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Go Ahead, Sleep With Your Dog

November 9th, 2004, 07:43 AM
heavy petting
Go Ahead, Sleep With Your Dog
And, no, we don't mean it that way.
By Emily Yoffe
Posted Monday, Nov. 8, 2004, at 7:45 AM PT

I sleep with my pets. For more than 20 years, cats have shared my bed. My late cat, Shlomo, used to spend the night perched on top of my head, and I found this purring beret deeply comforting. When I just had cats, it never occurred to me that having pets in the bed was anything more than a harmless personal preference. Then I got a beagle and discovered the issue of allowing your dog to sleep with you is deeply fraught. Supposedly, bed privileges destroy the owner's standing as pack leader. Allowing a dog in the bed, I learned, is a critical dog-rearing error, like giving brandy to quiet a cranky baby and ending up with an alcoholic teenager.

The dogma was everywhere. A recent Washington Post interview with a dog trainer stated that a dog in bed is "a sign the dog is completely in charge. Get the dog off your bed. It can make a bigger difference than anyone can imagine." How To Be Your Dog's Best Friend, the dog obedience manual by the Monks of New Skete, advises letting the dog sleep on the floor in your bedroom, but never in your bed. A dog trying to get too intimate should receive "slapped paws and a shove off"—not wholly surprising advice from celibate trainers.

Despite this, my beagle, Sasha, got the opportunity to settle in for the night when my husband declared he was evicting from the bed our two current cats, all 36 pounds of them. He explained, "In the middle of the night they run up and down my body, then they sit on my chest and crush it."

Since I am a light sleeper, I told my husband it was hard to believe his description of our cats' ramblings. Ever the considerate wife, I suggested he might be having nocturnal psychotic episodes.

"Do I have to install a video camera?" he said. "They march up and down my body like they're on a picket line, then they sit on me. They're driving me crazy."

A few nights later, cats still in the bed, I got up at 4 a.m. to go to the bathroom. When I returned, there was Biscuit, sitting in the middle of my sleeping husband's chest, peering into his open mouth as if about to perform periodontal surgery. Goldie was climbing up my husband's legs. I was shaken. It was painful, but I agreed the next morning to banish the cats to the basement at night.

That left an opening for Sasha. She liked to curl up like an armadillo between our pillows during the day, but we had always moved her to her crate for the night. Despite the warnings of provoking deep status anxiety (my own), I decided to let her stay in the bed. I figured it was impossible that Sasha could wreak more havoc than she already was; she obviously wanted to be with us; and I missed the cats. Except for the occasional bout of rabbit-chasing during REM sleep, she has been a quiet and companionable bedmate. While her daytime behavior seems no worse, I have been troubled that I might be making a mistake that could come back to bite me.

There is historical evidence that sleeping with pets is not necessarily aberrant behavior. According to The International Encyclopedia of Dogs, the xoloitzquintli, or Mexican hairless, was used in pre-Aztec Mexico as both pet and bed warmer (and dinner—let's not talk about that here). An account from a 19th-century explorer in Australia, as quoted in The Domestic Dog, describes how Aborigines were so devoted to their dingoes that the dogs were treated as members of the family and allowed to sleep in the hut. (The rock group Three Dog Night takes its name from the supposed Aboriginal practice of judging the coldness of an evening by the number of dogs required to keep warm.)

And here in the land of the electric blanket and the 600-fill goose-down comforter, millions of pet owners are, like me, sacking out with their animals. A survey from the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association found that about 62 percent of American dog and cat owners keep their animals in the house at night, and of those, about half the cats and one-third of the dogs spend the night on the bed. Dr. John Shepard Jr., a physician at the Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Center, discovered so many of his haggard patients slept with their animals that he did a survey to see how much the pets disturbed their sleep: About half the pet sleepers said their animal woke them nightly.

