Sleeping with Your Dog: The Ultimate Guide to Cozy Bedtime Habits and Hiccups

The age-old practice of sharing a bed with your furry companion has sparked both joy and controversy among pet owners. A 2015 survey revealed that over half of respondents allowed their pets to share their sleeping space, while a 2020 study found that a whopping 86% of puppy owners reported their pets preferred sleeping near a human. As the debate rages on, animal behaviorist Jacqui Zakar, the owner of Dog Sense Training and Behavior, offers expert insights into the potential benefits and pitfalls of this cherished tradition.

The Cozy Connection: Why Dogs Sleep in Human Beds

The narrative often begins innocently, with a new puppy seeking solace on a cold night, eventually evolving into a habitual bedtime routine. Zakar explains that many individuals opt for this setup due to their dogs’ need for security and comfort. While some perceive this as an act of love, Zakar stresses that genuine affection lies in meeting a dog’s holistic needs, which encompass mental stimulation, exercise, play, and the freedom to simply be a dog. She adds that certain breeds may actually prefer resting outdoors, and the desire to share a bed could stem from insecurity or possessive tendencies.

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The Pros and Cons of Co-Sleeping

The Mayo Clinic’s Center for Sleep Medicine collected data indicating that of the 56% of pet owners permitting their pets in the bedroom, 20% experienced disruptions, while 41% reported unobtrusive and even beneficial co-sleeping experiences. Zakar supports the idea that, when the relationship is healthy and the dog is well-mannered, having a pet in bed can indeed foster a stronger bond. Furthermore, dogs’ presence may help alleviate sleep apnea, a condition that affects millions, by alerting their owners to breathing disruptions.

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However, co-sleeping isn’t without its drawbacks. Zakar highlights that hygiene concerns are valid, as dogs carry dirt and potential parasites. Moreover, a lesser-known issue, resource guarding, could be amplified when dogs view human beds as coveted territory. This behavior arises from dogs fearing the loss of a valued resource, such as a space.

Setting Boundaries and Building Habits

To ensure harmonious co-sleeping, Zakar emphasizes the importance of training from an early age. For puppies, setting clear house rules is vital. Zakar advocates crate training, which establishes a safe space and curbs unwanted behaviors. This practice remains relevant for adult dogs, offering a sanctuary during injuries or times of change. Zakar recommends introducing cues like “OK” or “UP” when inviting dogs onto the bed, and “OFF” or “GET DOWN” for when it’s time to disembark. Associating these cues with actions ensures understanding and compliance.

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While the debate rages on, Zakar’s expertise offers valuable insights for pet owners navigating the balance between coziness and boundaries when it comes to sharing their sleep space with their beloved dogs.

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