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Why Your Dog Shouldn’t Sleep with You: The Risks and Benefits

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

why your dog shouldn't sleep with you

Having your dog snuggled up next to you is a cozy idea, but are there reasons why your dog shouldn’t sleep with you? Before you roll out the welcome mat for your pup every night, it’s essential to consider some compelling reasons why this might not be the best idea.

Remember that as long as it’s not causing issues like separation anxiety and resource guarding, there’s usually no problem with sleeping with your pet. Think of these reasons as more of why choosing not to sleep with your dogs is just as valid as choosing to.

Dogs provide us with endless love and loyalty, and it’s only natural to want to reciprocate by sharing your bed with them. Right? Well, yes for some and no for others. Ultimately, this is a relative matter that depends on how you know your dog and yourself. We have enlisted dog bedsharing studies for a well-informed answer to all your canine co-sleeping questions. 

A study of 40 people found that sleeping with dogs in the room had no effect on sleep quality. But when they entered the bed, human sleep efficiency was lower, especially when they changed sleeping locations. Putting your dog’s bed beside your bed allows them to sleep with you, but not with you. It’s the best of both worlds.

The bond between a dog owner and their pet is one of life’s purest joys, and for many, this connection is symbolized by the shared experience of sleeping in the same bed. However, there are circumstances where this cherished ritual may not be in the best interest of either party, particularly when it comes to the health and safety of an aging pet.

Case Study: Making The Decision To Stop My Dog Sleeping With Me

I faced a difficult juncture with my senior Bull Terrier, Amy, who had been my steadfast sleeping companion for years.

As Amy aged, she began to exhibit signs of cognitive decline — a condition akin to dementia in humans — that manifested in confusion and aggression, especially at night. Her once peaceful slumber became erratic; if disturbed or moved, even slightly, she would startle awake with a snarl, and sometimes even a bite. It was heart-wrenching to see my gentle friend become so distressed, and it was clear that the environment of the bed, once a haven, had become a place of vulnerability and anxiety for her.

Acknowledging the risks her behavior posed to both of us, I made the tough decision to revisit her crate training. Crates can serve as a sanctuary for dogs, providing them with a sense of security and their own space. To ease the transition, I introduced a new bedtime routine, ensuring that Amy’s crate was a warm and inviting space. I included a filled Kong toy with her favorite treats to offer her a positive association and to help her settle. Over time, this new routine became our new normal, offering both of us the peace of mind and restful sleep we needed.

Considering these factors, it may be best to provide your dog with their own comfortable sleeping area. Or, you can just strike a balance by providing them with their napping area but allowing them on the bed whenever they’re feeling extra cuddly and affectionate.

8 Reasons Not to Sleep with Your Dog

A person sleeping next to dog

Our article on how long puppies sleep found that dogs sleep a lot, but not that much, and not uninterruptedly at night. 

However, at the end of the day, if you can still sleep at night and your dog doesn’t have behavioral issues like over-attachment, go ahead and co-sleep. You only get one life with your pet.

Still, let’s look at things to see on the other side of the coin. 

1. Disrupted Sleep Patterns

Allowing our dog to sleep with us can play havoc with sleep patterns for both us and our dog. These cute animals will also howl, whimper, and even bark at night and in their sleep, making it impossible to sleep if you’re a light sleeper. Additionally, there are sleep differences to consider:

Human Sleep Cycle

Humans have a distinct sleep cycle of four to six 90-minute sleep cycles per night. During each cycle, we move through different stages of sleep, including light sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep.

Dog Sleep Cycle

Dogs also have a sleep cycle, but it is different from humans. Dogs typically sleep for 12-14 hours a day, with most of their sleep occurring in short naps throughout the day. Dogs also have a shorter REM sleep cycle than humans, which means they spend less time in deep sleep. 

The result of different sleep cycles means that your dog would wake up too early and bother you. Additionally, a PMC study of 12 women found that 50% of dog movements resulted in human movements, although not all disrupted sleep. So, your dog’s moving around may be affecting your quality of sleep.

2. Possible Health Risks

Firstly, dogs can carry parasites such as fleas and ticks, which can lead to allergies, bites, and infections in both humans and pets. These parasites can also transmit diseases such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

A study of 28 dogs and the presence of around eight zoonotic parasites found that co-sleeping increased the risk of spreading diseases between species. 

Additionally, dogs can carry bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, which can cause skin infections and even pneumonia in humans. Furthermore, dogs can also carry MRSA, a type of antibiotic-resistant bacteria which can be difficult to treat.

3. Allergies and Asthma Triggers

Another significant co-sleeping concern is the risk of allergies and asthma triggers. These result from:

Pet Dander

Pet dander is made up of tiny flakes of skin shed by animals, including dogs. These flakes can trigger allergies and asthma symptoms in some people. When your dog snoozes with you, they shed dander onto your bedding and pillows, making it difficult for you to avoid exposure.

Dog Allergens

In addition to pet dander, dogs also produce allergens in their saliva, urine, and sweat. These allergens can become trapped in your bedding and exacerbate allergy and asthma symptoms. Even if you’re not allergic to dogs, sleeping with your dog can increase your risk of developing allergies or asthma.

To minimize the risk of allergies and asthma triggers, it’s best to keep your dog out of your bed. Consider providing them with a comfortable sleeping area, such as a dog bed or crate. This will not only help protect your health, but it will also give your dog a space to call their own.

