Is sleeping with your dog in the bed bad?


About half of all pet owners allow their pets to sleep in the bed (Getty Images)

Every morning, around 2 a.m., my partner wakes me up because she is thirsty and needs a toilet break. Lucky for her, she has no trouble falling back to sleep. I know this because after this nocturnal ritual, I’m often wide awake, listening to his soft snores.

By now you might have figured out that my bed buddy is a dog. Like many dogs around the world, Maddie, a 13-year-old Shih Tzu, is a co-sleeper who shares her bed with a human.

Various studies have estimated that about half of all pet owners allow their pets to sleep in bed. While the scientific literature convincingly demonstrates that our pets are good for us in many ways, research on the impacts of co-sleep is more limited.

A small Mayo Clinic study of 40 adults used human and canine body monitors to measure whether having a dog in the bedroom or in the bed had an impact on the quality of sleep. Researchers measured sleep efficiency, which compares the number of minutes you actually sleep after going to bed. (The clock doesn’t start until you close your eyes for the night – staying awake to read a book doesn’t count.)

Everyone has brief periods when they wake up during the night, but often they don’t even realize it. Ideally, you will stay asleep for about 85% of the time you spend in bed. In the Mayo Study, the sleep efficiency of people whose dogs slept in the bedroom was close to it, at around 83%. If a dog slept on the bed, sleep efficiency dropped to around 80%, which is far from ideal but not bad either. While the difference is statistically significant, it translates to around 14 minutes of lost sleep for people who sleep with their dog compared to those who have their dog in the same room.

The study authors noted that the dog’s sleep efficiency “was not affected by their location.” Notably, the monitoring devices detected that the dogs were enjoying about two minutes of playtime each night.

A few times my bitch Maddie chose to sleep somewhere else, and I wake up even more wondering where she is

Once a dog is used to sleeping in bed with a human, it can be a difficult habit to break, said Alexandra Horowitz, a professor at Barnard College in New York and author of the book. Inside a dog: what dogs see, smell and know.

“If you let them sleep on the bed with you, they’re going to keep wanting because it’s a nice place to sleep,” Horowitz said. “It would be very difficult not to let them do it. “

But allowing your pet to sleep in the bed is only a problem if it’s causing you distress, Horowitz said. Although some people believe that leaving a dog in your bed could lead to behavioral problems in the animal, there is no evidence that co-sleeping creates any problems, she said. In fact, it could lead to a stronger bond with your pet.

“I think it really stems from this idea that dogs should be separated from the best parts of the house – they shouldn’t be in the kitchen, the dining room, on the couch or on the bed,” Horowitz said. “For some reason there is this feeling that we have to maintain our dominance over them by having full possession of these things. It sounds ridiculous because it is ridiculous.

Horowitz said that when his dogs, Finnegan, a lab mix, and Upton, a Danish mastiff and greyhound mix, started cluttering the bed, the solution in his house was not to kick them out, but to evict them. “Enlarge the size of our bed.” “

There is no evidence that co-sleeping creates any problems (Getty Images)

There is no evidence that co-sleeping creates any problems (Getty Images)

“They are getting older, so they can’t jump on the bed anymore,” she said. “In fact, we have to lift them off the bed. But this is the best place. It is a comfortable place. This is where we are.

Horowitz recently had a new puppy, a mixture of Schnauzer and cattle dogs named Quiddity, who sleeps with his son. She said if someone is having trouble sleeping because of a dog, they should try to find another comfortable place for the animal to enjoy. “They don’t need to sleep in the bed,” she says. “Find another place this spectacularly good – or maybe they want to sleep with your son.”

One question the Mayo Clinic study didn’t address was how sleep changes for dog owners if the dog gets out of bed. A few times my dog ​​Maddie has chosen to sleep elsewhere, and I wake up even more wondering where she is. When that happens, I will pick her up and bring her back to bed.

When Jamie Contreras and her husband, who live near Portland, Oregon, had their bulldog puppy, Cooper, they planned for him to sleep in a crate next to the bed. But soon the dog made it clear that he wanted to be on the bed. As the dog grew, it became apparent that there wasn’t enough room for everyone – so the couple bought a king-size bed.

Today, almost 12 years later, the 83-pound dog’s nighttime routine involves sleeping under the covers between Contreras and her husband. Often times, the dog will move on the blankets at night, pinning the couple under the sheets. Sometimes Cooper kicks and “runs” while dreaming.

“He’s a big dog and he moves a lot,” Contreras said. “But I like having him there. It is a comfort. When we travel it is almost difficult to sleep without having it there. There are downsides to this, and it wakes you up sometimes, but the pros outweigh that. I wouldn’t have done it any other way.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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