Three Dog Night

Should Fido and Fluffy Share our Bed?

Giving pets bed privileges is an age-old issue, with convincing arguments on both sides. The history of the pros and cons are evident in The International Encyclopedia of Dogs, which reports that in pre-Aztec Mexico, the Xoloitzcuintl, now known as the Mexican hairless breed, was a pet and a bed warmer. Today, an American Pet Products Association survey indicates that nearly half of all dogs, 46 percent, at least sometimes sleep in the owner’s or a child’s bed. Cats fare even better, with 79 percent sleeping with their people when they’re in the mood.

When he worked as medical director of the Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Center, Dr. John W. Shepard, Jr. discovered that a significant percentage of his haggard patients slept with their animals. After surveying to see how much the pets disturbed their sleep, he declared that about half the pet sleepers asserted that their animal woke them more than once a night.

On the other hand, pet owners who desire to sleep with their four-legged companions will be delighted with a survey of veterinary behaviorists, who concluded that as long as a pet is a good sleeping companion, it’s fine to count sheep with them. Dr. Marsha Reich, a vet with a private animal behavior practice in Maryland, agrees. “Unless a dog growls when you roll over, I don’t have a problem with a dog in the bed.”

How To Be Your Dog’s Best Friend, the dog obedience manual by the Monks of New Skete, disagrees, advising that a dog should sleep on the floor, rather than in a person’s bed. Dog behavior specialists, such as Dr. Ian Dunbar and British behaviorist John Rogerson, side with the monks’ opinion, pointing out that if a bossy dog thinks the bed is his and he’s sharing his space, it’s the symptom of an unhealthy relationship. 

Other concerns about sleeping with furry friends focus on pets that suffer from anxiety. Clingy, needy Fluffys or Fidos should not share bed space, because nightly cuddling fuels a pet’s codependence. A dog that suffers separation anxiety needs a little practice in feeling secure. Nighttime is a great time for a rehearsal.

Sleeping with cats is also a two-sided coin. According to Dr. Lynne Seibert, a behaviorist at the Veterinary Specialty Center in Lynnwood, Washington, the most common problem is that cats may not sleep at night. Seibert observes that cats are home sleeping all day, which leaves them ready to party all night. She recommends supplying cats with more daytime stimulation and engaging them in a play session before bed.

A positive outlook on animal bed companions, offered by Dr. Roger Valentine, a holistic veterinarian in Santa Monica, California, sheds light on why pet owners often experience lower blood pressure and cholesterol, fewer minor health problems and better psychological well-being. “It’s a comfort to have a pet with you,” observes Valentine, also pointing out that, “Sleeping with your pet can reduce stress and put you in a relaxed frame of mind for more restful sleep.”

There may never be a clear verdict on such a personal issue as accepting a pet as a bedmate. Should one ever be officially rendered, it likely won’t influence those who not only love their pets, but care for them as if they were children.

Source: American Pet Products Association, 2009

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