Contrary to the strongly held opinion of some training and behavior professionals, I’m generally pretty comfortable with allowing canine family members on their humans’ beds. In our family, two of our five dogs sleep with my husband and me. Scooter, a Pomeranian, routinely sleeps with us; Dubhy, our Scottish Terrier, graces us with the privilege of his presence on our bed only from time to time.
Trainers who adamantly oppose dogs on the bed mostly fall into the old-fashioned training camp, and often, they also buy into all the dominance stuff that’s been pretty much discredited by behavioral scientists. Chances are good I would differ with them on many dog training and philosophical issues, not just this one. The dog who wants to sleep on your bed isn’t trying to take over the world. He just wants to be close to his humans -and comfortable!
Why wouldn’t your dog prefer your bed to any other place to sleep? It’s probably warmer, softer, and more companionable than any other place in the house. If you choose to snooze without your dog, make sure he has an equally comfortable bed, as close to a responsible family member as possible.
That said, there are times when I agree that allowing your dog on your bed may be inappropriate. Three of our dogs sleep elsewhere, for various reasons. Our Cardigan Corgi, Lucy, sleeps shut in her crate in our bedroom to forestall her predilection for midnight cat-chasing forays. Scorgidoodle Bonnie is also crated at night; she can’t seem to reliably hold her bladder until morning when given house freedom overnight. Her intense snuggling and licking behaviors can also be annoying in the wee hours of the morning. Missy, our 11-year-old Aussie, sleeps on a magnetic dog bed next to ours; she has weak hindquarters due to a formerly broken pelvis (acquired long before joining our family) and can’t jump on and off of the bed.
So how do you decide if bed privileges are the right choice for your canine pal? There are a number of things to take into consideration.
All other issues notwithstanding, if you prefer that your dog not sleep on the bed with you, the case is closed. It’s your choice, pure and simple, and not one you should have to defend to anyone. There may be a rare exception, but I can’t think of any reason why a dog should have to sleep on your bed.
Of course, if he’s accustomed to sleeping on his human’s bed and you abruptly evict him, he’s likely to tell you how he feels about it in no uncertain terms. You may have to do some behavior modification to convince him that other bedtime arrangements are acceptable alternatives, but that’s doable. If you want your dogs off the bed, the only real issue might be a human bed partner who prefers them on. I’m a dog behavior professional; I’ll leave this human conflict for you to sort out with your marriage counselor!
Dogs in the room
Some humans restrict their dogs’ presence from the bedroom altogether, citing reasons such as allergies, and being disturbed by nighttime scratching, licking, and other typical canine behavior. Some dogs are perfectly comfortable and confident when sleeping in other parts of the house; others benefit greatly from the six to eight hours of social proximity to their humans, even though there’s not much actual interaction going on. Sleeping in the same room is a nice, usually easy way for your dog to be with you, especially if you are gone at work eight or more hours a day. A white noise machine can cover up a lot of minor nighttime dog noises.
There are actually some behavior problems that can be resolved by bringing your dog into someone’s bedroom, whether yours or that of a responsible child. I heard from an owner recently whose eight-year-old dog, who had always slept downstairs, started barking in the middle of the night for no apparent reason. Efforts to determine the reason for the dog’s barking were fruitless.
I suggested that the owner have the dog sleep in her bedroom at night. The dog now sleeps quietly all night on a dog bed next to the owner’s. Problem solved -and the owner tells me it delights her to be able to look over the edge of her bed and see her beloved dog sleeping peacefully there. She can’t for the life of her remember why her canine pal had to sleep downstairs for eight years.
Inappropriate non-aggressive bed behaviors
There are many non-aggressive yet annoying, disruptive, dangerous, or otherwise inappropriate behaviors your uncrated and unsupervised dog can do at night. Lucy’s cat-chasing and Bonnie’s peeing are just two examples. Others include chewing on electrical cords and other potentially hazardous materials, destroying treasured possessions, romping on and off the bed, and getting into cupboards -behaviors that are disruptive and dangerous enough to demand nighttime confinement. For this reason, I recommend crating dogs who haven’t yet learned house manners (and especially young pups) at night.