Do you sleep with your dog? Statistics tell us that between 20 and 65 percent of dog owners let their dogs sleep in their bed at least some of the time.
There are both risks and benefits to sleeping with your pup. Though there’s no wrong answer, you should be aware of the possible consequences before turning down for another night of wet nose snuggles.
Will Co-Sleeping Make Your Dog Dominant?
In the past, dog trainers and veterinarians widely believed that you had to actively put your dog in their place to keep them from becoming dominant over you. You may have been told to make sure your dog never walked ahead of you, had dinner before you, or slept in your bed, or they might become your Alpha.
Now we know that if you respect your dog, they’ll respect you back. If you’re kind, attentive and consistent, your dog will listen to you. Sleeping together allows wolves and feral dogs to conserve warmth and maintain familial bonds. Allowing your domesticated dog to sleep with you is very similar.
You might choose to teach your dog a cue to get off your bed when asked, or you might teach them to wait for permission before hopping under the covers with you. It’s useful to teach your dog to adapt to sleeping alone in case you are ever sick or just need a night to yourself. But sleeping with your dog each night, in itself, will not typically cause behavioural issues.
Co-sleeping can, however, exacerbate some underlying behavioural problems. If your dog is a resource-guarder, or becomes grumpy when they’re sleepy, they may growl or snap if you try to move them. They can become protective of you or your spouse. In some cases, it is better to keep your dog off your bed, at least until you can work on those issues.
Always work with a trainer who uses behavioural science and positive reinforcement to help you understand your dog and enforce good manners in an ethical way. Contact Healthy Houndz for positive dog training services in North York and Toronto.
Can Sleeping With Your Dog Make You Sick?
Bacteria is everywhere and it usually does not harm us. That said, dogs can carry harmful bacteria, fungi and parasites on their fur, on their paws and in their mouth.
An extensive research paper, “Zoonoses In The Bedroom,” details many cases of people who have gotten sick from their pets. Cases include flea-infested cats that gave their owners the plague (yes, the Bubonic plague), a housewife who contracted meningitis from habitually kissing her infected dog, and a chronic eczema patient who died of septic shock after his dog habitually licked areas of broken skin on his legs.
If you and your dog are healthy and you have reasonably good hygiene, your chances of getting sick from your dog are very small. Wash your bedding regularly and consider giving your dog a separate blanket at the foot of the bed. Wipe their paws when they come inside, and give them a bath after they swim in public bodies of water such as beaches and lakes.
Remember, bacteria has to be able to enter your bloodstream to make you sick. Wash your hands before cooking, eating and caring for children. Protect open wounds and broken skin.
Anyone with a compromised immune system should keep pets out of their bed. This includes children, senior citizens, and those who are going through chemotherapy.
Why You Might Still Prefer To Keep Your Dog Out Of Your Bed
Though it won’t likely cause behavioural issues or make you sick, sleeping with your dog might not be the best choice for you.
Sleeping with your dog does increase the chance that you’ll wake up in the middle of the night. You may also wake up with back or neck pain from sleeping around your pets. If you’re waking up sore or groggy, your dog might be to blame. On the other hand, you might personally find that cuddling with your dog lulls you into a better night’s sleep.
Your dog can adapt to sleeping with or without you. If you provide them with a clean, comfortable crate or bed, your dog might actually prefer sleeping on their own. Prioritize your own health and comfort, and those of your significant other. Sleeping with your dog might be the best part about winding down after a long day. If not, they’ll still love you all the same.