first dog, a German Shepherd named Princess, I was living alone with my two daughters. She was my father’s dog until he passed away. Thankfully, he had trained her very well and she was an excellent guard dog. I knew the basics of caring for a dog but had only owned cats until she came to stay. Although I had never felt vulnerable or been afraid in my home, as soon as Princess moved in, I felt an immediate sense of security. I felt safer when my teenage daughters were alone in the house while I was at work, and I slept a little deeper knowing that she would alert us and protect us from anything without hesitation.
Princess never slept in my bed. She was welcome to, but she disliked the stairs and opted not to come upstairs to the bedroom. She had her own armchair that she would curl up in at bedtime and as soon as we came downstairs in the morning, she would wag her tail and jump up to greet us. I always felt guilty and occasionally I would sleep on the pullout couch to be close to her. Sometimes she would crawl in beside me, and other times she would return to her chair beside the pullout and sleep in her place. I took this as a sign that she was happy with her sleeping arrangements.
Different Dogs have Different Preferences
Years later, after she passed away, I adopted Zorro, a rescue dog who was only 9 months old. He had been living with his foster mom who had trained him well and he was very well-loved. She told me that he did not like being crated. She had tried but he would cry and shake in fear. I decided that I would never even try to use a crate with him. We got him a nice bed for the floor, and he was offered the option of crawling in with me. He has slept in my bed for almost five years and rarely leaves the bed at night. He has his side, I have mine, and the cat has adopted the bottom corner. I am beginning to understand how my aunt felt and it’s pretty good!
Still, I read and hear rumblings of why this may not be a good idea, so I decided to look into it in more detail. It turns out, there are pros and cons for both the human and the doggo.
This post may contain affiliate links. Although we may make a small commission it is at no cost to you. See “Disclosure and Legal Things” section for complete details.
The Benefits for Humans
As I felt with Princess in the house, sleeping with your dog can offer a sense of security. Knowing that your dog will alert you to any noises or dangers allows you to sleep deeper. Because you are not on high alert you are able to relax, providing better sleep quality.
The benefits of proper sleep include improved mental health, improved physical health, weight loss or maintenance, and improved memory.
Why Sleeping With Your Dog Might Not Be Good For You
There are times when sleeping with your dog can be detrimental to your health as well. As long as you are getting a good night’s sleep, then all is well. However, if your dog is causing your sleep to be disturbed, you may be putting yourself in an unhealthy situation.
Some dogs move a lot throughout the night. They may be trying to get comfortable; they may be hot (or cold) and looking for a position that provides the right temperature. If they stretch out and start taking over the bed, you will not have enough space and it could cause you to lose sleep simply because you are unable to find a comfortable position. They may also be really light sleepers which is great for your protection but can make them a little restless. This constant movement may disturb your sleep.
How Does Your Dog Benefit from Sleeping with You?
Dogs are instinctively pack animals. They travel in packs and sleep curled up close to one another. It’s often said that the human becomes their dog’s Alpha Dog. This means that your dog considers you their pack leader. It is a natural response for your dog to want to sleep close to their leader, so being in your bed offers them the same type of comfort they would experience in the wild. This closeness also allows for your dog to bond with you, and you can further develop a level of trust between you and your pup.
In Some Cases, it’s Best if Your Dog Doesn’t Sleep in Your Bed
While you may think it’s a great idea, curling up with you for the night may not be in the best interests of your dog. Sometimes, there are medical reasons that cause your dog to be uncomfortable in your bed. A dog who has arthritis may be uncomfortable on a soft bed, but worse, the pain from arthritis may be excruciating if you roll over on a paw in the night. It also may be difficult to jump onto or down from the bed if your dog has sore joints. Offering a ramp or visiting the vet or dog chiropractor could help to ease these discomforts, but it may be best to place a nice bed on the floor, at least until they are feeling better. You can place their bed close to yours, so your dog feels as though they are still laying with you.
Pain is not the only reason you may want to avoid having your dog in your bed. Your dog may just not enjoy being there. Some dogs are too hot. Some are too big and some just prefer the cozy feeling of their crate when they sleep. Take the cue from your pet and let them decide what is best for them
How Do You Decide What is Best for You?
You know yourself and your dog best. Between the two of you (or more of you are anything like my aunt) you can decide what provides you all with your best sleep. There is no right or wrong. While I couldn’t get Princess to sleep with me, I understood and respected that it was best for her. I can’t get Zorro to leave my side and I wouldn’t have it any other way.