Pets Sleeping in Our Beds: Right or Wrong?
Being a pet-parent, all my companions (two cats and two dogs) have had the joy of sharing our bed for a good nights rest (well, maybe not always good nights rest). As a trainer, I feel this could be good and bad depending on a pet's behavior and as a pet-parent there is the question of "I am not getting a good night's sleep, why?"
Cats - A Nocturnal Mess
Cats are a nocturnal species. Preferring hunting and playing at night to sleeping. Casey and Oliver, my two cats, have long been banished from our bedroom. Due to my own personal struggles with insomnia and restless patterns of sleep throughout the night every night, I determined for my personal sanity that the cats could no longer be allowed in our room at night.
At first, they both put up a hissy-fit (yes, the pun was intended), but I stuck to my new plan and refused to give in. After a week of them banging on the door, pleading with their meows to be let in, and little paws swiping underneath the door jam, they finally succumbed to the new routine and my tough love approach. They were not allowed to keep me up at night to entertain their nocturnal needs.
Some cats do just fine sleeping with their parents, and I personally envy them! So is having a cat sleeping in your bed right or wrong? Only you can answer that one. If you feel your cat is contributing to sleepless nights, I recommend using some tough love tactics and teaching that they'll be spending their nights outside the bedroom.
Dogs - Snoring, Taking Up Space, Territorial?
When working with clients on any dog behavioral problems, I firmly recommend they no longer allow their dog to sleep in their bed with them during the behavioral modification period. Why? Dogs that are in the mind-set of being "top-dog" in the household pack values the bed as a "throne." This is why we should stop allowing the dog to be in such a high value place when they are distributing unwanted behaviors. It is a privilege and needs to be treated that way.
Puppy in Bed?
Absolutely not! With my trainer cap on, this is a disaster in so many ways. First, is the puppy potty trained? Probably not (I am assuming you don't want to be washing sheets early in the morning as you are rushing to get ready for work). Second, it hinders training techniques like teaching your puppy boundaries, and to be confident and self-reliant. The bed should be "earned" as opposed to merely given. Although puppies are adorable (seriously those little chubby cheeks, wrinkles and puppy breath, I can hardly stand it!), their cuteness does not mean they should be allowed to sleep in bed with you right away. Don't forget, your cute 10, 15, 20 pound puppy will quickly be a 60, 80, or 100 pound dog within a year. Then what? Is that the time to start training your once-little puppy that is now a big dog that they are no longer allowed on the bed? Awwww, so unfair! This is confusing to them and can cause you many sleepless nights during the adjustment period of retraining your dog.
I am a huge fan of using a crate to teach your puppy they have their special "den" to sleep in. Plus, the added benefit of using a crate to help with potty training and build confidence will definitely get you and your puppy on the right track for quick success!
Behavioral Issues - No Bed Allowed
If your dog has any type of unwanted behavioral issues, they absolutely should never be allowed on the bed. Behavioral issues can be a range of things such as; counter-surfing (stealing food), digging, excessive barking, territorial, aggression issues, to name just a few.
This is the time to start teaching your dog rules, and boundaries. Coaching your dog that sleeping in the bed is a privilege and not just a "free-for-all" is important. A doggy bed next to your bed is an excellent compromise. The first few nights you might have trouble sleeping as you will have to correct your dog for sneaking up on the bed with you trying to secure their spot. Be patient, and gently remove your dog from the bed.
My Training Tip:
Don't wait to go to bed to start "teaching" your dog about the new sleeping policy. I tell my clients to start introducing them to their new bed one to two hours prior to their bed time. You don't want to be tired and frustrated when working with your dog during this time.
Another good training tip is to put a leash on your dog. Make sure they have a comfy bed next to yours for their go-to spot. Now, climb in bed, and be strong (put your tough love cap on). Every time your dog jumps on the bed with you (if they are physically able to do so), gently grab the leash, and pull them off of your bed, saying firmly "NO!" or "OFF!" and then point to their bed. Drop the leash and ignore, do not continue to talk to your dog. Repeat these steps over and over again until your dog gives in and lies down on their bed. Mission Accomplished.
If your dog is unable to jump up on the bed, the process will be a little easier. Simply ignore your dog as they are pawing at your bed wanting you to pick them up. Yes, they may howl, whimper, pout, or try other tactics, but you must not give in. It is okay to make sure to provide them with a special toy on their doggy bed (I LOVE the Kong, with a couple of yummy healthy treats like carrots or peanut butter stuffed in it) to help keep their mind busy. The key here is to not acknowledge your dog, even with a reassuring tone. This gives your dog what they want, attention - which is a big no-no during this training time.
These steps might need to be repeated a few nights in a row before your dog understands the new rule and that you are not giving in to them.
Soooooo, Do My Dogs Sleep in My Bed?
My clients often ask me this question. The answer is a two part. They use to until Romeo and Izzy had some unfortunate mishaps on the bed. Romeo's food allergies have contributed to many nights with him sleeping in our bed, and us waking up to severe vomiting and diarrhea. The stench and mess were overpowering, and, well there really was no way to clean it up. The sleeplessness was wreaking havoc on us.
Izzy too, wasn't off scot-free with this one. After a long bout of dealing with a continual bladder infection, Izzy would pee (not intentionally) on our bed due to these infections after countless replacements of our bedding (they were never salvageable), I decided it was time to make that difficult choice of allowing them to sleep with us or not. The banishing to their own doggy bed (next to my side of the bed) had nothing to do with unwanted behavioral problems.
I also inform my clients that, even when you're dealing with smaller dogs (Romeo is 5 lbs, and Izzy is 8 lbs), this is an important issue. Which normally, you would think, what is the big deal having two small dogs sleeping in a bed? Well, my husband, like me, is a restless sleeper too, and his 6' 5" frame at around 200 lbs, would easily (accidentally) kick our fur babies in the middle of the night. When this happened, I would here little yelps (poor babies)! I would also struggle with the positioning of my body, not wanting to disturb their sleep. (Hmmmm, how ironic is that?)
Now, having a beautiful plush doggy bed with blankets and a burrow for Izzy, we no longer suffer from sleep deprivation. If one of them isn't feeling well, I can easily hear them get up and pace along our wood floor. The clean up is a million times easier, plus the cost savings of replacing our bedding is huge.
I want to assure you that all of our pets are not at all distressed over their new sleeping arrangements.
What the Doc Recommends
Yes, even Doctors, Nutritionist, and Personal Trainers recommend keeping the pets out of the bed. Studies have shown that a full 8-hour night sleep helps with losing weight, boost energy levels, and fight depression. Plus, for allergy sufferers, allowing pets in bed can contribute to snoring, breathing difficulties, sneezing, and other allergy related symptoms.
So, is there a right and wrong to allowing pets sleeping in the bed? Well, I hope my blog has given you better insight to help determine that answer. Here is wishing you many good night's sleep!