A key part of working on behaviour cases is taking a full history from the owner about their dog, their relationship and their lifestyle. I’ve lost count of the number of times that somewhere near the end of our conversation, an owner will sheepishly admit “… and I know I shouldn’t, but I let them sleep on the bed with me.”
Shock, horror… Surely that is the first step on a canine quest for world domination? No wonder the dog has all these behaviour problems!
Dogs generally love to sleep on the bed because it means they can be closer to their beloved owner, it’s really comfortable, and sleeping together feels safe. In most cases, there’s nothing more to it than this and it is completely natural canine behaviour. If you watch companionable dogs in multi canine households, they often share a bed and curl up together. It’s the very embodiment of harmony and contentment – it’s hard to fall asleep with someone you don’t trust.
The relief on many owners’ faces when I tell them that their dog sleeping on their bed is not going to cause behaviour issues or be part of their problem (unless of course the dog isn’t letting the owner into the bed, the owner can’t safely remove the dog from the bed, or the dog wakes up very grumpy!) is always rather heart-warming – as is their gratitude towards me for not banning this often joyous part of dog owning.
Should I let my dog sleep on the bed?
The answer is “do you want them to?”. If you like having your dog sleeping next to you and it brings you pleasure – and that is where your dog wants to be – then that’s where your dog should sleep. If you would rather they slept somewhere else, then they should sleep somewhere else.
Your dog, your bed, your choice.
We’ve thankfully come a long way from the old-fashioned dominance reduction programmes where dogs stayed on the floor, slept on their own, ate after the family, let owners go through doors first… And various other things designed to teach them who’s boss. We control everything about their lives – what and when they eat, what rooms they’re allowed in, when and where they have exercise, and even when they’re allowed to go to the toilet.
We don’t have to deny them a comfy mattress and our company through long dark nights to push the ‘I’m in charge’ message home any further.
Modern dog owning is all about doing what works for you, for your dog, and for your lifestyle. And about what makes you and your dog happy. As long as you’re consistent about it, pay attention to hygiene, and don’t mind getting kicked by four paws in the middle of the night or awakened noisily if a mouse so much as tiptoes past outside, there is no reason why the bed should be off limits to your dog – if that is what you both want.