Humans and dogs have been cohabiting for thousands of years. Where to draw the line is a matter of debate. Whether you’ve just acquired a baby Chihuahua or rescued a 75-pound adorable mixed-breed, he'll want to sleep with you always if you let him once. Consider the pros and cons of allowing him in your sleeping quarters before making a decision.
Part of the Family
The National Pet Owners Survey, conducted annually by the American Pet Products Association, reported in 2012 that 45 percent of dogs sleep in their owners' beds. This figure been trending higher for years – in 1992 the survey reported 29 percent, and in 2001 the statistic was 38 percent. Dogs might have been relegated outside the cave in the early days of the human-canine relationship, but today most are considered part of the family.
Sharing the bed with Fido can create a sense of safety, security and comfort and can deepen the bond between you. All of the benefits that house pets provide, including lower blood pressure and reduced stress and feelings of loneliness, are magnified when your pet sleeps with you. The family dog can be therapeutic for children who suffer from nightmares, providing a sense of security. Sleeping with a pet can reduce the chance a child will wander at night.
If you suffer from asthma or allergies, sleeping with your dog can worsen your symptoms. You'll know pretty quickly, likely. Unless you’re willing to get regular shots for your allergies, it’s not a good idea. Your dog might bring undesirable creatures to your bed, so make sure he’s fully protected from fleas and ticks and is up-to-date on vaccinations. Normal canine behaviors can disturb your sleep -- dogs scratch, stretch, lick and bully for space, waking you up and affecting your quality of sleep. For couples, having a dog in the bed can interfere with intimacy.
It’s okay if you allow your pooch to sleep in your bed, with caveats. Once you start allowing him to sleep in the bed, he’ll quickly learn to expect it -- and it may be difficult to change that routine. Before you let your dog share your bed, make sure his adult temperament is apparent. He should not show any signs of aggression, such as bed guarding – growling at someone who approaches the bed -- and he should always obey your “Off” command. Some dogs get startled and snap defensively when they are accidentally awakened, which could happen if you get into bed when he’s already asleep. Dogs who exhibit this behavior are not good candidates for sleeping partners. He should also be fully housetrained. In multiple-dog households, territorial rights can be a problem. You certainly don’t want your dogs fighting over space in your bed. Meanwhile, small dogs are vulnerable in your bed: You are lots bigger than they are, and it’s a long jump from the bed to the floor. In the end, it’s your decision and not Fido’s.
Leslie Darling has been a writer since 2003, writing regularly for "Mississippi Magazine" and "South Mississippi Living," specializing in food and wine, animals and pets, and all things Southern. She is a graduate of the University of New Orleans.