Sleeping with Dogs: 7 Facts in Favor and 6 Arguments Against

July 15, 2019

Sleeping with Dogs: 7 Facts in Favor and 6 Arguments Against

Are bed-pugs a good or bad idea?

Sleeping with pets is not a new phenomenon, but dates back to man’s earliest associations with canine kind. In fact, Aboriginal Australians slept beside their dogs (or dingoes) as they believed to do so helped ward off evil spirits.

Today, around half of American pet owners enjoy their dog’s company in bed. This compares with 37% who insist their dog sleeps elsewhere. So which group has got it right?


Duvet Dogs

The question of dogs-on-the-duvet has always been a hot topic. Whilst some people love snuggling up with their pet pal, others argue it’s unhygienic and exposes them to doggy diseases and parasites. Indeed, there’s also concern the privilege of co-sleeping with people promotes canine one-up-manship and leads to aggression.

And yet, many experts maintain that sharing the bed with a pet comes with a wide range of health benefits.

In the quest for answers we did some research and found eight science-backed reasons why co-sleeping is a good idea. .

  1. A sense of calm and security
  2. A natural stress reliever and painkiller
  3. Regulates anxiety and reduces depression
  4. Provides warmth and comfort on cold nights
  5. Improves sleep quality
  6. Helps people with sleep disorders
  7. Promotes heart health
  8. Strengthens the immune system

Let’s dig deeper into the reasons for this canine karma.


1. Security and Calmness

Our sense of vulnerability is heightened when we sleep, and most people feel safer with someone they trust in the room or sharing the bed. Likewise, for some people, a pet in the bed promotes this sense of security.

A study from the Mayo Clinic in Arizona confirms this. From over 150 participants, a healthy 41 percent of dog owners feel calmer with their pets on the bed.  A similar study also showed how women who sleep with their pet dogs, also fare better in the sleep department.

This is common sense since most dogs detect when something’s amiss, way before we do, and will raise the alarm. This allows us to slumber secure in the knowledge we’ll be woken should the need arise.


2. Soothes Stress and a Natural Painkiller

How do you feel at the end of the day: Tired, stressed, fed-up?

Then you need to know about the ‘Pet Effect’

A 2004 study from the University of Missouri-Columbia studied the ‘pet therapy’ effect. The study looked into the blood levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. They asked 50 dog owners to pet their dog for a few minutes, and then compared the results with non-dog owners. The results show a significant drop in blood cortisol in the dog owners, meaning they were less stressed.

In other words, that warm feeling when with your dog is not only a 'feeling'. There is an actual physiological phenomenon at play.

Being closer to our dogs brings emotional benefits, but also helps ease pain and encourages healing. The same Missouri research revealed how our dogs trigger a rise in feel-good hormones such as oxytocin and serotonin. Numerous studies have shown for quite some time that both hormones play a major role in alleviating pain, promoting bone health, and blood clotting.


3. Relief from Anxiety and Depression

Dogs are walking antidepressants.

Psychologist Alan Beck of Purdue University and psychiatrist Aaron Katcher of the University of Pennsylvania conducted a study. They measured what happens to the body when a person pets a friendly dog. Here’s what they've found:

* Blood pressure went down
* Heart rate slowed
* Breathing became more regular
* Muscle tension relaxed.

These are all signs of reduced stress. The fact is, those waggy tails raise more than a smile!

Another similar study from HABRI (Human Animal Bond Research Institute) in 2016 explored the emotional benefits of pet ownership. The study showed people struggling with long-term mental health problems, felt more emotionally resilient when they shared life with a dog!

If being with pets contributes so much to our happiness and well-being, then how much more so if they sleep beside us?


4. Warmth and Comfort

Have you heard the phrase ‘a three-dog-night’?

This is an Australian term that means ‘a very cold night’. The phrase originated from the Bushmen’s practice of sleeping with their dogs, and the colder the night, the more dogs needed to keep warm.

