Features March 2010 Issue

Letting Your Dog Sleep on Your Bed With You

Decide where your dog gets to sleep, and support good bed manners.

Contrary to the strongly held opinion of some training and behavior professionals, I’m generally pretty comfortable with allowing canine family members on their humans’ beds. In our family, two of our five dogs sleep with my husband and me. Scooter, a Pomeranian, routinely sleeps with us; Dubhy, our Scottish Terrier, graces us with the privilege of his presence on our bed only from time to time.

Trainers who adamantly oppose dogs on the bed mostly fall into the old-fashioned training camp, and often, they also buy into all the dominance stuff that’s been pretty much discredited by behavioral scientists. Chances are good I would differ with them on many dog training and philosophical issues, not just this one. The dog who wants to sleep on your bed isn’t trying to take over the world. He just wants to be close to his humans -and comfortable!

Why wouldn’t your dog prefer your bed to any other place to sleep? It’s probably warmer, softer, and more companionable than any other place in the house. If you choose to snooze without your dog, make sure he has an equally comfortable bed, as close to a responsible family member as possible.

That said, there are times when I agree that allowing your dog on your bed may be inappropriate. Three of our dogs sleep elsewhere, for various reasons. Our Cardigan Corgi, Lucy, sleeps shut in her crate in our bedroom to forestall her predilection for midnight cat-chasing forays. Scorgidoodle Bonnie is also crated at night; she can’t seem to reliably hold her bladder until morning when given house freedom overnight. Her intense snuggling and licking behaviors can also be annoying in the wee hours of the morning. Missy, our 11-year-old Aussie, sleeps on a magnetic dog bed next to ours; she has weak hindquarters due to a formerly broken pelvis (acquired long before joining our family) and can’t jump on and off of the bed.

So how do you decide if bed privileges are the right choice for your canine pal? There are a number of things to take into consideration.

Personal Choice

All other issues notwithstanding, if you prefer that your dog not sleep on the bed with you, the case is closed. It’s your choice, pure and simple, and not one you should have to defend to anyone. There may be a rare exception, but I can’t think of any reason why a dog should have to sleep on your bed.

Of course, if he’s accustomed to sleeping on his human’s bed and you abruptly evict him, he’s likely to tell you how he feels about it in no uncertain terms. You may have to do some behavior modification to convince him that other bedtime arrangements are acceptable alternatives, but that’s doable. If you want your dogs off the bed, the only real issue might be a human bed partner who prefers them on. I’m a dog behavior professional; I’ll leave this human conflict for you to sort out with your marriage counselor!

Dogs in the room

Some humans restrict their dogs’ presence from the bedroom altogether, citing reasons such as allergies, and being disturbed by nighttime scratching, licking, and other typical canine behavior. Some dogs are perfectly comfortable and confident when sleeping in other parts of the house; others benefit greatly from the six to eight hours of social proximity to their humans, even though there’s not much actual interaction going on. Sleeping in the same room is a nice, usually easy way for your dog to be with you, especially if you are gone at work eight or more hours a day. A white noise machine can cover up a lot of minor nighttime dog noises.

There are actually some behavior problems that can be resolved by bringing your dog into someone’s bedroom, whether yours or that of a responsible child. I heard from an owner recently whose eight-year-old dog, who had always slept downstairs, started barking in the middle of the night for no apparent reason. Efforts to determine the reason for the dog’s barking were fruitless.

I suggested that the owner have the dog sleep in her bedroom at night. The dog now sleeps quietly all night on a dog bed next to the owner’s. Problem solved -and the owner tells me it delights her to be able to look over the edge of her bed and see her beloved dog sleeping peacefully there. She can’t for the life of her remember why her canine pal had to sleep downstairs for eight years.

Inappropriate non-aggressive bed behaviors

There are many non-aggressive yet annoying, disruptive, dangerous, or otherwise inappropriate behaviors your uncrated and unsupervised dog can do at night. Lucy’s cat-chasing and Bonnie’s peeing are just two examples. Others include chewing on electrical cords and other potentially hazardous materials, destroying treasured possessions, romping on and off the bed, and getting into cupboards -behaviors that are disruptive and dangerous enough to demand nighttime confinement. For this reason, I recommend crating dogs who haven’t yet learned house manners (and especially young pups) at night.