But here's the good news. My unscientific survey of veterinary behaviorists concluded that as long as your pets are good at sleeping with you, it's just fine to sleep with them. Pets are not going to get any uppity ideas just because you're all snoring together, they say. Dr. Marsha Reich, who has a private animal-behavior practice in Maryland, says she disagrees with the notion that your dog will try to dominate you if allowed in bed. "It has nothing to do with social status," she says. The dog, like the owner, just likes being cozy and having a soft place to sleep. "Unless a dog growls when you roll over, I don't have a problem with a dog in the bed."

Dr. Nicholas Dodman, author of If Only They Could Speak and director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, celebrates the "warm and fuzzy feeling" of all species curling up in bed together. This is not to say that some animals don't abuse the privilege. He tells of one couple who came to him after their Yorkshire terrier, who liked to settle in with the wife when she went to bed early to read, took to lunging at the husband when he arrived. There was an obvious solution, and the couple chose it: The husband moved to the guest room. When this proved maritally unsatisfying, they turned to Dr. Dodman. He says such animals have to be re-educated by being placed in a crate at night, or even attached to a dog bed with a long line.

The most common problem with sleeping with cats, says Dr. Lynne Seibert, a behaviorist at the Veterinary Specialty Center in Lynnwood, Wash., is—as my husband can attest—they don't sleep. "Most of the issues I see are about exuberant play," she says. "They've got a captive audience and end up pouncing and scratching." The usual cause is that the cats have been home sleeping all day, leaving them ready to party all night. Seibert recommends getting the cats more daytime stimulation and engaging in a play session with them before bed.

Dog trainer Kathy Diamond Davis, in an article at, writes that there's no reason a well-behaved dog shouldn't sleep on the bed. However, she recommends having the dog trained to reliably obey a "get off the bed" command, to be used in particular for those moments when "people want to be intimate." (For couples who don't use that command, she does not deal with the psychological damage the humans suffer when they find even their most fervent lovemaking doesn't wake the dog.)

I was relieved to learn that Sasha can stay, but I realized, even if the experts had told me I shouldn't let her, it wouldn't have made any difference. Maybe some of us are just born with a desire to sleep with animals. (This could be a debate subject in the next presidential election.) Take my friend Nancy, who has slept with dogs since girlhood. So deep is this need that she and her husband spent years with their epileptic Dalmatian on the end of the bed. The dog regularly woke them in the middle of the night, in midseizure, flailing around and losing control of bodily functions. They became like paramedics, spending the night ever-alert so at the first twitch they could get the dog on the floor and covered in towels. Now Nancy has a Jack Russell terrier puppy. The puppy spends the night burrowed deep under their covers, attached to Nancy like a tick. Nancy is in heaven.

November 9th, 2004, 09:06 AM
I have a dogue de bordeaux that weighs around 130lbs. She thinks she is a lap dog and has a hard time understanding why she can`t curl up in your lap like she did as a puppy. She is so loving and soooo warm.
As for sleeping in the bed well, she loves one end of our living room sofa, it is HERS and everyone knows it. That is her favorite place to sleep, however, she dotes on our kids unrelentlessly, keeping an ever watchful eye, and ear on them. At night she will curl up on the couch to go to sleep while whoever fits on the other end is watching TV. She will get up every 10 - 15 mins and go to check on our 2 yr old(who is HERS as well) then go back onto the couch.
She sleeps on our oldest daughters bed with her for most of the night, getting up to check on the littlest one every once in a while.
On occasion she will come upstairs to check on us as well, she will sack out at the top of the stairs so that she can hear what is going on downstairs. If my husband(the alpha male) is gone working during the night she will sleep on the bed until I am asleep, but only if the kids have sacked out with me. If they are downstairs sleeping that is where she sleeps.
I think she figures that since she owns them( as opposed to her being their dog HUGE difference) it is her job to watch over them. Maybe that is why her name is so fitting. Her registered name is Belmundo`s Park Avenue Angel :angel: ( She has Belmundo the Red Giant breeding lines if you want to check out the webpage on him just do a google search for that title)
Anyway, here is the pic of Angel in her favorite spot on HER couch

November 9th, 2004, 09:13 AM
She is toooo cute. What a great baby sitter. My guy also sleeps with me or starts off with me but moves to the floor he gets to warm on the bed. I have found if the dog weighs more than a 100 pounds they consider themselves lap dogs. The bigger the suckier.

