Sleeping With Dogs: 8 Science-Backed Tips from Pet Experts
If you’re a dog owner, you understand the unbreakable bond that forms between an owner and their pet. Pets are so important to our mental health, especially during times of hardship, so it’s natural to want to snuggle up in bed with your pup while wearing your favorite pair of pajamas. But is sleeping with dogs safe?
Most of the time, the answer is yes. Sleeping with dogs is totally safe as long as both you and your dog are healthy. It’s also important to make sure your dog is house trained and is not prone to aggressive or territorial behaviors around the bed.
If you’re wondering whether sharing a bed with your four-legged friend is the right choice for you, you’ve come to the right place. With the help of experts, we’ve explored this topic and have some guidance should you choose to snooze with your pooch.
Benefits of Sleeping With Dogs
It’s no secret why 56% of dog owners enjoy laying beside their pups at bedtime – there are some scientifically supported benefits! The following positive impacts of snuggle time with your pet present an enticing case for why dogs should sleep in your bed.
Improves Mental Health
It’s no secret that pets are great at helping us relax and smile, but is there any scientific evidence supporting the mental health benefits of owning a pet? One study observing the impact of animal-assisted activities showed a relationship between partaking in these activities and experiencing fewer depressive symptoms.
Sleep is essential to positive mental health, so sleeping with dogs is similar to engaging in a therapeutic activity with them. Cuddling up with your pup might just be the cherry on top of your self-care regimen.
Helps You Feel Safe
Dogs tend to be highly territorial animals and will do everything in their power to protect their owners. It’s no wonder why people tend to feel safer when sleeping with their loyal companion nearby!
A study surveying women who sleep with animals found that women who sleep with dogs felt a greater sense of security and comfort than women who sleep with cats or even human partners. You could say your pup is the guard dog of your dreams (literally)!
Have you ever wondered why petting a dog makes you feel so good? As it turns out, one study revealed that human-animal interactions might benefit certain symptoms of stress, including human cortisol levels, heart rate and blood pressure.
Since sleeping is a vulnerable activity that takes up so much of our time, it’s likely that sleeping with dogs can have a healthy impact on our stress levels. According to Dr. Linda Simon, veterinary surgeon and veterinary consultant with FiveBarks, “We are most vulnerable when asleep and our dogs appreciate the opportunity to be near us at this time.”
Strengthens Owner-Pet Bond
It’s common to feel emotionally connected to dogs when physically close to them. Perhaps you’ve heard that sleeping with dogs may boost oxytocin production, potentially contributing to this feeling.
According to Crystal Litzenberger, veterinary technician and client care specialist at Lolahemp, sleeping with dogs helps them learn that they can trust you. “This is especially true for dogs with new owners,” she adds. If you’ve recently adopted or rescued a new dog, spending some quality time sleeping near them can help reassure them that you’re their protector.
8 Tips For Sleeping With Dogs
Clearly, there are plenty of great reasons to sleep with your dog. That said, there are some best practices you’ll want to keep in mind to ensure that both you and your pet remain happy and healthy.
1. Keep Them Close, But Not Too Close
It can be really tempting to sleep right next to your dog, maybe even offering them the pillow next to you. However, many dogs have sharp teeth and claws that could cause injury if they kick or wake up startled in the middle of the night.
If your dog isn’t fully house trained or is prone to scratching, biting or even licking, it might be a good idea to set up a bed for them in the room with you rather than positioning them right next to you. This is especially true with kids, as they are at greater risk of harm than adults when around dogs.
2. Wash Your Sheets Regularly
This should come as a no-brainer, but dogs can be messy. Whether your dog sheds and tracks in dirt or not, dogs carry lots of germs with them, which warrants frequent trips to the laundry room. Get into the habit of washing your sheets on a weekly basis, and consider throwing another top sheet on top of your comforter for added protection.
3. Maintain a Regular Nightly Routine
Along the same lines of keeping rules and boundaries consistent, it’s a good idea to keep your bedtime routine consistent. After a few weeks, your dog will learn the drill and be more likely to cooperate.
The benefits of a consistent bedtime routine don’t just apply to dogs. One study on children’s bedtime routines suggested that maintaining a consistent bedtime routine benefits sleep quality and cognitive function.
