For some people, there's nothing better than cuddling with their pooches. And a growing number of people are snuggling up with furry companions at night. In fact, according to a survey sponsored by SpotOn Virtual Smart Fence, 50 percent of dog owners say their dog sleeps in a family member's bed. But is having your pup sleep next to you really a good habit? Pet experts have mixed opinions. On the one hand, there are many benefits to cosleeping with your dog. But on the other, there are also many concerns. What's a pet owner to do?
Leslie Brooks, DVM, veterinary advisor for Betterpet, believes there is no right or wrong answer. "It really depends on the lifestyle and preferences for the pet owner, including their home environment and family dynamics," she said. "There's not necessarily anything better about letting your dog sleep in your bed as opposed to letting them sleep in their own designated sleeping area, either."
Still, the ultimate decision is yours to make. "Really it comes down to you, your pet, and any other cosleepers involved if they are allowed to have a say," said Gabby Pagana, DVM, MPH, CVA of HealthyBud. Read on to get a better understanding.
What factors should be considered before I let my dog sleep in my bed?
Experts say pet owners should first assess their own as well as their dog's sleep habits, hygiene, medical conditions, and temperament and personality.
"Does your pet snore, and if so, does it bother you?" Dr. Pagana asked. "Are multiple pets sleeping in the bed? If so, do they all get along? Is there enough space for every sleeper? Does your pet have accidents at night? Are you a light sleeper? Are you a clean freak? Have allergies or other sensitivities? Immunocompromised?" Think these through before making your decision.
What are the benefits to sharing a bed with my dog?
Sleeping with your pup can have a positive effect on your mental health, said Amanda Nascimento, DVM, PhD, lead veterinarian at NHV Natural Pet. "The closeness we feel with our pets can reduce blood pressure and help us with stress and depression," she said. This is because sleeping with your dog can induce oxytocin release in the brain, which decreases cortisol levels and blood pressure — which can relieve stress, anxiety, and depression.
Having your dog sleep in your bed can also strengthen the bond between you two, Dr. Nascimento said. This is a huge benefit since a strong bond can dramatically and positively impact both of your lives. Constant companionship at night can also increase your sense of security and ease loneliness, allowing you to feel more comfortable and protected, Dr. Brooks said. This can be especially beneficial if you need emotional support. "It could be beneficial to have your dog sleep in the bed with you to provide that constant touch or feeling of security," she said.
What are the downsides of letting my dog sleep in my bed?
It's nothing you wouldn't expect: the bed can become overheated in warm months, your bedding will get dirtier faster with all the dog hair and slobber, you probably won't have as much space to stretch and spread out (especially if you have a big dog), and you'll get less alone time at night, Dr. Pagana said.
Are there health risks to letting my dog sleep in my bed?
In short, there can be. "This includes possible allergies and asthma flare-ups from irritating dander buildup, dirt, and pollen on your dog," Dr. Pagana said. Dogs may also bring parasites like fleas, ticks, and mites into the bed. Luckily, most of these bugs do not cause harm to humans, she said. Dogs can also transmit skin fungal infections (like ringworm) or other icky bacteria (like Pasteurella multocida or Staphylococcus spp.) to their cosleepers. However, you will likely know if your dog has this kind of infection and can make a judgement call.
It's important to remember that disease transmission isn't a one-way street. Dr. Nascimento explains that you can transmit a disease to your dog, too. That's why you should always proceed with caution, especially those who are immunocompromised. "If, during the night, you experience any symptoms such as sneezing, nasal obstruction, runny nose, watery eyes, itchy nose or throat, or itchy skin, stop allowing your pet into the bed immediately," she said.
Can my dog develop behaviour issues from sleeping in my bed?
"Dogs thrive on routines, so allowing a pet to sleep in the bed may make them refuse to sleep in another place," Dr. Nascimento said. "In addition, allowing them to sleep in the bed may influence their behaviour and give them the feeling that your bed is actually their bed — so tread with care!"
Dogs with preexisting behavioural issues like territorial aggression or separation anxiety may need to be banned from the bed to avoid exacerbating those issues, Dr. Pagana said. For example, if you kick your dog with separation anxiety out of the bed, it can worsen their anxiety, destructive behaviours, and overall mental health. Moreover, if you scare your dog out of their sleep (say by accidentally kicking them), they may unexpectedly and unknowingly attack you, Dr. Brooks said. And if you dog is little, there is a risk that you could accidentally push them off the bed while you're sleeping, she said.
Will sleeping with my dog disturb my sleep?
Actually, it may allow you to sleep more at ease, Dr. Pagana said. According to a study published in Sleep Review, dogs can help people have fewer nightmares. If you're someone who has trouble falling asleep or has insomnia, your furry friend can help with that as well. Plus, sleeping with your pup can also provide warmth during cool months — so bring on the cuddles!
In contrast, having your pet sleep with you can also hinder your sleep quality, Dr. Pagana said, explaining that you may experience more sleep interruptions, such as snoring, movement, and taking up space in bed. A recent study published by Hoffman et al. found that dogs are more likely to influence your movement throughout the night than you are to influence theirs — basically, your dog is likely to make you toss and turn. Additionally, "if your dog has a medical or behavioural condition that keeps them up at night (like they're awake scratching from allergies), it could disturb your healthy sleep patterns," Dr. Brooks said. She further explained that if your dog has a condition that causes them to have vomiting or incontinence issues while sleeping, that's probably not something you want in your bed.
What are some tips for sharing a bed with my dog?
Dr. Pagana advises pet owners to wash all bedding at least once every week; ensure your pet is on proper preventatives for fleas, ticks, and other parasites; take notice of your pets' sleeping patterns (and talk to your vet if they change); and crate train your puppy first to prevent separation anxiety. She also suggests practicing proper hygiene for your pets, including regular baths, wiping their paws down after being outside or on walks, and using skin conditioning and antibacterial sprays for maintenance.
Additionally, Dr. Nascimento recommends restricting the area of the bed your pet is allowed to sleep in or only allowing your pet on a special pet blanket at the foot of the bed, so you have plenty of room to rest. She also says to make sure your dog has gone out for their nightly poop or pee so you don't have any surprises. Otherwise, snuggle up and happy sleeping!