This practice is not without basis. According to AKC (American Kennel Club), dogs are warmer than humans. Compared to the normal human temperature at 98 degrees Fahrenheit, dogs run hotter at 99.5 to 102 degrees. With this fact, dogs act as living hot water bottles to you up on a cold winter night.

But, this can work the other way around. Get too warm and you’ll have trouble sleeping. If your dog too much of a furry radiator, then open a window to keep things a comfortable temperature.


5. Improved Sleep Quality

Sleeping beside a dog keeps us safe and warm it also releases wonderful feel-good hormones, such as oxytocin and serotonin, which lift our mood. But what of the other benefits, such as improved sleep quality? 

Sleeping with dogs stimulate theta brainwaves.

What are theta brainwaves?

Theta brain waves occur during deep meditation or when we're asleep.  Once in theta state, our senses withdraw as we enter a state in deep physical and mental relaxation.  In a theta state, our brain relaxes into creative and intuitive mode. For inventors, writers and artists this means waking up with new ideas, solutions, or concepts.

In other words, sleeping with our pets make us sleep more soundly and the brain work to its full potential.


6. Therapy for Sleep Disorders

Co-sleeping with a dog can help people with sleep disorders.  A study, published in Sleep Review Magazine, affirms this. According to their research, dogs offer a valuable alternative treatment option for sleep disorders. 

  • A case published in Houston in 1997 showcased a Chihuahua who would nudge her owner (who has sleep apnea) every time the owner's PAP would fall off.
  • The Veterans Medical Center in the United States use service dogs to help patients with PTSD-induced nightmares. The Service Dog Academy, in Seattle, trains narcolepsy service dogs.
  • Families used to let their dogs sleep with their children who often have nightmares.

Drug-free therapy worth wagging about!


7. Hounds Help Heart Health

Hugging a hound can do wonders for your heart.

In 2013, the American Heart Association published a paper about the link between dog ownership and a healthier heart. They found out that pet owners have a lower level of hypertension (high blood pressure) - versus non-owners sharing the same demographics.

The Uppsala University in Sweden dug deeper into this connection.  It was a huge project, analyzing 3.4 million adults over a 12 year period. They found a direct and strong link between dog ownership and a lower risk of heart disease.

According to their study, dog ownership alleviates negative social factors such as loneliness and depression. It also helped improved blood pressure regulation, especially during times of stress. These effects contribute greatly to overall heart health to help us live longer.


8. Immune System Strength

Many experts argue sleeping with pets increase the risk of developing allergies. In some ways, this is true. But, there are several scientific studies that refute this. For example, studies show that infants and children, who sleep with their dogs from a young age, develop a stronger immune system than those that don’t.

Early exposure to animals has a positive impact where children were found to have better resistance to allergens. They were also less likely to develop childhood skin problems, such as eczema.

Duvet or Dog House?

So which side of the bedroom door is your dog sleeping tonight?


The Downsides of Sleeping with Dogs

Dog on bed

Before you decide, let’s balance the argument with these six sensible considerations

Unfortunately, sharing the bed with a pet is NOT for everyone. As much as there are advantages, it can interrupt your bedtime. Below are some reasons why sleeping with a pet might not work for everyone:


1. If you have allergies

According to statistics, one-third of Americans are allergic to dogs and/or cats. If you belong in this group, don’t give in to those puppy eyes and instead have the dog sleep in a different room.


2. If you have a compromised immune system

People with weak immune systems, such as the very young or old, those on chemotherapy or with immunosuppressive illness, are at greater risk of picking up infection or pet-borne disease.

This works the other way round as well. If your dog is ill, it might be best to let him sleep outside the bedroom until they are well again.


3. If a baby or young child shares the bed

Babies and younger children have weaker immune systems so you might want to play safe, (even if studies show dogs help strengthen immunity.)

Another important factor is a possible increase risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). There’s always a slight risk of overlying should the dog roll over or soft, long fur has the potential to smother an infant.


4. If your pup is not yet house-trained

First things first, which in this instance is toilet training. Get the puppy potty trained, and then think about access to the bed.