4. The Shedding and Possible Dirt

Another reason to reconsider is the inevitable shed hair and dirt. Dogs naturally shed hair, and they can track in dirt and debris from their outdoor adventures. This can lead to hygiene concerns and discomfort when your dog sleeps in your bed.

5. Canine Sleep Disorders

Dogs can suffer from sleep disorders, just like humans. Some common sleep disorders in dogs include sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and narcolepsy. If your dog has a sleep disorder, allowing them to sleep with you can disrupt your sleep even more.

Behavioral Issues

When it comes to letting your dog nap with you, there are some behavioral issues that you should consider. Here are three common ones:

6. Separation Anxiety

If your dog is used to sleeping with you every night, they may become anxious and upset when you try to change this routine. Separation anxiety can cause your dog to bark, whine, or even destroy things in your home when you’re not around. This can be stressful for both you and your dog.

7. Over-Attachment

Sleeping with your canine can also lead to over-attachment. This means your dog may become overly dependent on you and have trouble being alone. This can make it difficult for you to leave your dog at home while you go to work or run errands. This is different because it hasn’t necessarily progressed to separation anxiety.

8. Resource guarding the bed

Allowing our dog in bed can also cause them to become possessive of the bed. This behavior, known as resource guarding, can lead to aggression and other behavior problems. If your dog becomes aggressive or territorial when you try to move them from the bed, it may be time to reconsider letting them share the bed with you.

It’s important to consider these behavioral issues when deciding whether or not to let your dog nap with you. While it may be tempting to snuggle up with your canine at night, it’s important to ensure you’re not inadvertently causing them stress or anxiety. 

On the other hand, if your dog doesn’t display these issues, it’s perfectly okay to let them have a snuggle with you.

Maintaining Boundaries

Establishing a Routine

Establishing a routine can help our dogs understand when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to be awake and active. By sticking to a consistent schedule, we can help our dogs develop healthy habits and avoid confusion.

Creating a Separate Sleeping Space

Creating a separate sleeping space for our dogs can also help maintain boundaries. Whether it’s a cozy dog bed or a crate, having a designated sleeping area can help our dogs feel secure and comfortable. It can also prevent them from taking over our own sleeping space.

Reasons to let your dog nap in your bed

A Yorkshire Terrier sleeping beside their owner

We understand that there are many reasons why someone may not want their dog to sleep in their bed, but we believe that there are also some great reasons to let them cuddle up with you at night.

Firstly, having your dog in bed with you can provide a great sense of comfort and security. Many people find that having their canine close by helps them relax and sleep better. Plus, dogs are natural protectors, and having them next to you can make you feel safer. A study of 962 adult women found that co-sleeping with dogs increased comfort and security.

Secondly, sharing your bed with your dog can strengthen the bond between you. Dogs are social animals and crave the company of their human companions. Sleeping together can be a great way to deepen your relationship and show your dog how much you care. After all, dogs are part of our family and not just outsiders looking in.

Finally, letting your dog snuggle in your bed can be a great way to show them love and affection. Dogs thrive on attention and affection, and being close to you at night can make them feel valued and loved.

Of course, we understand that there are some downsides to letting your dog snooze in your bed, such as potential disturb to your sleep or hygiene concerns. However, we believe that the benefits of sharing your bed with your dog far outweigh any potential drawbacks.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Does letting your dog sleep with you cause separation anxiety?

There is no conclusive evidence that letting your dog sleep with you causes separation anxiety, but it can be a sign of hyper attachment which is linked to separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is a complex issue that can have many causes, including genetics, life experiences, and training. However, if your dog already has separation anxiety, sleeping with you could reinforce their dependence on you and make the problem worse.

Why does my dog sleep in my bed without me?

Dogs are social animals and enjoy being close to their human family members. Sleeping in your bed provides them with a sense of security and comfort. Additionally, dogs have a natural instinct to seek out warmth, and your bed may be the warmest spot in the house.

What are the pros and cons of sleeping with your dog?

Pros of sleeping with your dog include increased feelings of closeness and companionship, improved sleep quality, and reduced stress levels. Cons include potentially disturbing sleep, risk of injury to both you and your dog, and hygiene concerns.

Is it bad to not let your dog sleep with you?

No, it is not bad to not let your dog nap with you. Each family has different preferences and boundaries, and it is up to you to decide what works best for you and your dog.

Is it sanitary to sleep with a dog?

Sleeping with a dog can pose some hygiene concerns, including the risk of transmitting bacteria and parasites. However, with proper grooming and regular veterinary check-ups, the risk can be minimized.

Why do dogs press against you when they sleep?

Dogs may press against you when they sleep as a way to show affection and seek comfort. It can also be a way for them to regulate their body temperature and feel more secure.

Final Thoughts

While dogs have their fair share of disturbances if you invite them to your bed, this is a moment to share your deep bond. It’s true that dogs can be restless and may move around a lot during the night, which can cause you to wake up frequently. Additionally, their snoring, scratching, and licking can also be disruptive to your sleep.

Additionally, sleeping with your dog can also create hygiene issues. Dogs can carry dirt, bacteria, and allergens into your bed, which can be harmful to your health. This is especially true if you have allergies or respiratory issues. If you find your way around this, it’s okay to snooze with your pup.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe

Author

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.