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The truth about sleeping with your dog

Heather Barnett is a freelance writer and foodie whose work has been featured in blogs, websites, magazines, and TV and radio ads. She spends her free time relaxing with her soulmate, Keith; her dog, Mosby "The Fly Slayer;" and Felix th...

Problems for your pooch?

We set out to tell you why letting your dog sleep in your bed could cause behavioral issues. Then, we found out the intriguing truth.

Woman sleeping in bed with dog

Conventional wisdom tells us that letting your dog sleep in your bed with you can cause them to believe they’re the alpha, giving them the illusion they’re in control because in bed, they (large dogs at least) are taller than you.

The reality is much different. While some aggressive behaviors could be exacerbated by letting your dog sleep in your bed, the reality is, it’s really more of an opportunity for training for most dogs. Take for example one of the more common aggressive behaviors, like guarding the wife by growling when the husband enters the bed.

Pat Miller, certified professional dog trainer and the training editor for the Whole Dog Journal, says, “keep in mind that removing the dog from the bed doesn’t modify the bed-guarding behavior; it only prevents the dog from having an opportunity to practice the behavior.” While safety is always an issue, it may be a better idea to use the opportunity to modify the behavior.

In fact, there are some who argue that allowing your pet to sleep in the same room (or at least close to you) during the night is a comfort to many pets who spend six to eight hours a day at home alone. There’s no reason to make them feel as though they aren’t part of the family.

So, if sleeping with your dog doesn’t generally cause any specific aggressive behaviors, that means it’s OK, right? Yes and no. The reality is, sleeping with your dog is more likely to compromise your health than his.

The real truth about sleeping with your dog

Unfortunately, letting your dog sleep in your bed may actually be bad for you. Many dogs have sleep habits that can interrupt your sleep cycle, which can cause you to be cranky the next morning, lower your immune responses and impact your health in other ways.

Additionally, pets carry allergens. Whether or not you’re actually allergic to pet dander, you pup goes outside to go to the bathroom, get exercise and generally just have fun. And while he’s out there, he’s exposed to a number of things you could be allergic too, not the least of which is pollen, which will stick in his fur, which he subsequently brings to the bed, which could aggravate your symptoms.

Dr. Bruno Chomel, a professor at the University of California - Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, told AOL News that there’s also the risk of the transmission of life-threatening infections like plague, internal parasites and other serious diseases. “We wanted to raise the attention of people, as sleeping with a pet is becoming quite common, and there are risks associated with it, even if it is not very frequent,” he said. “But when it occurs, especially in children or immunocompromised people, it can be very severe.” 

Additionally, when spouses disagree on the topic, there could be a little marital disharmony over the subject. Trainer Pat Miller, however, suggests that those conflicts are the purview of a marriage counselor. She’s only trained to help you with your dog’s issues.

Quick tip: If your dog has been sleeping in your bed, it can be difficult to get her to accept new sleeping arrangements unless she’s suddenly developed a bit of arthritis that prevents her from moving on and off the bed comfortably. We recommend bringing in a professional trainer to help you through what is sure to be a difficult transition.

So, should you let your dog sleep with you?

Despite sleep issues and allergies, many people are going to be loathe to kick their furry friend out of bed. Most of us would rather suffer than deny the beseeching look in those big brown eyes. That being said, if you answer yes to any of the questions below, it’s time to at least consider relegating your pooch to a crate or dog bed on the floor.

  • Is my dog interrupting my sleep to the point of serious issues like lack of focus at work or frequent illness?
  • Is my partner unhappy with the arrangement?
  • Is my dog frequently exposed to situations that could cause him or her to contract dangerous illnesses that can transfer to humans?
  • Do I have allergies that the dog’s presence is likely making worse? Are allergy shots to deal with that issue an option?

More on training your dog

Celebrity animal trainers face off: Victoria Stilwell vs. Cesar Millan
How to stop your puppy from chewing and more
House training your new dog

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