Next: Aggressive bed behaviors

Comments (16)

If you let your dog sleep on or in the bed, do you wash him/his feet after he has come from outside? What is the norm with this? I wouldn't want a human who was walking outside in their bare feet, sleeping in the bed.

Posted by: dogs_outside | November 2, 2014 10:20 PM    Report this comment

Ziggy's separation anxiety (he was rehomed 8 months ago and barks when I leave for more than a few minutes at a time) is REMARKABLY better when he sleeps in his own bed in my room at night. This has been the most effective intervention -- beyond training, relaxing supplements, exercise, music and/or mental stimulation. We still use these other interventions but there is something about sleeping in his own bed that has helped him turn the corner.

Posted by: Ziggy0515 | October 29, 2014 3:26 PM    Report this comment

I'm trying to figure out what the compromise is when the dogs can be annoying, and the shedding annoying, and one dog is spay incontinent and occasionally has accidents, but you still LOVE having them snuggle with you on the bed in the evening before sending them off to SLEEP elsewhere -- but your human partner cannot tolerate the shedding and occasional accidents and decides the bed is off limits all the time. Is there a middle ground? I can't find one. I'm open to suggestions ...

Posted by: Emm | October 28, 2014 8:03 PM    Report this comment

My dog, Lucky, a 20 lb. terrier mix used to sneak up on the bed at night. He obviously wanted to be close to us. However, with my arthritic knees I couldn't stand having him cramp my sleeping position. So we devised a plan to keep him below my feet. At that time we had a sleigh bed with the bedposts pointed outward. I would remove his collar and then place it on the bed and instruct him to hang it on the bedpost. His reward was a treat and the right to sleep at the foot of the bed near his collar. He soon caught on to the trick of looping the collar over the bedpost and we both enjoyed this nightly ritual. If he sneaked up higher than my ankles at night I silently put him off the bed. He caught on to that quickly too. Our Lola loves to get up on the bed for a good night kiss and some cuddles but prefers sleeping in her own bed under ours but needs to be tucked in under a blanket, thank you very much.

Posted by: Missbehavior | September 30, 2014 9:56 AM    Report this comment

I like having the security of a dog roaming the house at night, so if they come and go from our bed, that is fine. The only dog I ever strongly insisted to sleep with us was our terrier mix who had frequent seizures at night. I could grab him and comfort him without having to search the whole house in the dark.

Posted by: Pisces51 | September 21, 2014 4:23 PM    Report this comment

Should I really throw canned chicken on my sheets? I don't think I would like to crawl into that after the training session....

Posted by: bridgetfinnerty | November 5, 2013 11:41 AM    Report this comment

I really wish my two little dogs could sleep on the bed with me. I used to let them but they both unpredictably urinate in the house at night. I have tried everything: long walks before bed, multiple vet trips to make sure no medical issues were at fault, professional carpet cleaning to eliminate any odors, crating for a short time period and then letting them sleep with me again, etc. Nothing will break this habit. They mind their house manners the rest of the time. Now they have to sleep in their crates. They seem to like sleeping in them, but it makes me sad. But, I can't have a house that smells like urine.

Posted by: Alicia484 | November 4, 2013 3:58 PM    Report this comment

Thank you so much for this article. We have a 5 mo old Golden that is very affectionate, we've had her for almost 6 wks now, I have crate trained her for sleeping at night, took two nights, she's a smart girl. I spend 99% or more of my day with her, much easier to train a pup if you don't have to go to work. This article answered many questions I had about allowing her to sleep on my bed at night in the future. My partner and I don't sleep in the same room as she uses a cpap machine and I am a very light sleeper. I do believe that once this pup is trained to be trusted out of her crate at night and stay on the bed, I will start working on this next step. Again, thank you so much for all the informative and humorous articles.

Posted by: Unknown | November 4, 2013 12:44 PM    Report this comment

I came across this article looking to find a way to teach my dog proper "bed etiquette". She's a 1 yr old lab mix who loves to snuggle, but fails to realize we're not part of the furniture! When she was small enough, she would actually sleep on top of our pillows and cradle our heads. Now she often sprawls out across our legs, or takes up half the bed so we are literally crunching into fetal position so as to limit our bodies to the top half of the bed and avoid being "pinned down". Once she's lying down or asleep, she's quite stubborn and impossible to move. Any suggestions on how to get her to pick a more appropriate spot?