4. Visit the Vet Regularly
While it’s already a good idea to make routine visits to the vet to ensure that your dog is in great health, this is especially true if you share a bed with them. This significantly increases the amount of physical contact you have with them, meaning there’s a greater chance for them to pass over fleas and cause other health issues.
According to Dr. Corinne Wigfall, Veterinary Spokesperson and Registered Veterinarian with SpiritDog, it’s important to “keep your dog’s flea treatment up to date.” She adds, “those pesky fleas won’t hesitate to jump from your dog to you for a little snack.”
5. Walk Your Dog Before Bedtime
Dogs need regular exercise to stay healthy. If you haven’t walked your dog all day and you bring them to bed, there’s a good chance they’ll have too much energy, causing them to wake up in the middle of the night and disrupt your sleep.
Remember that certain dog breeds need to be walked more than others. Your decision whether to sleep with your dog may depend on its individual needs and baseline energy levels.
6. Consistently Enforce Boundaries
Just as in any other way you train your dog, repetition is crucial. Before you start bringing your dog to bed with you, make a game plan by setting specific boundaries ahead of time then committing to consistently enforcing them.
If you invite your dog onto your bed one night then make them stay down the next, this is likely to confuse them and make it more difficult to set rules for them. Consistency is key!
7. Adapt Your Space
As you start to figure out an arrangement that works well for both you and your furry friend, don’t be afraid to make some necessary adjustments to your space. Lucy Easton, psychology graduate and pet author, advises, “Make sure that you have enough space for you and your dog to sleep comfortably,” recommending a dog ramp for smaller or older dogs with joint problems.
If you plan to sleep with a larger dog, don’t be afraid to upgrade your bed from a double to a queen or from a queen to a king. You and your dog will be grateful for the extra space.
8. See How You Feel in the Morning
It’s no secret that dogs can be light sleepers. Their instincts are to sense even the slightest sounds and to protect their families, which means frequent sleep disruptions and middle-of-the-night waking.
While it can be tough to know whether your dog’s movements are disrupting your sleep, Dr. Sabrina Kong DVM, veterinary writer at WeLoveDoodles, explains that “the best way to gauge if a dog is disrupting your sleep is to see whether you feel tired in the morning or not.” If you consistently wake up feeling fatigued, it might be time to try out a new sleeping arrangement with your furry friend.
When Not to Sleep With Your Dog
Unfortunately, there are conditions when sleeping with your dog probably isn’t the best idea. Just remember, even when circumstance demands that you put space between yourself and your furry friend, the love is still there!
If You Have Bad Allergies
Allergies get in the way of a lot, especially if you have a pet. According to the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America, about 30% of people in the U.S. with allergies have allergic reactions to dogs and cats. Pet hair can also carry allergens like dander, dust and pollen, even for people who aren’t specifically allergic to dogs.
If you have allergies but want to sleep with your dog, you might want to look into dog breeds that tend to carry fewer allergens in their fur, or just set up a doggy bed in the room with you at a safe distance.
If Your Dog Has Allergies
While this may come as a surprise, dogs can have allergies, too! Litzenberger explains, “Some dogs have allergies that are aggravated if they sleep in the same bed as you.”
It’s important to be mindful of your dog’s allergic reactions in certain areas of the house before getting in the habit of inviting them to bed with you. Don’t forget to prioritize your pup’s comfort just as you prioritize your own!
If Your Dog Isn’t Yet Trained
Dogs that aren’t house trained are more likely to ruin sheets and disrupt sleep. If your dog is still a puppy or is kept outside most of the time, it’s more hygienic and safer to keep them away from your bed when you sleep until they’re fully house trained.
Brown advises against sleeping with your dog when it’s still young and being trained. She explains, “It can lead to issues with house-training and also leave your dog feeling insecure without you.”
She warns of the problems that dogs suffering from separation anxiety can cause and recommends crate training early to help your dog feel comfortable in their own space, away from their owner.
If Your Dog Has Anxiety or Epilepsy
Anxious dogs tend to wake frequently and may have accidents, which is likely to disrupt your sleep and cause some annoyances. You may consider asking your veterinarian about medicinal options to help calm your dog at night, or simply give them space where they won’t frequently disrupt your sleep.
