Sleeping with Dogs?

I know how much people like to sleep with their dogs. The cuddling and the closeness of your canine companions can be especially comforting while you sleep. Many years ago, I enjoyed my dog Elvis sleeping at the bottom of my bed, until my husband moved into my life.

Over 10 years ago, he imposed a "no dogs in the bedroom" rule at the very beginning of our relationship. I hammered and hawed, but figured if he could live with me and my dog, I could live without Elvis in the bedroom. As time has gone by and more dogs have come into our lives, I've not only become OK with this rule, but I truly believe this is one of my husband's better ideas.

First of all, I will say that many dogs can sleep in the bedroom with no issues whatsoever. From my standpoint as a dog trainer, I do see quite a few interesting behavioral issues going on with some dogs in the bedroom. Here are a few of the things my husband and I have avoided in our 10 years of the "no dogs in the bedroom" rule:

A cold nose on your face at 5am is not always a welcome gesture. I will often hear clients lament, “my dog gets me up at all hours and want to go outside, play, or chews my pillow.” Elvis would sniff my face at all hours and stare at me until I got up. When we relegated him to a very comfortable bed of his own in the living room, the wake-up calls ended. I’ve enjoyed these years of uninterrupted sleep and choosing for myself when to get out of bed.

As a dog trainer, I often see a correlation between dogs that think they rule the house and dogs that also sleep with their person in the bed. The bed is the most coveted location in the home, and anyone in the bed is pretty important, right? Some dogs can take this privilege to a new level and begin competing with their humans for head of household status. I definitely see this bedroom "Napolean" complex most often with toys dogs.

Doggie Napoleons can also become possessive about their sleeping areas. Time and time again, I will hear about dog owners being growled at or chased out of their own beds by their dogs if they are disturbed while sleeping. Not surprisingly, I also see the problems disappear and roles change when the dog is no longer permitted in the bed.

Multiple dogs can sometimes become competitive over privileged sleeping areas, particularly in the bedroom. I’ve had several clients reporting dog fights in the bedroom when one dog attempts to displace another on the coveted bed. This can become dangerous, as trying to manage a dog fight while you are half asleep can most times lead to being bitten yourself.

In North Carolina, where fleas and ticks rule most of the year, dogs in your bedroom can quickly lead to many unwelcome guests in the bedroom too. My friend Jesse learned this the hard way, finding hundreds of tiny ticks in her bed after her dog took a nap in the covers. During our first bad flea infestation last year, our bedroom was the one area of the house that was safe from the flea d'etat.

These are just a few of the issues that we’ve not had to deal with. Although I love my dogs, I do believe that our bedroom rule has helped create more harmony in our house.

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