Although dogs and humans co-evolved for thousands of years—sleeping together or in close proximity to one another for warmth and mutual protection—there are some clear circumstances where it is not a good idea to sleep with your canine companion. Dog owners most commonly face the choice of whether to sleep with their dog or not when they first get their dog, whether as an adult rescue or as a puppy.
Taking a pup into your bed or bedroom may interfere with their training and condition them to only sleep with you. This is all well and good until you want them to sleep somewhere else if they grow to be too big, too noisy, or too demanding of your attention at night. Similarly, if you have a bad-tempered or aggressive dog then you definitely should not sleep with them in your bed.
Apart from these two conditions, whether your dog sleeps with you is a matter of personal choice. But here are some of the pros and cons to help you make up your mind.
The Pros and Cons of Letting Your Dog Sleep With You
It is natural for dogs to sleep together to share body warmth at night, and man has been using nature’s bed warmer for thousands of years1, cuddling up with dogs on cold nights. Having a furry friend to snuggle up with is a wonderful way to make a cold bed more inviting and comfortable. The only potential problem is getting too hot—for either you or your dog. However, as dogs can regulate their body temperature through their position—curling up into a tight ball to conserve body heat or spreading out to cool down—the two of you should be able to sleep together comfortably across a wide temperature range.
In the modern world more and more people are living alone and to counter loneliness, many get a dog as a companion. The daily necessity of going to work and leaving your pet alone makes nighttime part of the quality time spent together. Close companionship benefits both owners and dogs, creating a close bond built on connection and sharing. Although there isn’t a lot of research that differentiates between the positive effects of interacting with dogs and sleeping with dogs, it is clear that physical touch is an important beneficial part of the human-dog relationship.
Physical contact and proximity during sleep seem like a good idea—especially for us humans. A study in Australia2 has shown that older people with pets take less sleep medication than people that don’t. Another study looked at the effects of sleeping with dogs on patients with chronic pain3 and also found that they slept better.
Sleeping with your pooch can also increase the feeling of security—for both you and your dog. Many people say that when they wake up during the night and find their dog beside them, they are comforted and grounded by the contact. Hearing their familiar friend’s breathing or feeling their heartbeat provides a sense of reassurance. This can be especially beneficial for people dealing with trauma or PTSD. For your dog, sleeping close to you, either in your bed or your bedroom, demonstrates your deep trust and strengthens their connection to you.
Many of the benefits of companionship are health benefits, both physical and mental. But dogs are a different species and close physical contact with them can technically be a pathway for you to catch a disease. Although this is very uncommon, especially in healthy dogs, the range of germs, bacteria, and parasites that a dog could potentially carry and infect you with, on paper, seems quite alarming.
For example, bubonic plague is transmitted to humans by fleas, and dogs can carry fleas. The first known case of dog-to-human transmission in the U.S.4 occurred in 2014, and there have been no reported cases since then. If both you and your dog are fit and healthy, and your dog gets regular examinations and vaccinations by your vet, then the chances of you catching something from your dog by sleeping together are low.
4. Hygiene and Allergies
In case you haven’t noticed, dogs have fur—and a lot of it. While every dog is different, they all shed some hair all the time. Do you want to sleep in a bed full of dog hair? For some people, this will be perfectly acceptable, but some may find this dirty. If you are sensitive or allergic to dog hair, then this may be a deal breaker for you.
Although allergies can be a problem, some studies have shown that living in close proximity to pets may overall improve your immune system, especially in children. One study shows that exposure to cats and dogs reduced sensitivity to allergens5 and reduced the incidence of asthma in older children.
Does Sleeping with Your Dog Cause Behavior Problems?
There’s no definitive answer to this question since every dog is different and every person’s sleeping habits are different. In general, if your dog has behavioral problems outside of the bedroom such as territorial issues, food aggression, and anxiety then those problems will get carried over into the bedroom.
Some experts believe that sleeping with your dog can cause behavior problems because the dog doesn’t learn to respect personal space and boundaries. However, other experts believe sleeping with your dog increases the trust your dog has in you.
Does Sleeping with Your Dog Strengthen the Bond Between You?
Yes, sleeping with your dog can strengthen the bond between you. When you share a bed with your dog, you are providing them with a sense of security and comfort. This close proximity allows you to create a strong emotional connection with your dog. Additionally, this physical closeness can help to increase the levels of oxytocin (the “bonding hormone”) in both you and your dog.
Sleeping with your dog displays trust and a shared sense of security which also deepens the relationship between you.
Why Does My Dog Have to Touch Me When They Sleep?
There are a few reasons why your dog may want to touch you when they sleep. It could be that they feel more secure when they’re touching you, or that they enjoy physical contact. It’s also possible that your dog is trying to keep warm by snuggling up against you. Whatever the reason, it’s clear that your dog enjoys being close to you and feels comfortable enough to do so while they’re sleeping.
Ultimately it is up to each individual dog owner to decide whether or not they want to allow their dog to sleep in bed with them. Some people may feel more comfortable and safer with their dog by their side while others may prefer their dog sleeps in their own designated spot.
There are pros and cons to both sleeping arrangements and it is important to consider what will work best for you and your furry friend.
Featured Image Credit: Jep Gambardella, Pexels