page header image

Your Happy Pet: Is your pet your bed buddy?

Original Publication Date: October 20, 2014
By C. Sue Furman, Ph.D.

A recent survey by the American Pet Products Association reported nearly half of dogs sleep with their owner.

Size apparently has a bit to do with it as 62 percent of small dogs, 41 percent of medium-sized dogs and 32 percent of large dogs sleep with their human.

That's understandable. An Irish Wolfhound, for example, takes up lots of bed space.

The survey found 62 percent of cats sleep with their adult owners and another 13 percent sleep with children.

Some pet experts discourage sleeping with your pet as they believe it allows him to feel alpha over you. Behavioral research has basically discounted this theory although some pets are too aggressive to allow in your bed.

Some pet owners have allergies that make it uncomfortable to sleep with their pet. A physician would recommend banning the pet from the bed, however, many owners medicate and perhaps sneeze but choose to snuggle with their pet anyway.

Pets, especially dogs, can disrupt sleep even if you are not allergic. They may kick, lick, snore, and even hog the covers. About half the patients in a study done by the Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorder Center had a dog or cat and 53 percent of them reported nightly sleep disturbances due to their pet. Some still chose not to boot their buddy out of bed.

Puppies working on becoming house trained are at high risk for having an unfortunate accident in your bed. Pups probably need to sleep in a crate until they totally grasp the concept of going outside for a potty break.

There are benefits to sleeping with your pet. Some owners say they feel safe with their dog next to them. Cuddling with a baby, a person, or your pet releases oxytocin, a hormone that encourages bonding to each other, reduces stress and anxiety, and lowers blood pressure. Those are pretty powerful positive reasons one may wish to have a pet as a bed buddy.

Then consider your pet may spend eight or more hours alone while you are at work. Sleeping together gives your fur baby more time with you even if interaction is limited. Do consider your dog's safety before adding him as a bed buddy. The joints of puppies and small breed dogs can be damaged by jumping off the bed. These friends need a ramp or steps to help them up and down. Similarly, older dogs challenged by arthritis may find it difficult to get on and off the bed. They too might benefit from a ramp or steps or may prefer to have a comfy bed on the floor next to your bed.

The decision to sleep alone or snuggle with your pet is totally up to you. Sweet dreams to you and your buddy whether he is in your bed or in his own.

Sue Furman, Ph.D, has published two books and a DVD on canine massage and teaches classes in pet massage, acupressure, first aid and CPR. See her schedule and submit questions at