By Aaron Teixeira, Shelter Behavior Manager at the San Francisco SPCA
There are many myths about letting your dog share your bed, as well as possible concerns and benefits.
The most harmful myth is that it’s important is establish dominance by not letting your dog into your bed, and that doing so will cause behavior problems. I assure you, this is not the case. Unfortunately, some dog trainers and a few behavior “experts” are still trying to convince dog owners that dominance theory applies to pet dogs. I can also assure you that your dog is not planning to take over the world by sleeping in your bed.
Some owners may also be concerned that sleeping with your dog might increase the chances of catching a disease from them. This is not the case as long as both of you are healthy and clean. We do recommend that you talk to your veterinarian about regular parasite control.
In certain situations, however, there might be legitimate concerns about letting your dog share your bed. Should your dog have any medical or behavioral conditions that make it unsafe for them to sleep in the same bed, then you should certainly avoid it. For example, if your dog has shown any signs of aggression toward you, you might accidentally startle the dog while you’re sleeping and provoke aggression. In this case, you can provide a nice dog bed or a crate (see crate training) on the floor next to your bed.
In general, sleeping with your dog can enhance the human-animal bond and increase trust due to closer proximity and increased physical contact. Owners who sleep with their dogs often have a better bond with their dog, which can lead to improved basic obedience training and greater overall satisfaction.
Sleeping with your dog may also improve your sleep (Patel 2017), which is not a surprise to many of us who find snuggling with our pets as we fall asleep comforting and relaxing. Dogs also run a bit hotter than us by a few degrees, so the added warmth is often a bonus during cold nights.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to personal preference. If you want to sleep with your dog, and your dog does not have medical or behavioral issues that make it unsafe, please do so confidently and enjoy the many benefits of sharing the bed – your dog will, too!
Want to learn more? Visit https://www.sfspca.org/behavior-training/