Posted by: danicd88 | November 3, 2013 9:53 AM    Report this comment

My two year old cattle dog sleeps in the bed, under the covers, between my wife and me. We love it. He is not the type of dog that cuddles and snuggles, so those hours at night are precious to us. To keep the hair and dirt under control I change the sheets once a week. It is a small price to pay in order to fall asleep and wake up with all the loves of my life.

Posted by: Archi D | February 28, 2013 1:21 PM    Report this comment

What kind of breed or mix is the dog in the photo? I have a dog named Kobe who looks exactly like this dog . He was given to me for free & I was told he was a pitbull but when his hair started growing I knew he wasn't. I get compliments all the time but can never answer when they ask me what breed he is. Hope to get a response & thank you in advance.

Posted by: Unknown | February 11, 2013 12:04 PM    Report this comment

Being an insomniac, I have enough trouble sleeping all night with a husband, much less two hairy, farting, nonetheless beloved Labs. They both have expensive memory foam beds in another room. Besides, the bedroom is for my husband and me, not kids, grandkids or dogs. My dogs take up much of my life by choice, but the bedroom is for the humans. Well........the cats do spend some nights with us, but they mostly have their own places, also.

Posted by: Karen H | April 20, 2012 1:58 PM    Report this comment

Being an insomniac, I have enough trouble sleeping all night with a husband, much less two hairy, farting, nonetheless beloved Labs. They both have expensive memory foam beds in another room. Besides, the bedroom is for my husband and me, not kids, grandkids or dogs. My dogs take up much of my life by choice, but the bedroom is for the humans. Well........the cats do spend some nights with us, but they mostly have their own places, also.

Posted by: Karen H | April 20, 2012 1:58 PM    Report this comment

I banned dogs from my bed 30 years ago after waking up with a face full of dog hair. Since then my dogs have always slept in comfy beds in our bedroom. But here I am today, 5 English Springer Spaniels later, with the most mannerly and polite 2 year old rescue Springer sleeping with me every night. After living with us for a year he has never, ever jumped on the bed (or any other furniture) without an invitation and happily jumps off with a light tap and a whisper. I think my change of heart came after losing our 7 year old retired professional hunting Springer to cancer after having her only a year. How she would have loved sleeping with us for her last year of life.

Posted by: DELENA M | April 20, 2012 9:43 AM    Report this comment

My 9 lb. male neutored Maltese has slept with me since he was 7 months old. Too old to crate train when I got him. Broke my 2 crates and tried to bite through the car crate until his gums bled. If he bit anybody but me, I could be fined and my dog removed from my home. The middle aged dog in this article that bit the owner has behavioral problems. What if it was a child trying to pet the dog at a wrong time or tried to play with the dogs toy. Bite, fines, fees, lawsuits, dog gone. My baby is now very sick with Cushings, Thyroid Problems, Breathing problems and a horrible skin condition. Not staph or I think I would have gotten it by now. Being treated for all but Cushings-could not handle the medication and it cost me thousands. He still sleeps with me. He is very well behaved and knows what "it is time to go to bed means". I had a man over many yrs. ago in my bed and my dog was kissing the guy and playing with us. My baby was not jeoulous, he thought it was a game of sorts. I got rid of the guy and kept the dog.

Posted by: GB | August 20, 2011 1:09 PM    Report this comment

I would have liked to see the mention of other reasons people avoid having dogs on the bed - things like worrying about getting fleas (etc) in the bed, dog drool on the covers, and a bed full of dog hair. My dog is well groomed & on flea/tick prevention, but it is such a mess to have him up there. But for now (since adopting him at 2 mos til his 4th bday (today!), he is happier in the hall our on the couch in another room - he likes his sleep too much to be interrupted by humans :). Now if I could only find a dog bed as cozy as the couch that would fit in my small bedroom... I do miss the companionship from when our former dog slept under the bed every night.

Posted by: ALEX F | August 12, 2010 8:18 PM    Report this comment

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