When Ingrid and Shea brought their new Weimaraner puppy, Cooper, home, they were determined to keep him off their bed. So they bought a dog crate, with a bed and fluffy blankets to ensure he had a warm, comfy place to sleep.
Cooper, however, had other ideas.
The first night he whined, yelped, howled, and cried. The Armours made it six hours before their resolve broke and little Cooper was out of the crate and in their bed, where he remained for the next two years.
“He’d sleep between us, under the covers, with his head on the pillow,” Ingrid says. “He thought he was human.”
Sleeping with pets isn’t unusual in this country. According to a recent survey of pet owners by the American Pet Products Association, nearly half of dogs sleep in their owner’s beds. The survey found that 62% of small dogs, 41% of medium-sized dogs and 32% of large dogs sleep with their owners.
The survey also found that 62% of cats sleep with their adult owners, and another 13% of cats sleep with children.
So is it healthy to have your dog sleeping in your bed? One Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Expert says people who suffer from pet allergies or asthma should not sleep with their dog or cat or even allow them in the bedroom.
But most pet lovers won’t kick Fido out of bed, even if they discover their pets are causing allergy problems. For those people an option is to get allergy shots to build up a tolerance to the pet dander that causes allergic reactions.
But if you’re not allergic, there’s really no big issue with having a dog in the bed as long as it doesn’t disturb your sleep.”
Which brings up another problem with sharing the bed with a pet-they can disturb your sleep. A study released by the Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Center found that about half the patients in the study had a dog or cat, and 53% of those pet owners said their pets disturbed their sleep in some way nightly.
“I’ve had patients that I’ve spent visit after visit going over their insomnia problems, trying to figure out what’s happening, then I find out they have a dog that’s scratching all night,” says Lisa Shives, MD, medical director of a sleep center.
Shives recommends that people who have difficulty sleeping consider keeping pets out of the bedroom.
But for people with no problem falling or staying asleep, Shives says it’s fine to allow a dog or cat in the bed.
“There are all kinds of medical benefits to having a pet,” says Shives, who sleeps with her 45-pound dog. “And some people might feel safer or calmer with a dog in their bed.”
In fact dog owner Candace, says that’s exactly why she sleeps with her Labrador retriever mix. “He sleeps against me and has very rhythmic breathing and it just puts me out,” Hunziker says. “I have insomnia, my whole family does, and we all sleep with dogs. He puts me to sleep better than an Ambien.”
And even when people finally make the hard decision to eject their pet from the bed, most find it’s not an easy task.
Ingrid, a veterinary technician and consultant on feline behavior, says she advises clients to never let their cat in their bedroom if they don’t want to sleep with the cat. She says for cats it’s all or nothing, so the door must always be open to them, or never open to them.
“If you suddenly shut a cat out of the bedroom, they can get very frustrated and start displaying destructive behavior,” Johnson says. “Cats don’t react well if you take away territory.”
But if a cat that sleeps with its owner must suddenly be banned, Johnson recommends giving the cat something else to do at night. Try giving kitty foraging toys to play with that feed her kibble, or put a cat condo by a window with a light outside. “All the moths and bugs flying around the light right outside that window is like reality TV for cats,” she says.
Internationally known dog trainer Victoria Stilwell says if your dog has no behavioral problems then it’s OK to let him sleep in your bed. In fact, from the dog’s standpoint, it’s a compliment.
“Dogs only sleep with people or dogs they trust,” says Stilwell, star of the TV show “It’s Me or the Dog.”
But, she says, aggressive or dominant dogs should not be allowed on beds. And if pets become a problem, they have to get off the bed.