Dogs, like people, need good quality sleep. In fact, most experts agree that dogs can happily snooze up to 12 to 18 hours a day.
It is therefore imperative dogs have a place for a relaxing and rejuvenating good night’s sleep: whether that’s in your bed or one of their own.
Where a dog sleeps for the night is a frequent source of disagreement between couples, families and pets alike. Unfortunately, advice from experts can be just as divided with trainers and dog behaviorists on both sides of the bed over the issue.
Where Do Most Dogs Sleep?
According to the American Kennel Club, 45 percent of dog owners let their pooches sleep in their own beds, 20 percent have their dogs sleeping in a crate, 17 percent in a dog bed, 14 percent sleep in different places indoors and just 4 percent sleep outside.
Regardless of where your dog sleeps, they need a space that’s not only comfortable but also supportive and soft.
A supportive dog bed is imperative to cushion a dog’s body and provide joint support.
Can Dogs Disturb Your Sleep?
Depending on the breed, size and temperament, a dog in the bed may disturb your sleep by tossing and turning or simply by taking up too much sleeping space.
Some dogs are also known to snore, further adding to the risk of a disrupted sleep.
According to a 2018 exploratory study of human-dog co-sleeping, Do Dogs Disrupt Their Owner’s Sleep, researchers found co-sleeping with a dog “appears to result in measurable, but relatively mild, reductions in overall sleep quality” but advised weighing any detrimental impact against the benefits of co-sleeping.
Another study published in the 2017 edition of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, The Effect of Dogs on Human Sleep in the Home Sleep Environment, showed that having a dog sleep in your room improves your sleep, but having a dog sleep in the bed with you does not. “Humans with a single dog in their bedroom maintained good sleep efficiency; however, the dog’s position on/off the bed made a difference,” the researchers concluded.
Patricia McConnell, Applied Animal Behaviorist and author of The Other End of the Leash, sees no problem with allowing your dog on the bed.
“Absolutely,” she told Newsweek. “As long as you are still sleeping soundly and there is no resource guarding.”
However, veterinarian Dr. Ryan Llera believes co-sleeping with a dog presents a problem for light sleepers.
“Light sleepers are awakened when their dog rolls over, kicks, or scratches. Others are annoyed when their dog snores too loudly,” Dr. Llera noted in an article written for VCA Animal Hospitals. “Lack of sleep can make you grumpy and impact the immune system, which can affect your overall health.”
Dr. Llera also pointed out that, unlike people, even when dogs have a restless night, they have time to nap during the day and can make up for lost nighttime slumber.
The potential for disrupted sleep could also be explained by the fact that dogs and humans have very different sleeping patterns. Dogs are known to be polyphasic sleepers and average three sleep/wake cycles per nighttime hour, whereas humans are monophasic sleepers and usually sleep for one longer period over a 24-hour cycle. Dogs also stay alert for sounds, even when sleeping, which may make them lighter sleepers than their humans, the AKC notes.
Is Having a Dog in Bed Unsanitary?
Ticks, fleas, dirt and hair can all transfer from your dog to your bed.
It’s also possible that those with allergies may find their symptoms are aggravated by having a pet in bed.
There is also the risk of transmission of disease, from both the dog to the human and vice versa.
For these reasons, Dr. Jerry Klein, Chief Veterinary Officer at American Kennel Club, does not recommend sharing a bed with a dog.
“One of the concerns is the transmission of zoonotic diseases – that is, diseases that are transmissible from animals to people,” he told Newsweek. “Dogs, as loving as they are, are not the most hygienic and they have been known to carry and transmit germs and parasites in their saliva and feces. Feces may be present on a dog’s rectal area but also on the underside of the tail and rear limbs. Parasites like roundworms and hookworms are contagious to humans, and young children or people with immune conditions are especially concerning.”
Dr. Klein also notes that children with allergies may have worsened conditions if dogs are in bed with them due to increased dander exposure.
What are the Benefits of Having Your Dog in Bed?
Studies have shown there are many physical and mental health advantages to owning a pet, and co-sleeping may not only increase the amount of quality time spent with that pet, but in doing so increase the associated health benefits.
A 2017 study, A Multispecies Approach to Co-Sleeping: Integrating Human-Animal Co-Sleeping Practices into Our Understanding of Human Sleep, published in the journal Human Nature, found traditional cultures considered co-sleeping with animals as beneficial. The researchers even proposed that human-animal and adult-child co-sleeping should be approached as legitimate and socially relevant forms of co-sleeping.
In fact, a 2014 Australian study, Should we let sleeping dogs lie… with us?, says co-sleeping with dogs has been widely recorded in ethnographies of Indigenous Australians. “During cold nights, Indigenous Australians were often reported to sleep alongside their dogs for warmth,” the researchers said.
Dogs also provide a sense of safety to many. “Heavy sleepers may rest better knowing that their canine companion will warn them of a nighttime emergency, such as a fire or an intruder,” Dr. Llera noted. “Dogs help insomniacs rest better, too. People who have difficulty sleeping report that the rhythmic breathing of their dogs helps them to sleep. And people who ordinarily sleep alone, feel better lying next to a warm living being.”
Dogs are also perfect bed warmers, providing extra body warmth and keeping you toasty on a cold night.
Do Dogs Provide Comfort and Companionship in Bed?
Sleeping with your dog may also increase the feelings of comfort and companionship your pet provides, easing anxiety and providing a sense of safety and security.
“Many dog owners feel more secure and actually sleep better when snuggled next to their furry friends,” Dr. Llera added. “Dogs tend to calm people and can lower blood pressure and stress levels.”
For others, there is simply no better morning greeting than their dog wagging its tail in delight.
“During the pandemic many people adopted or bought dogs, which meant many were sharing their beds with their new canine companions,” Dr. Klein notes. “Some people found that it brought them comfort, safety, and increased their oxytocin levels.”
However, the vet also warns that very small and frail dogs can be put at risk and even hurt if an owner accidentally lies on them during the night.
“As an emergency vet for over 30 years, I’ve seen this scenario many times, including one instance when a toy poodle died from this cause,” he told Newsweek.
Sleeping with your dog is an entirely personal decision that can only be made on the basis on you and your pet’s needs.
If you do decide to sleep without your dog on your bed, it’s best to train your pup at an early age to stay off the bed .
Consistency is the key here, the AKC warns, and advises owners to train their dogs not to jump on the bed at any time – particularly while you sleep.
A good compromise for many may be to allow your dog on the bed on an ‘invitation only’ basis and not as an automatic right. This way you can decide when and where your dog can come on the bed, putting you in charge. Otherwise, allowing your dog to sleep at your feet could also be another solution and may minimize the disruption if they move during the night.
“Ideally, you should ask for advice from your vet, doctor, pediatrician, or talk to your dog’s behavioralist if you’re considering having them share the same sleeping space with you,” Dr. Klein suggests.