"Why does my dog sleep so close to me?"
Dogs love to snuggle up excessively and often uncomfortably close to their owners. It can feel like there isn't room to breathe sometimes. Personal space is not a phrase in their vocabulary. Technically, no words are in their vocabulary, but that's beside the point.
Why do dogs lay on your feet, on top of you, or in your bed at night? Pups love to sleep with their owners for a sense of comfort and safety.
But is it bad to sleep with your dog? Some think that sleeping with your dog creates an overly-attached pet. Vets and other dog professionals give a lot of conflicting advice about whether it's good or bad to let your dog in the bed with you.
There are positives and negatives to co-sleeping and independent sleeping, so read below to learn more about the effects and determine what's right for you and your pup.
Why does my dog like to sleep with me?
Dogs, at the very core of their nature, are pack animals. We see this in how they interact with us, their "pack leader," compared to strangers.
When we're at home, they love to stick close by and can become little shadows, silently and sweetly following us from room to room.
Why does my dog sleep at my feet?
Pack animals rely on their packmates for comfort, safety, and protection. Dogs can feel vulnerable while they sleep, so they'll sleep close to you to feel safe enough to let their guard down.
If your dog sleeps on your feet, they may also be waiting for something from you, like food or exercise.
Why does my dog lay on me?
If your dog lays directly on you, they want to feel the security of your protection. But, a dog will also lay on you while they sleep so that they can protect you at a moment's notice, too. In their minds, it minimizes the chance of you getting into some form of danger while they sleep.
Should my dog sleep in my bed?
There’s no simple answer. Let's dive into the good and the bad of how your dog sleeps with you.
Pros of sleeping with your dog
Owner safety and security
Sleeping with dogs can keep us secure through the night, when we're more susceptible to home intruders or emergencies, like a fire. Dogs are light sleepers that hear every bump in the night, and they'll instantly awaken and alert you to the crisis at hand.
A dog in the bed provides comfort for those owners that are nervous to sleep alone or incredibly heavy sleepers.
Humans and dogs are both social animals. Allowing a dog in the bed gives you a sweet cuddle companion. People that own pets are less likely to struggle with depression than non-pet owners.
Petting and cuddling a pup reduces stress and anxiety for both you and your dog!
Strengthens your bond
By spending extra time relaxing with your dog, your bond grows stronger. You're both in a vulnerable position while you sleep together, so it builds their trust in you as a protective pack leader.
Cons of sleeping with your dog
Aging dog with declining health
Older dogs tend to develop degenerative joint issues, which can make getting into bed a harrowing ordeal. You can use a bed ramp for dogs to help an aging dog on and off your bed without having to pick them up every time.
Old dogs may struggle with incontinence issues and urinate on the bed. It's probably best to develop a separate sleeping situation in this case.
Builds separation anxiety/behavioral issues
For dogs with separation anxiety and behavioral issues, their symptoms may worsen with co-sleeping. An overly-attached dog will be soothed by sleeping together, but in turn, becomes even more attached to their owner and unable to cope with being left alone.
A dog exhibiting aggressive behaviors should have a separate sleeping space while you consult a professional trainer for the next steps.
Dogs sleep lightly, and can often be anxious, fidgety sleepers. If a dog rolls, scratches, and kicks in the bed all night, your sleep is going to be quite disturbed. A light sleeper could be kept up all night by the constant movements.
Exposure to parasites
Our dogs carry parasites that can make us sick, like fleas, ticks, and intestinal parasites. Your dog sleeping in bed with you increases your exposure to illnesses caused by these parasites, which is especially problematic for children, the elderly, and immuno-compromised people.
If you're allergic to dog fur, covering your bed in it will not help your symptoms. Dogs also pick up and track pollen and dust, which are common human allergens.
You can lessen the amount of pollen on your pup by wiping them with a damp towel after returning inside your house, regularly bathing your dog, and using HEPA filters to purify your home's air.
Conclusion: should you let your pup into bed?
Each situation needs individual assessment to determine the best choice.
If you feel secure having your pup in bed with you and feel that it gives you a better night's sleep, it could be an excellent set-up for both of you.
For a fidgety, restless dog, or an aging pup, you may want to get them a comfy dog bed you can place on the floor in your room. This way, you can still feel closely bonded without sacrificing your sleep.
In the case of separation anxiety and behavioral issues, it's best to tread lightly, as co-sleeping might exacerbate the problem. Avoid co-sleeping while you treat the issue, and then re-assess when the situation has improved.
If you determine your dog should sleep on the bed with you, enjoy your nightly cuddles and wash your sheets often.
If you decide it's best to sleep separately, set up a bed in your room with you, or work on crate-training your pup. A dog that finds comfort in their crate may learn to prefer sleeping in there over anywhere else.