Dr. Wigfall weighs in here as well, advising that dogs with epilepsy sleep off of the bed. She explains, “Seizures can be violent and [dogs] can either injure themselves if they fall off the bed, or potentially injure you through paddling or even biting.”
Ultimately, it’s a good idea to think twice before letting a dog who suffers from anxiety or epilepsy up on the bed, as this may lead to sleep disturbances or even injury.
If Your Dog Has Behavioral Issues
Some dogs are more territorial and prone to aggression than others. Whether this be due to trauma earlier in life or certain biological instincts, it’s important to address the issue before moving forward with sleeping with your dog.
Dr. Wigfall adds, “If your dog shows any aggression around sleeping on the bed, this should be stopped immediately and behavioural training sought to correct the behaviour before it becomes a habit that is hard to break.”
If You’re a Light Sleeper
Dogs can be pretty needy and disruptive, moving around at night to get more comfortable or wanting some cuddle time when you’re trying to get some REM. If you’re a light sleeper and are easily awoken by movement, it might be a good idea to sleep away from your pup.
If Your Partner Isn’t on Board
While you may be gung-ho about inviting Fido to snuggle, your significant other may not be. Charli Burbidge, veterinarian and co-founder at Petz addresses the importance of ensuring that a sleeping partner is totally comfortable with sleeping with the dog. “Don’t guilt them into it,” she advises, as this could put a rift in your human relationships.
5 of the Best Dog Breeds to Sleep With
While there is no such thing as a “bad” dog breed to sleep with, certain breeds make particularly great sleep companions. Let’s explore the dog breeds that sleep a lot and love spending some snuggle time with their owners.
Bulldogs are some of the calmest canine companions out there. Not only do they love to sleep for long hours, making them great naptime partners, but they also tend to be quiet pups, rarely barking or making much noise. If you enjoy calm days snuggling up in a blanket, a bulldog is a great choice.
Pit bulls can be some of the sweetest dogs out there. Not only do they love to sleep, but they’re also natural protectors so you can be confident you’ll feel safe and secure as you sink into dreamland with your pup.
Pit bulls also have less hair than many other dog breeds and, while they do shed at times, they shouldn’t make your bed nearly as hair-ridden as breeds with additional layers of fur.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
If you’re looking for the best small pets for cuddling, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is for you. Not only does this breed love to cuddle up and take naps (especially after exercise and meals), but it’s also a relatively quiet breed.
“Toy and companion breeds,” says Emily Brown, veterinary assistant and veterinary technician with HelloRalphie, “...may be more interested in sharing your sleeping space.” Luckily, Cavaliers fit the description!
Plus, being a smaller breed, they barely take up any space on the bed. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a great choice if you’re at all worried about sacrificing your space to a new companion.
Pugs are another small and adorable bedtime companion. They love to snuggle up and sleep for long hours, so they make for a great weekend sleep-in buddy. Like Cavaliers, they’re small enough that they shouldn’t be an invasive presence if you let them sleep on your bed.
Of course, pugs do tend to have breathing issues that can make them loud snorers. Dr. Simon confirms, “Brachycephalic dogs such as Pugs and Frenchies may snore loudly and aren’t best suited to a light sleeper.”
While you may want to consider investing in some earplugs if you plan to sleep with your pug, on the bright side they don’t need much exercise to be able to sleep through the night.
Bernese Mountain Dog
If you’re looking for a dog with a little more mass and fur to cuddle with, the Bernese Mountain Dog is the gentle giant for you. As long as you give them sufficient exercise during the day, they’ll be more than happy to cuddle up with you and sleep through the night.
Sleeping With Dogs: 4 Rumors Addressed
There are a lot of rumors surrounding the subject of sleeping with dogs. Let’s address some common myths to help you make the best decision when it comes to inviting your dog to bed with you.
Sleeping With Your Dog Causes Behavior Issues
According to certified dog behavior consultant Russell Hartsein, allowing pets onto your bed does not cause behavioral issues. Rather, certain animals might act aggressively due to a fear response but this is not caused by allowing them on the bed.
