“Sleeping alone…does much harm…If possible, you should always sleep with someone you love. You both recharge your mutual batteries free of charge.” – Marlene Dietrich
The great German singer and actress Marlene Dietrich (1901-1992) is onto something very important here! And very relevant for anyone who lives with companion animals. Surveys reveal that half of dog owners allow their dogs to sleep on their beds; for cat owners, the percentage is closer to three-quarters. Why do we do this?
There are so many reasons. And there are some reasons not to do it, too, under particular circumstances; but in general, the good far outweighs the bad.
There can be an immense feeling of affection, calm, and security for both the person and the pet. When people and their pets interact, both experience heightened levels of the “bonding hormone” oxytocin, the same hormone that helps create the bond between mothers and their babies.
Not only does oxytocin make you feel good, it creates a basis for intense loving feelings towards any person or animal who is spurring its production in you. Your psychology does the rest!
The process works the same in animals. An article about oxytocin in The Atlantic told the story of a dog and goat who played together. The dog experienced a moderate surge in oxytocin and clearly liked the goat. The goat’s oxytocin levels went absolutely bonkers when he played with the dog. It is more than fair to say that the goat loved the dog very much.
I have seen this dynamic in my own household. My dog Bison and my other dog Coco adore each other’s company and are very vigorous playmates. I am willing to bet that each stimulates oxytocin production in the other.
Oxytocin spikes can be generated by physical contact such as petting or play, by eye or voice contact, and even simply by physical proximity. When it comes to sleeping, for some pets it is enough to be near you on the bed, and others want to snuggle right up next to you.
I’ve had plenty of experience with this, my dogs have slept on my bed since puppyhood, and can all be snugglers. They even like to come under the covers at times.
Let’s face it, they like the bed even without me in it, and often rest on it during the day. Beds are soft and comfortable, after all, and animals like comfort as much as people.
There is another reason why many dogs and cats crave sleeping with their “owners”. Domestic animals are essentially neotenous, which is to say, they retain some child-like characteristics into adulthood. You are the parent, and it makes them feel safe to be with you.
So what is the downside of sleeping with pets?
Well, it may be impossible or at any rate highly undesirable for people with asthma, allergies, or other respiratory issues.
Dogs should – of course – not be allowed to interfere with couple intimacy.
Many breeds shed a lot. Be prepared to see dog hair on your pillows, sheets, and on you.
Dogs can drag in all kinds of dirt. Or worse, bring in fleas and ticks.
Lastly, pets should also not be allowed to demonstrate any dominant or aggressive behaviors in bed; this could be a problem with a few dogs. My dogs sometimes like to position themselves on the pillow next to my head or by my side, but I feel that is protective behavior, not dominant. Both of my dogs are good little watchdogs and are occasionally overstimulated to barking in the middle of the night by city noises outside the window. A little hug calms them right down.
That’s about it on the negatives.
The Bottom Line
In general, sleeping with your pets is a great pleasure for both you and them. I say why not share the bed with your pup if you don’t mind some of the “negatives” as mentioned. They can be dealt with or forgiven in my opinion.
A few tips…
I highly recommend crate training your puppy before allowing him access to your bed. This will help avoid accidents on your bed during the puppy stage. Not to mention the immediate attachment to your bed as a young puppy would if given the chance. Your dog wouldn’t know anything different as he gets older.
It’s a good idea to train your dog to get off the bed with a command word. There will be times when you do not want him on your bed. Provide comfortable sleeping options for your pooch: a dog bed, crate, or a blanket for those times he is not allowed on your bed.
Finally, keep your dog nice n’ clean. That means regular baths, brushing their fur, wiping paws after being outside and routinely checking for fleas and ticks (and using preventative treatments to keep those parasites away).
What do you think about dogs sleeping in your bed? Do you let your dog sleep in bed with you?