Also, when your dog is very young, they need time to adjust to a new environment and avoid becoming over-dependent on their new pet parent. Being constantly in your company (such as at night) can lead to separation anxiety when it’s not possible to be together. Sleeping separately builds their resilience so they can cope when left alone.


5. If you’re a light sleeper

Dogs have sleep habits like humans - they move around a lot, snore and even have dreams!  If you are a light sleeper and wakes up with the slightest movement or sound, then you might want to reconsider. Dogs like to hog the bed, too.


6. If you’re with your partner or significant other

Letting your dog sleep in then bed can have a negative effect on couples. It can increase the distance between partners, and in some cases hinder physical contact and intimacy. 


Harmony in the Home:  How about some ground rules?


Sleeping with your dog may sound like a wonderful idea, but how about setting some house rules? To avoid unnecessary canine confusion which could lead to bad behavior, it’s important to train your dog on what and what not to do -

  1. Keep your pet clean. It’s a no brainer that no one wants to sleep with a smelly pet! Make sure to bathe and groom your pet n before letting them into your bedroom. This also helps keep dirt and allergens to a minimum.
  2. Invest in a good mattress.  Make sure to buy a mattress big enough for both you and the pet. If possible, go for something with good edge support and motion isolation. A good mattress protector also helps keep things hygienically clean.
  3. Train your dog to sleep above the covers. This prevents dirt and allergens from getting to the bed. As much as the dog aids restful sleep, you don't want to end up sleeping on a dirt-and-fur filled bed.
  4. Establish good behavior.  Do not tolerate aggression. If you want your dog on the bed but your dog has an attitude problem, take appropriate steps to train him. In the end, it is your responsibility to help him become a better bed buddy.
  5. Set a routine. Establish a schedule for your pet. For example, the day is a time for eating, play and exercise; while night is a time for sleep. Do not indulge your pet with midnight snacks and play sessions. Down this track lies disturbed nights.
  6. Set boundaries.  Decide on a specific area where the dog should sleep, and teach them this is their spot. Be consistent. This helps prevent behavioral issues over territory and possessiveness that might otherwise crop up
  7. A toilet break before bedtime. No-one wants ‘accidents’ during the night. To avoid this be sure to take the dog out just before bedtime.


When Dogs Develop Bad Habits

Dog resting in his dog bed

Sharing the bed with our pet used to be a good idea, but it’s not working right now. How do we revoke his sleeping privileges?

It happens. All was going well but something changed and now the dog disrupts your sleep. If this happens, it’s perfectly possible to retrain him to sleep soundly somewhere else.

However, be realistic and know that retraining doesn’t happen overnight. Be patient and take things a step at a time, using rewards and encouragement, so the dog doesn’t feel they’re being punished.

Crating is a practical option you may wish to pursue. When done right, the dog sees the crate as their private den and a great place to be. In the short term, you can use a safety gate or baby pen to confine the dog away from the bed.

Get the dog used to his new sleeping arrangement by making it into a game. Try using stuffed Kongs or treats to get your pet linking his new sleeping area to something pleasant or positive. Always use positive reinforcement.

Another good trick is to provide a special blanket for him on the bed while he’s being retrained.  Once you feel that he’s ready to make the move, transfer the blanket to his new bed or sleeping area to give a sense of familiarity.

Once the dog has no problems staying at his new ‘bedroom for more than an hour or so, start sending him there. Another pro-tip is that make sure he gets more than enough exercise on the first day. This will tire him, and help him get a good night's sleep.


Bed Pug or Dog House: Which Do you Choose?

It's true that sharing our bed (or bedroom) with a pet has benefits for our health and well-being, plus it strengthens the emotional bond between you.

But whether or not to co-sleep with a pet should be a conscious decision. It’s important to first consider a variety of factors, such as .your health, the dog’s health, and your partner’s feelings rather than letting the dog take control.

Remember, the final decision about sleep arrangements is up to you, not the dog. Don’t worry about how your fur-friend will feel, because, regardless of the outcome a dog’s love is unconditional.

Night, night,

Sleep tight,

Don’t let the dog fleas bite…



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