November 9th, 2004, 09:26 AM
My dog sleeps with us. My partner works nights so its only really squishy on the weekends. :D

November 9th, 2004, 02:11 PM
My dog gets his head right on the pillow. Sometimes he goes to the floor but we leave it up to him. If we want him off all we have to do is tell him.... and push him. He will go most the time but when he is cozy he pretends hes sleeping as if Im not going to wake him. Hes sometimes annoying. Sometimes i wake when hes moving around but mostly he stays in one place. I love sleeping with him! Wouldn't change it for the world.

Lucky Rescue
November 10th, 2004, 11:29 AM
That article is hilarious! I don't have any animals in my bed now. The cats are way too annoying, and my dog snores, kicks and hogs the blankets, so was banished to the sofa. :p

The only pet who ever slept with me was my Sweetpea, and she did so for 17 years. She was like a soft teddybear and never disturbed me or my husband (who had some problem with a cat in the bed, but tuff!)

In fact, I couldn't sleep without her and if any night she didn't come right to bed, I would have hunt her down and bring her in.

November 10th, 2004, 01:31 PM cats sleep with husband sleeps in the spare room!!!!

And its just purrrrrfect!!!! :D

I much prefer the purring to his incessant snore-fests!!! :p

November 15th, 2004, 08:28 AM
Alas, I love my husband to death but his snoring and bed hogging has caused me to have my own room. The result is that I sleep with 3 cats and a dog. Sometimes I wonder if I should move back to my old room where I can at least roll over.

November 18th, 2004, 01:05 PM
On nights that we don't crate Cano (about once a month) we call him up to our bed. It is a king size, so we don't have too much problem with him. The first few minutes are the worse, cuz he thinks it is "playtime" but once we turn off the bed lamp and tell him good night, he goes to the foot of the bed, and makes himself comfortable, laying between James' and my feet, most of the time, with his head resting on one of our feet, while his but is on the others. We really don't mind too much. We have gotten used to it, that is the way he always slept with us, even as a puppy. We never showed him where to lay, he chose it himself.

By the time we wake up, we find him laying on the floor (hard wood). We figure that he likes the coolness, being that he doesn't even lay in his blanket that we keep up in our room for him.

I see nothing wrong with having a pet share your bed. I actaully find it comforting. James occasionally works well past bed time, and on these nights, I always bring Cano upstairs with me, when I go to bed. It gives me a sence of security, just knowing that I'm not all alone at night, and if some one should break in, Cano is right there, by the bedroom door, or on the bed.

November 18th, 2004, 01:08 PM
So far, I am lucky, James doesn't snore, but he does talk in his sleep, on the rare occasion. But I guess I do that too. BUt Cano snores, and makes a small yip / bark sound when he sleeps. It usually comes with a "running" motion of his feet, so we think it is part of his dreams or something. It is really cute.

November 18th, 2004, 04:52 PM
Hamish always sleeps with me, but Suki stays in her crate -- which is a good thing because she snores!

November 18th, 2004, 11:24 PM
My bed is like a three ring circus. Sophie, Missie and Piper and Hubby all sleep with me. Lol Between Sophie and hubby I get stero snores. I think they moose call to each other. One starts and the other answers. I still cannot believe a 12 pound dog can sound like a 250 pound person snoring.
I am fortunate though, they sleep all lined up down the middle of the bed. Sideways....Little :evil: 's

November 19th, 2004, 04:44 PM
Part of the reason for me getting a dog was for helping me sleep. I'm a single Mom and I couldn't sleep without my dog. She seems to know exactly how to fit into my back to keep me nice and warm. As far as challenging me for the pack leader, not a chance, maybe some breeds but not this lab X. I think (assuming for my dog) that we both look forward to this cuddle time. When my two kids get in with us it is a bit squished but good for a laugh. For those who think it is so wrong, I doubt that wolves in a den sleep apart, they must just to keep warm.