If you want to sleep with your dog, consider testing their comfort by allowing them to spend the night on the bed. If it makes them uncomfortable, decide whether to take baby steps toward greater comfortability or simply provide them with their own bed.
Sleeping With Your Dog is Dangerous
Another popular myth is that allowing a dog into bed with you will sacrifice your dominance in the home and give that position to your dog. This myth has been disproven by the work of Senior Research Scientist David Mech and the Association of Professional Dog Training, which reminds us that modern domestic dogs should not be compared to wolves. Essentially, this belief about dominance is rooted in wolf research that has been disproven.
Children Shouldn’t Share a Bed with Dogs
It’s generally advised that children under 6 years old, or any child that has not proven themself to act maturely around their family pet – by, for example, repeatedly provoking it – is not ready to sleep with their dog. While this is good advice, should your child prove themself to be respectful of the family dog’s boundaries, it’s not dangerous to cuddle up with them.
Dogs should certainly never sleep with babies, as babies are more prone to immune system complications than older children and adults. Both babies and dogs may also be fearful of each other which could result in injury.
Sleeping With Your Dog is Dirty
Sleeping with dogs is often discouraged by the argument that dogs are too dirty to sleep with. While it’s relatively rare for humans to experience health issues (aside from allergies) due to contact with dogs, the CDC recommends following hygienic practices when spending extensive time with dogs.
Be sure to take your dog into the vet to ensure that they are healthy and free of ticks, fleas and other issues before sleeping with them.
FAQs: Dogs and Sleep
Every dog owner wants to understand their furry companion’s thoughts and needs, but unfortunately we can’t communicate with dogs like we can communicate with one another. If you’re wondering why dogs exhibit certain behaviors, we answer some common questions in this section.
Why Does My Dog Sleep So Close to Me?
You may be wondering, “Why does my dog sleep on my head?” As it turns out, you should consider it a compliment! When dogs sleep right next to you or even while making direct physical contact with you, it’s a sign of affection and love.
They’re likely communicating that they trust you and that they feel safest when they’re reassured of your presence. It’s up to you whether you’ll accept all their affection or set some boundaries.
Why Does My Dog Sleep on Me and Not My Husband?
There are several reasons as to why your dog might choose to express more physical love for one partner over another. Personality and temperament, familiarity and socialization may all be the culprits.
One partner’s personality and temperament may align with the dog’s more than the other’s, or perhaps the dog sees one partner less than the other and thus wants to bond more with them at nighttime.
Also, during your dog’s first few months at home with you, they undergo a socialization process. If you’re the primary caregiver for your dog, they’ll probably latch onto you more than anyone else.
Ultimately, there are a wide variety of reasons for your dog’s sleeping behaviors, and it might be a hard pill to swallow that your dog has a preferred sleeping companion. That doesn’t take away from the relationship you can build with them outside of bedtime!
Why Do Dogs Cry in Their Sleep?
If your dog is howling in its sleep, it’s probably because it’s dreaming. During your dog’s dream cycle when brain activity is most intense, it’s common for the dog to make sounds such as crying, whimpering and potentially even howling.
As much as we want to understand what kinds of dreams our dogs have and what goes on in their heads, there are some secrets that dogs keep to themselves.
Why Does My Dog Sleep Under the Covers?
When puppies are with their litter, they tend to cuddle up together in a pile. This pack-like behavior is likely why your dog tries to squeeze under the covers when it sleeps. Much like when dogs cuddle with their human owners, it’s a way of communicating affection and trust. Congrats – you’re a part of the pack!
Why You Shouldn’t Sleep With Your Dog
You shouldn’t sleep with your dog if you notice yourself having allergy symptoms when your dog is in bed with you. Dogs carry pet dander that can induce discomfort and allergic reactions even for those who are not allergic to animals. This is especially common if your dog spends a lot of time outside picking up pollen and other allergens.
Is It Bad to Let Your Dog Sleep With You?
While there are circumstances when you might want to reconsider sleeping with your dog, for the most part doing so is completely harmless and may even benefit your mental health and sleep quality.
Ultimately, sleeping with dogs is a safe activity that can be great for bonding with your pet and improving your overall well being, as long as you take necessary precautions. So throw on your PJs, teach your pup some sleep affirmations and snuggle up!