As a trainer, I get this question all the time: “Should I let my dog sleep on my bed (or couch)?” In general, my answer is always – “It is up to you.” However, I also advise that there may be a few situations when you may not want to share your resting space with your dog.
If you have a Great Dane puppy or other large breed puppy, you need to remember that the pint-sized pup will eventually be an enormous adult. Your sleep is important to maintaining a healthy life and you may not be able to sleep well with a huge dog by your feet or sharing your pillow.
Once your dog begins to sleep on your bed, he or she will assume that it is his/her bed as well. Teaching your dog to sleep elsewhere later, may become a challenge. I once had a client that was single and had a king-sized bed that she shared with her Newfoundland. This was not a problem until she got married. There was not enough room for the new husband in the bed with her and the Newfoundland! Eventually she taught her dog to sleep on a bed on the floor (which happened to be a twin mattress!).
A more serious reason that I advise clients not to let their dogs sleep on the bed is if there is any aggression. If your dog “guards” the bed and will not “let” you get on the bed or if your dog growls at you if you touch him/her while sleeping, you should avoid sleeping with your dog. Preventing an unwanted behavior is the first step to changing it.
If your dog growls or snaps as you approach the bed, then restricting access to the bed will help prevent the behavior from happening. If you are determined to have your dog sleep on the bed with you but he/she “guards” it, seek professional help when trying to rectify the situation. As a word of caution- you should NEVER punish your dog for this behavior. It could make it worse. Therefore, seek a behavior professional that uses positive techniques to change this behavior.
If your dog growls at you while sleeping, you should also avoid sleeping with him/her. There are many reasons that your dog may react this way but one to seriously consider is he/she could be experiencing pain.
If your dog has a sore area on his/her body and you accidentally touch it while sleeping, it could hurt. Your dog may first warn you that it hurts with a growl but if ignored, it could result in a bite. There have been cases of people being seriously bitten by their dogs while sharing a bed.
For me, my Jack Russell Terrier sleeps with me. I have 3 dogs, my JRT, a lab mix and a Springer Spaniel. There is not enough room for me, my husband and all 3 dogs. My lab prefers to sleep on the floor because he gets hot easily and my springer would love to sleep on the bed but we offer him a soft dog bed instead. Although they don’t all sleep with me, they are all allowed on the bed for snuggle time during the day and before and after bedtime. All 3 will get off the bed immediately if asked and none of them “guard” the bed. However, I do not allow my dogs on my couches unless they are asked. We have limited seating in my living room and I prefer the dogs sleep on their beds on the floor.
Ultimately, it is up to you if you let your dog on the furniture. Whatever you decide, it is important that you are consistent. You need to make it clear to your dog what is acceptable and what is not. It is not fair to punish your dog for getting on the bed or couch if you are constantly changing the “rules.”
Shannon has been a pet lover all her life and a dog trainer for over 20 years. She has spent her life observing, caring for and training animals of all kinds. She has worked in the Bird Department at Marine World Africa USA, and worked as an handler and trainer for an African Serval Cat at Safari West, a private zoo in Santa Rosa, California. She has participated in behavior studies including observations of bald eagles and addax antelope through the San Francisco Zoo and Safari West.
Her education includes a Biology Degree, specializing in Zoology from Sonoma State. She is a Registered Veterinary Technician, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (Knowledge Assessed), a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner, a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.
Shannon is currently serving as President for the Society of Veterinary Behavior Technicians.
Shannon’s dog training philosophy revolves around force free, positive reinforcement, however, her ultimate goal is for healthy happy relationship between pets and their people. Diet, exercise, environment and training all play a significant role in achieving this goal.
Shannon is currently the owner of Ventura Pet Wellness and Dog Training Center in Ventura, CA where she works with anxious and fearful dogs privately as well as teaching agility classes (Venturapetwellness.com). Shannon has also started a training website called Truly Force Free Animal Training (trulyforcefree.com).