Where Should Your Dog Sleep?

I have three dogs and one of them, Bones, sleeps on the bed with me.

Bashir, the oldest, sleeps on a dog bed in the bedroom and Sisko sleeps on the sofa in the living room.

When asking the question, “Where should dogs sleep?” the answers are variable and depend on the individual dog, his age, his behavior and his training. Let’s take a look at those variables.

A Crate Becomes Security and Comfort

I consider teaching a puppy to sleep in a crate one of the necessary things all of my puppies need to learn. When sleeping in the crate at night, the puppy learns to control his bladder and bowels as few puppies wish to soil their bed. When the puppy cannot be supervised during the day, he can spend some time in his crate with a toy or something to chew on. If things are busy in the house, perhaps when guests come over, the puppy can go to his crate so he doesn’t become overwhelmed.

When I have a new puppy, I have him sleep in the crate each night. I keep the crate in my bedroom close to the bed. If the new puppy is worried, I like to be able to reach off the bed and put my fingers in the crate so he can smell them. I generally have my puppies sleep in the crate through adolescence (generally 9 to 14 months of age). Since the crate confines the puppy when he can’t be supervised at night (after all, I’m sleeping), he can’t get into trouble and perhaps turn those behaviors into bad habits.

Providing a crate and teaching the puppy to use it when he’s young will make sure he’s comfortable in it at various times for the rest of his life. Although he won’t need to spend each night in the crate throughout his life (he can if he wants to of course), being comfortable in a crate will help him when he goes to the grooming shop and the veterinary clinic, both of which will need to put him in a crate or cage. If you travel with your dog, a crate is necessary on a plane and can keep him safe in a car or RV. Crating your dog in a hotel can help him feel secure.

I like to compare a crate for a puppy to the blanket fort that kids create with the dining room chairs and a couple of blankets. My blanket forts were my special place where I was alone with my toys while feeling close and comforted.

golfladi

©istockphoto/golfladi

Sharing Your Bed

For many years dog trainers told dog owners not to let their dog sleep on the bed with them. The common opinion at that time was that dogs, being pack animals who wanted to assert themselves over their owners, would push and shove to get you to move over. Thankfully, we now know that dogs aren’t nearly that devious and if they shove you it’s just to get closer to you, often using you as a source of heat.

There are only a few concerns about allowing your dog to sleep in bed with you. If you are a light sleeper who wakes up easily, your dog could prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep. Most dogs don’t sleep soundly all night long; they move, shift, get off the bed and back on and if it’s warm, they pant. If this is going to be a problem for you, don’t have the dog sleep on the bed.

If you have a young dog who is going to get down off the bed and roam the house, looking for things to amuse himself, don’t ask him to sleep on the bed, crate him instead. If your dog isn’t well housetrained, don’t invite him up on the bed. He needs to be in a crate also. Essentially, if your dog has any behaviors that you don’t want him to practice when you can’t supervise, don’t give him the freedom of sleeping on the bed (and jumping off when he wishes).

If your dog is well-behaved and you’d like to have him sleep on the bed, teach him where to sleep. I prefer that Bones sleep next to me; not up near my head as I don’t want to wake up to a face full of dog hair. As much as I think he’s a great dog, that’s too much. I also like to move my feet at night so I don’t want my feet pinned down by a heavy dog. When he sleeps right next to me we’re both happy.

Dog Beds are Great

My oldest dog, Bashir, prefers to sleep on a dog bed right next to my bed. Although I’ve invited him up on my bed, after a few minutes he gets hot and begins to pant. He prefers to sleep by himself and that’s fine. Sine he’s getting older and his bones need some cushioning, I have a raised bed for him that allows him sleep about 6 inches off the floor. In the summer that’s all he has, but when the weather cools, I add a fleece blanket to his bed.

There are many dog bed options that range from cushions to real furniture with wooden frames and nicely sewn cushions. You can even match them to your home’s decor. Your dog doesn’t care about the decor, though; all he wants is the comfort.

The placement of the dog bed is going to have to be a joint decision between you and your dog. Bashir may not want to sleep on my bed, but he wants to be close so his dog bed is right next to my bed in a place where I won’t trip over it.

©istockphoto/vitalytitov

©istockphoto/vitalytitov

Roaming the House at Night

My middle dog, Sisko, sleeps in various places. Sometimes he sleeps in his dog bed and sometimes he sleeps in the hallway outside my bedroom. His favorite spot, though, is on the sofa in the living room. As far as he’s concerned, no danger will sneak into his house at night.

My dogs are not allowed to roam the house at night until they are well-trained, well-behaved and mentally mature (usually 2 to 3 years of age). I don’t want a puppy or adolescent to roam the house, get into the garbage cans, chew on shoes, have housetraining accidents or otherwise get into trouble. I consider giving the dog the freedom of the house at night to be the acknowledgement of the dog’s adulthood and self-control.

To transition them from the crate to more freedom, I may simply leave the crate door propped open and put a baby gate across the bedroom door. This way the dog can sleep in his crate if he wishes or he can move around the bedroom. If he decides it’s time to play or otherwise disrupts the sleep of the other dogs or myself, he will be put back in his crate and the door closed. It usually only takes a couple of times before he learns to be calm, quiet and to relax.

What is Comfortable for You?

Choosing where to have your dog sleep is ultimately up to you. Puppies should be crated for the reasons discussed, but once they are old enough and well-trained enough to sleep outside the crate, as long as your dog doesn’t disrupt your sleep or doesn’t get into any trouble around the house, there really aren’t any wrong choices. I enjoy having Bones sleep on the bed as well as Bashir sleeping close by, plus I don’t mind Sisko roaming the house. He’s quiet, would never get into trouble, and I enjoy the security he provides.

Your household routine might be different, though. If someone works evenings and comes home late at night, a dog providing security in the living room might not be a good idea.

The choice will also depend on your dog; Sisko would be horrified at the thought of getting into a trash can or stealing food off the kitchen counter. Nor would he chase the cat or get into the cat food (or litter box). Not all dogs feel that way, though, and a dog who would get into trouble at night needs to spend the night confined to the bedroom or crate. Be realistic when making this decision.

Meet the Author: Liz Palika

Liz Palika is a Certified Dog Trainer, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, and the co-owner of Kindred Spirits Dog Training in Vista, CA. Liz is also an award-winning author and writer specializing in pets. She writes about cats, cat behavior and health, dogs, dog behavior and health, living with pets, and pet nutrition. Liz’s works have been recognized with many awards, but her most recent book, “Idiot’s Guides: Dog Training” (Penguin Books, 2014) recently won the Best Nonfiction book category in the San Diego Book Writing competition. Liz shares her home with two dogs; Bashir, an Australian Shepherd, and Bones, an English Shepherd. Three cats, Spock, Scottie, and Kirk, provide motivation for her articles about cats. And yes, she is a Star Trek fan. For more information go to www.kindredspiritsk9.com.

What Is Littermate Syndrome?
7 Golden Reasons to Adopt a Senior Dog