One question that tends to polarise dog owners from all walks of life if the age-old “should you let your dog sleep in your bed with you?” Most people on both sides of the divide have strong views about why their opinion is the most logical solution, and while there are obvious disadvantages to it, there can be some positives in certain situations as well.
Many dog owners who co-sleep with their dog also believe that sharing the bed with their dogs is not just ok, but perfectly natural-both dogs and people are after all, social animals, and sleeping with another party or even a group (such as with children) is something that certainly has evolutionary precedent.
In this article, we will tackle the question of whether or not it is actually natural to share your bed with your dog, and some of the plusses and minuses of doing so. Read on to learn more.
Even people who cannot sleep properly without their dog in the bed will generally freely admit that there are some downsides to it! First of all, you have to share the available space, and even a very small dog can stretch themselves out to take up the larger part of the space given half a chance, as well as of course making the bed smell rather doggy, and over time, getting quite hairy too!
Additionally, having a dog in your bed increase the chances of them passing on fleas, worms and other parasites, and taking your dog to bed with you elevates their status within your pack dynamic, which can be problematic with dominant or very assertive dogs that need clear boundaries.
If for any reason you need to stop your dog sleeping in your bed or have to become a bit firmer in terms of the rules of the household, making a change later on can be challenging too.
Dog snoring, farting and waking you up for a fuss should all be factored into the potential annoyances as well!
For those that do like to share their beds with their dog, there are numerous advantages cited in defence of the practice. Co-sleeping can strengthen the bond between you and your dog and help a shy or nervous dog to relax and feel safe, and this effect can also be achieved for the human in the partnership too, such as for people who live alone and find the close presence of their dog reassuring.
In the winter, snuggling up under the duvet with your dog can help both of you to get warm and comfortable too, although in the summer, this point turns on its head!
Throughout history and evolution, people have lived closely together in family and social groups that generally only thrived as part of a mutually supportive community of cooperative members. This extends as far as our sleeping habits, and it is only a fairly recent modern concept for people to sleep alone in their own bedrooms.
Up until between 50-100 years ago, most working-class families would sleep in close quarters, certainly often in the same room and often, with children sharing beds with each other and/or their parents too.
Additionally, throughout our history of our life alongside of dogs, dogs were often added to the sleep pile for additional warmth and comfort, and a giant pile of sleeping people and dogs would not have been at all uncommon in many communities up until around 100 years ago too.
However, as human’s relationships to each other have evolved and changed, we have got used to having larger homes and more space-and also, families and communities are more diverse as people move further from their home towns and blood relatives to set up on their own.
This means that for most of us, we will have grown up sharing a room with only one sibling or even alone, and will be totally used to and comfortable with sleeping alone as adults. Ergo this “new normal” informs our views to a great extent in terms of what we consider to be comfortable and preferable when we go to bed.
It is very widely assumed that dogs naturally sleep together with others of their species, such as you may witness with a dam and her litter all snuggling up together when the puppies are young.
However, the truth of the matter is not as cut and dried as it may seem-while packs and social groups of dogs tend to sleep in the vicinity of each other, cuddling up closely with a number of other dogs is something that generally only occurs in puppies and young dogs with each other and with their dam, or if the weather is so cold that shared bodily warmth becomes important for comfort and potential survival through the winters.
When all things are equal and the weather is not too cold, packs and social groups of dogs don’t tend to sleep right on top of each other in very close quarters-the alpha dog and those towards the top of the pile will probably demand a respectful distance be kept between themselves and the rest of the pack, with the alpha choosing the best sleeping spot and how much space they want around them.
The other dogs then choosing their spot in order, with the younger dogs and those towards the lower end of the pecking order left crowded together due to either necessity or because younger dogs need that feeling of closeness in order to feel safe.
There is no cut and dried, definitive answer to this question. What works well for one dog and their owner might not work at all for another, and if your dog uses their position in the bed as an indication of a higher pack position, this can be problematic. However, bearing all of the potential downsides of sharing with your dog in mind, if both you and your dog are happy with things-go ahead!