Sleeping with your dog

Dogs are known as man’s best friends, but their place in the family has changed.

It used to be common to keep the dog outside, even it was a companion and not a guard dog.

Nowadays, it's much more common to keep the dog indoors.

In fact, many dog owners are welcoming their dog into their beds, and I get asked quite often whether this is recommended.

Whether dogs should sleep with their owners is a personal choice, but there are pros and cons.

The bond between a human and a dog can be potentially even stronger than the bond between human beings.

Your dog doesn't judge you. Your dog loves you unconditionally, and always will. It’s a bond you can trust and rely on.

Many people find the physical presence of their dog in their bed soothing and a source of security.

The problems that can arise from sleeping with a pet are divided — behavioral aspects, and medical aspects for both owner and dog.

When it comes to aggressive dogs, dominant dogs or young dogs still being trained, sleeping with their owner can blur the boundaries for the dog.

In a healthy relationship between a dog and its owner, it is clear that the owner is the alpha (the leader), that the owner is in charge and sets the tone.

If the dog is allowed into the owner’s bed, it may confuse it and send mixed messages. Having its own bed, and sometimes even sleeping in a crate, is required for some dogs in order to establish this hierarchy.

As for the medical aspect of the owners: clearly, the biggest issue is hygiene.

Dogs walking outside bare paws may step in urine, feces or any other contaminated surface.

If you let your dog into the bed, it's recommended to minimally clean the it’s paws before allowing it into the bed.

One should also be mindful for external parasites such as ticks, fleas, or lice, which can also infest humans. The parasites are not found only on the dog, they may also be present anywhere in its environment.

Letting your dog sleep in your bed increases your chance of getting exposed and the potential infestation by these parasites.

Dogs that are commonly taken on hikes, camping and have an abundant access to the outdoors, as well as dogs that spend time in doggy daycares, grooming facilities or any other place that they can come in contact with other pets, can get by these external parasites.

If your dog is infested by external parasite, it’s an easy fix when it comes to the dog.

There are a wide variety of recommended veterinary pest control products. One must know that a crucial part of the parasites extermination is by sterilizing the entire dog’s environment including all the house and bedding.

Some dogs are very sensitive and prone to allergies. The laundry detergent and softeners that people use can be a source of a severe contact dermatitis (allergy that causes severe skin inflammation).

A special hazard concerning small dogs can arise from the dog jumping off the bed, or falling off the bed. Especially if the mattress is very thick, which makes the bed very high.

I’ve witnessed dozens of leg fractures and knees ligament tearing because of a bad fall of the bed.

There is no one right answer to the question whether your dog should sleep in your bed.

It is a personal choice that depends on a few factors:

  • the type of dog 
  • its personality 
  • your family lifestyle and activities that can potentially expose the dog to some unwanted invitees
  • the type of bond you are choosing to have with your pet.

If you choose to welcome your dog into your bed, take some precautionary measures such as keeping your pet up to date on his pest control and deworming, and make sure the dog has a safe way of getting off the bed without risking an injury.

If you want your dog close, but not necessarily in your bed, place its bed near your bed, which may be the best compromise for all.    


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About the Author

Dr. Moshe Oz owns Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital, a small animal veterinary practice in West Kelowna.

Dr. Oz has deep love and affection for animals. It was his childhood dream to become a veterinarian, a dream that he has fulfilled when he graduated with honours from KUVM,on 2006. Dr. Oz's special interest is internal medicine and surgery.

In his free time Dr. Oz enjoys training and racing triathlons, including the legendary Penticton's Ironman.

Dr. Oz can be contacted through his website: www.KelownaVet.ca

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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