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Should Sleeping Dogs Lie…In Your Bed?

April 01, 2013

Should Sleeping Dogs Lie…In Your Bed?

Recently I put out an invite on our facebook page for fans to send us ideas for our blog or questions for the Newsletter.  I received a question from one of our fans about whether or not she should allow her dog to sleep in the bed with her.  So, being the blogger/sleuth that I am I decided to dig a little deeper into this.  Where did this belief come from anyway?

My first inclination was to check the almighty Cesar Milan‘s website for possible explanations.  I was surprised.  Pleasantly surprised.  The only info I found stated that having your dog in your bed can be a wonderful bonding experience (aside from the hairy butt that often ends up in my face, or the fishy blast of dog breath that wakes me up from a deep sleep).  He did say that if your dog starts getting aggressive he needs to be removed from the bed.  Did hell just freeze over? Can I get a drumroll please? Cesar and I agree!!!

Unfortunately that’s pretty much where the warm fuzzies ended.  I began encountering website after website stating that dogs should NOT sleep in the bed because it will raise their “status” too much.  One even went as far as to say that dogs “prefer a hard surface to sleep on”.  Right.  It seems that the basis for this strange belief is rooted in the dominance theory.  Seemingly allowing your dog on the bed will cause it to be able to challenge your “alpha status” in your home.  This alpha stuff isn’t something I’m interested in debating.  That chasm is already wide enough.

Here’s what I will say.

I have up to four dogs in my bed at any given time.

Never have any of them tried to organize a mutiny and take over my household.

Does this mean the bed is a free-for-all? That my bed is now my dog’s personal Wonderland? No.  In fact, there are actually some very legitimate occasions when a dog should NOT be allowed in the bed.

1) If your dog growls, snaps or bites at you when you try to get into the bed.

This can become a very serious problem, and it’s not one that should be taken lightly.  This is most often a “resource guarding” problem.  Your dog sees the bed as a valuable and highly prized  item that he doesn’t want to share with you.  Unfortunately this means you can no longer allow your dog into your bed until you’re able to hire a trainer to help you develop a behaviour modification plan to improve the problem.  In short, this process involves teaching your dog that having you get into the bed is a great thing, and that he won’t lose his comfy spot every time he sees you.  Just a warning though, this is the type of problem that you should never get too comfortable with.  Assume it’ll always be something you’ll have to be aware of, no matter how much your dog has improved.

2) If your dog reacts aggressively when he’s moved while sleeping.

This is a simple handling  problem.  I won’t lie, if someone tried to lift me up while I was sleeping they might get a manicured backhand to the face.  The last thing you want is for your dog to inflict serious injury when you roll over in the night and accidentally brush his leg with your hand.  For practical reasons, I would find somewhere else for your dog to sleep, pronto.

3) If your dog guards one spouse from the other spouse.

This, again, is most often a resource guarding issue.  Mommy is pretty darn great, and that evil daddy keeps trying to wrestle with her. It’s a very bad idea to allow your dog to rehearse this behaviour.  The more times he learns that growling makes daddy go away, the more intense he becomes.  Dogs get better at things they’re allowed to practice at!  Remove him from the bed to prevent the problem from generalizing to other areas of the house and call a trainer.

So, aside from the very real danger of being licked to death in the morning, there is absolutely no reason why you can’t enjoy the bonding that naturally happens from sharing your bed with your dog, or dogs.  This might be your cue to crawl back under the covers and enjoy an afternoon nap:)

Written By

Danielle Hodges, CPDT-KA

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