Sharing the bed with your canine BFF can get hairy sometimes. Here’s how to survive.
When you hit the hay at night, is there a cold wet canine nose snuggling under the covers with you? You’re definitely not alone.
Half of the 78 million dogs owned in the U.S. sleep in a person’s bed — either an adult’s or child’s — according to a 2015 survey by the American Pet Products Association. And all those dogs aren’t tiny. The survey found that 61 percent of small dogs, 45 percent of medium dogs, and 47 percent of large dogs sleep in someone’s bed instead of a crate or a dog bed of their own.
That’s a lot of bed hogging and cover stealing going on.
If you’ve chosen to share your bed with your best furry friend, you know things aren’t always dreamy. You’ve likely been awakened by imaginary cat-chases, fought for room on the mattress, and maybe heard a growl when you tried to move a pup that didn’t want to budge. However, a new 2017 study finds that the perks of having a dog in your bedroom might outweigh the sleep interruptions. Researchers tracked the sleep habits of 40 healthy adults and their dogs over five months and found that sleeping with dogs in the room helped the participants sleep better, no matter how small or big the dog was. However, according to the study, adults who slept with their dogs in their bed sacrificed sleep quality.
“Most people assume having pets in the bedroom is a disruption,” Lois Krahn, M.D., a sleep medicine specialist at the Center for Sleep Medicine on the Mayo Clinic’s Arizona campus and an author of the study, said in a press release. “We found that many people actually find comfort and a sense of security from sleeping with their pets.”
Here are some tips to keep the bedroom as battle-free as possible.
If you’re a light sleeper
about 53 percent of people who sleep with their pets say their animals disturb their sleep, according to a survey by the Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Center.
« I suspect that the degree of sleep disruption experienced may be significantly greater than the owners admit, but I have no objective data, » says Dr. John Shepard, medical director of the center. « Every patient has to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of sleeping with pets and make a personal decision about the sleeping arrangements in the household. Some people are very attached to their pets and will tolerate poorer sleep in order to be near them at night. »
If you can’t sleep through the snoring and the doggie dream noises, it may be time to find Fido a spot in the house where he’s free to sleep as noisily as he’d like.
If your dog isn’t housebroken
Puppies are adorable — and it’s sweet to roll over and smell puppy breath instead of your partner’s icky morning breath. But puppies don’t always have the best bladder control and it’s really hard to clean a mattress.
Plus, your smells are all over your bed, says certified professional dog trainer and canine behavioral consultant Lisa Matthews, owner of Pawsitive Practice Training in Johns Creek, Georgia.
« Dogs that aren’t house-trained may be a bit more prone to tinkle up there. It could be a marking situation, especially if other dogs have been up on that bed, and they may want to claim the bed as theirs. »
Even if your puppy knows he’s supposed to go outside, he may be too young or too little to jump down and let you know he has to hit the backyard.
Your best bet? Use the crate until housebreaking is over — or buy a very waterproof mattress pad.
If you have health issues
If you have pet allergies or asthma, not only should you keep your dog out of your bed, you should keep him out of your bedroom, suggests the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Leave your bedroom door shut at all times and don’t even let your dog visit you there.
If you have seasonal allergies to pollen, remember that when your dog runs through the backyard, she’s bringing the pollen inside and tossing it all over your covers.
Unless you want to give your dog a bath every night during allergy season and wash your sheets frequently, you may want to consider crating your dog or moving her to another part of the house when pollen is bad. Of course that can be hard on pets that haven’t seen a crate since their house-training days.
That’s why Matthews suggests that all dogs get a little positive crate time every day.
« The dog should always have a kennel that stays in play throughout the dog’s life and is used an hour a day every day, » she says. « When you keep that kennel in play, you can go back and use it and it’s not been associated with ‘the dog is bad, let’s throw the dog in the kennel.' »
Give your dog a great toy or a Kong stuffed with peanut butter, so the crate becomes a great place to go.
« That way, if you ever have to use it later on, it’s not used as a punishment. »
If your dog has health issues
It’s rare, but there are zoonotic diseases — ranging from campylobacter to salmonella infections — that can be passed from dogs to people. There are all sorts of parasites and fungi, like tapeworm, ringworm and roundworm, and you definitely don’t want to wake up with fleas and ticks.
To be safe, make sure you take your dog to the vet regularly for immunizations and exams and be sure she’s up-to-date on flea and tick prevention.
If your dog doesn’t like your bedmate
You may think it’s cute if your dog growls at your partner when he creeps over to your side of the bed. But a jealous dog can cause more than disharmony in the bedroom. This guarding behavior can lead to biting.
It’s best to work with a trainer or behavioral specialist to work through the issue. Until then, it’s a good idea to keep Buddy out of the bed.
« Which tack I take depends on the dog, the level of aggression, and what’s motivating it, » says certified professional dog trainer Pat Miller, training editor for Whole Dog Journal. « If it’s a classic case of owner-guarding — wife is in the bed, dog growls at husband when he tries to get in bed — then yes, bed privileges need to be revoked. The dog’s, not the husband’s! »
Miller takes a similar approach if the dog is guarding the bed, not just a person on the bed.
« The dog needs to be evicted unless and until the behavior can be modified. »
If your dog thinks bedtime is playtime
In certain situations, you may want to have a « no toys in the bed » rule.
« It depends on what kind of relationship you have with your dog and what kind of relationship your dog has with his toys and if your dog is well-trained, » says Matthews. If your dog knows basic commands and will « leave it » and « drop it » when it’s time to stop playing and sleep, then toys in the bed shouldn’t be a problem. But if your bed buddy guards his toys, you could risk a not-so-pleasant reaction if you get too close at night.
Some toys — particularly those with squeakers — probably should be banned from the bedroom, at least after lights-out.
« If your goals are to sleep and sleep with a dog that is not making noise with a toy, then limit to quiet toys or toys not making noise. »
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