Your Guide to Sleeping With Your Dog in Your Bed
7 min read
Last Modified 1 September 2023 First Added 10 November 2022
Humans have shared their nightly routine with dogs for thousands of years, keeping them close by for protection and companionship. Our UK Sleep Survey found that 17% of people would rather share their bed with a pet than a partner, and the Dog’s Trust Dog Survey revealed 47% of people let their dog on their bed at night.
So, what is it about having our furry friends with us that is so wonderful? We’ll look at why we like sleeping with our dogs, the benefits of doing so, as well as the myths and potential risks of pet co-sleeping.
Many people enjoy sharing their bed with their dog as they find it helps them sleep. The Mayo Clinic researched sleep efficacy with a dog in bed and great news for all you dog lovers… they found it has a positive impact. But how exactly can it benefit you?
It’s well documented that petting animals, especially furry ones like cats and dogs, can make a considerable improvement to anxious feelings as it helps to lower your blood pressure. So, if you struggle to relax your mind when you get into bed, having your pet there can help you drift off.
You may have noticed your pet has its own daily routine that they like to stick to. Lots of folks report that their dogs stick to a bedtime and wake-up time, so if you need help not staying up late or waking up in the morning – your pooch could be better than an alarm clock.
Companionship is the biggest reason to get a pet; it’s what humans domesticated them for. If you live or sleep alone, then a warm, furry friend can help with loneliness at night, as well as encourage you to make new friends during the day.
You are also your dog’s companion and they look to you for love, affection, and enrichment in their lives. Letting your dog in your bedroom or on your bed at night encourages a strong bond, especially as most animals are vulnerable at night, so this shows you are there to keep each other safe.
Some service dogs can be trained to aid your nightmares because they can recognise your physical symptoms. If they are taught, they’ll respond to your symptoms by lying on your body, which will soothe you back to sleep. Even if your dog isn’t trained for this, by having them close by, you are less likely to go to bed stressed or scared, which can trigger bad dreams.
Dogs naturally live as pack animals, which means they like to live with others and be social. This is why they make such great companion animals for humans. If you have more than one dog, you’ll probably find they prefer to curl up together for naps and share a bed at night. The same applies to their favourite human!
Generally, it’s believed that dogs get the same emotional and health benefits that humans do. Although, some dogs may prefer to sleep on the floor or in their own bed, especially if they’re older or have a thick coat.
Make sure they have been outside for the toilet so that they’re comfortable for the night. This will reduce the risk of accidents in the bedroom and them waking you up at night to ask to go out.
If you’re going to share a bed with your dog, it’s important to stay on top of their grooming. Make sure that they are clean and dry before getting on your bed, and be vigilant for unwanted pests. As well as regular flea and tick treatments, check your dog’s fur, feet, and ears for any stowaways they may have picked up when outside.
This one will take some work but it’s important. Try to establish a routine and understand exactly how you will share the bed. For example, encourage your dog to sleep near the foot of the bed as they will have plenty of space and they will be less likely to disturb your slumber.
Many people are mildly allergic to fur or dog/cat saliva but don’t notice it in their day-to-day lives, especially if they keep the house clean. However, having a pet on the bed can concentrate the fur and saliva to a smaller space, so it becomes an irritant. To avoid this issue make sure to regularly groom your pet, change your bed sheets, and try to keep your pet away from your face.
If you’re not used to sharing your bed, then having a pet with you can be bothersome. Some pets want to sleep cuddled up with you but it might be annoying and uncomfortable for you. Whilst some pets make for bad sleep partners because they fuss and move around a lot. If you have a guard breed, they may be protective of you and bark at noises, which isn’t great for getting your full 8 hours.
One of the big issues with having a pet in your bed is hygiene. We might love our furry friends but they can be pretty gross, so ensuring that we keep our bed clean and safe is important. Regularly bathing and grooming your pets will keep them free from pests and dirt that can be transferred to your bed and you.
It’s also recommended to not let your dog lick your face and be mindful of any wounds, which they might want to lick – it may be sweet, but it’s not hygienic!
There is a common belief that if you let a dog sleep on your bed, it will become aggressive and see itself as the most dominant member of the household. Because of this, it’s thought that they would then become aggressive towards you. However, there is no evidence that suggests this is how dog behaviour works. It comes from misconceptions about wolves and their pack structure.
Problems such as resource guarding (when they become aggressively protective over things like food, toys, and territory) can be exacerbated by sharing a bed. If your dog has resource insecurities it will show this in other aspects of life. You’ll want to address it as quickly as possible with training, but it’s doubtful it’s caused by sleeping with your dog.
A 2021 study found that around 1/3 of children sleep with their pets on their beds, showing it’s fairly common. However, some parents may have concerns about safety and their kids getting enough rest. As mentioned, there is little evidence to say that pets are a danger to children at night if they are well-behaved during the day.
When studied, researchers found that the presence of a pet significantly buffers children from stress and stroking a dog helps to reduce cortisol (stress hormone) levels. Similarly to adults, having a pet in the bedroom or on the bed at night can be beneficial for children in terms of making them feel more secure and relaxed.
They also found that children had more disturbed sleep if they slept with their pets infrequently. This could be because the novelty of the situation is distracting – if your child isn’t used to sleeping with their pet they may sleep worse at first. It’s only when a routine is established, their sleep quality will improve.