Who gets the bed?
Many pet owners love a good cuddle, but is it unhealthy for you (or your pet) to spend the night together in the same bed? In this article we explore this (potentially furry) issue.
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Like most relationships, there are usually two sides to every story. And the same goes for whether or not you should invite dogs or cats into your bed at night.
From the human perspective, experts have found that pets definitely disrupt their bed mate's sleep patterns. In a widely cited study in 2002, John Shepard, M.D. found that more than half of the 300 patients he surveyed at the Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Centre reported that their sleep was disturbed by their cats or dogs. Not surprising when you consider that dogs hog the mattress, snore, wake you up at 3 a.m. to have their tummies scratched, attack your toes under the sheets, leave your bed full of hair or - worse yet - slobber. Cats, meanwhile, tend to be nocturnal and love nothing more than jumping on and off the bed all night and chasing shadows in the bedroom.
It might be hard to hear for dog owners who love nothing more than curling up with the pooch, but sleeping with Rufus isn't the greatest idea for him either. "We encourage people not to sleep with [their] dogs," says Scott McKay, a veterinarian. "It's really better for dogs to have a clean, comfortable space that's all their own. It makes them feel more content." Not only that, making that leap into bed, especially if your bed is high off the ground, gets harder and harder for dogs as they get older and contend with arthritis and hip issues.
So how do you break the news that it's over?
Generally, the transition from your bed to doggy bed is much harder on you than on your pooch (despite the puppy eyes and pathetic whimpers). "When you give a dog his own little bed, he's probably not lying there contemplating why you kicked him out," McKay says. It's not punishment even though some people find it hard not to see it that way. Instead, it's like their little special "den" where they feel safe.
If you want to make the transition to a dog-free-bed, McKay suggests you give it at least two weeks. Don't throw in the towel after the first night. A few of his tips:
1. Introduce your dog to where you want him to sleep and establish that as his special place. Spend time there with him and put his favourite toys there.
2. Reward your dog when he goes to his special place with praise and attention, or a treat.
3. In the morning, give him lots more praise and attention, so that he gets the idea, "Oh, when I sleep in my own space, in the morning, I get rewarded".
Finding the Right Bed
It may take a few tries to figure out what your dog will like. Some dogs prefer an orthopaedic bed. They can be especially good for older dogs. Other dogs love round beds while some might just like to nest in a pile of blankets. The best way to start is by looking where your dog is choosing to sleep right now. Dogs who choose the floor are likely to enjoy a nice thin or firm bed. Those who seek out the plush comforter or pillows on your bed are likely to enjoy a cushy bed.
If you're going to invest in a dog bed, look for one that is stain-resistant, odour-resistant, machine washable, and well-made.
A pooch-free night's sleep is a personal choice, of course, but if you're finding that you can't make it through your six to eight hours because of your pets, don't fret about moving them into their own beds. Instead, think of all the energetic hours of daytime play time you can have with them if you're well rested. Walkies, anyone?