Which Kind of Dog Bed is Right for Your Dog?
Like humans, all dogs desire a comfortable place to relax. Choosing the right type of bed for your dog may be a bit overwhelming - with beds in every size, shape and color available, how does one go about selecting the perfect dog bed?
How To Choose A Dog Bed
Selecting the right type of dog bed will be much easier if you keep the following criteria in mind:
First, consider your dog's likes. What does she do when she is settling down for a nap/relaxing? Does she find a nice fluffy blanket, dig a little hollow, and spin in a circle once or twice before lying down? If so, she may like a "slumber ball" dog bed - these are fluffy, round dog beds that look almost like a beanbag chair. Does your dog like to sleep with her legs stretched out? If so, she may prefer a rectangular mattress, which will allow more room for stretching than a round bed. If you let your dog on the furniture, which piece does she prefer to lie on? Whether it is your bed, your couch, or your favorite armchair, try to find her a bed that is comparably soft/firm. (Also, if your dog loves lying on the couch, consider buying her a "doggie sofa" bed!)
Second, choose a bed which has a removable, washable cover. If you can buy additional covers for the bed, even better - one for on the bed while one gets washed! Make sure to wash covers frequently (weekly), more frequently in flea season - particularly if you spot fleas on your dog! Keep in mind aesthetic concerns - if you plan on having your dog settle on her bed in the living room, make sure that the bed covers match your decor! The variety of options on the market will make it easier for you to choose a dog bed that compliments your home.
Third, consider your dog's age, health, behavior, and breed. Puppies and dogs that are established chewers should never be left with beds or blankets containing any type of stuffing unsupervised, as stuffing can cause intestinal blockage when ingested. Elderly dogs and giant breed dogs require extra joint support, and can greatly benefit from orthopedic mattresses, memory foam mattresses, and warming beds. Giant breeds and bracycephalic breeds often struggle to keep cool in the heat - there are beds on the market that can provide cooling relief to them during warm summer months.
Fourth, consider what you will be using the bed for. Will you be using the bed in a crate? If so, a rectangular bed that fits the crate is necessary; many dogs prefer bolstered crate beds. Will you be using the bed for camping or in the yard/on the patio? If so, you may want to make sure that the bed itself is waterproof and recommended for both indoor/outdoor use.
Fifth, consider your ecological footprint! A wide variety of eco-friendly dog beds are on the market, created with fabrics made from organic and recycled materials. Whenever possible, choose a "green" dog bed - your dog and the planet will thank you for it!
Last but not least, consider your budget. Beds can range from less than $20 to hundreds of dollars. As with all things, you get what you pay for. Buying a high quality bed will save you from years of buying many cheap beds. You may find that one bed will not meet all your needs - you may want a cooling bed for summertime camping trips, a bed for in your dog's crate, and one for upstairs in your bedroom.
What If My Dog Doesn't Like "The Perfect Dog Bed"?
You've carefully selected the bed of your dog's dreams, only to get it home and find out she won't lay on it! Now what?
Using clicker training, you can shape the desired behavior. Here's a sample shaping plan for training your dog to "go to bed":
- click for looking at the mat
- click for stepping towards the mat
- click for sniffing the mat
- click for one paw on mat
- click for two paws on mat
- click for all four paws on mat
- click for sit on mat
- click for sit w/ duration on mat
- click for down
- proof for reliability
If your dog is clicker-savvy, she may only need one or two of these steps (some really clicker-savvy dogs can get the behavior in less than five clicks!). For dogs and clicker trainers who have never done shaping before, it will take a bit longer. Training a good "go to mat" behavior can also help address unwanted behaviors like jumping, nipping, and counter surfing, just to name a few!
The right dog bed and the right training will together give your dog the sanctuary she deserves. After all, who wants to sleep on the floor?
Photo: Sarah Ackerman
Related Advice from Other Dog Owners
The gentle harness is the best
I highly recommend the gentle harness. If your dog is pulling on walks, these harnesses will put a stop to it without hurting your pet. If it works with 200 pound dogs (I have a Mastiff) it will work with a small dog. Eventually they will realize pulling won't get them anywhere and you can go back to using a regular collar.
When using a gentle leader harness or any harness I would leave a collar on just for the purpose of having ID tags on your dog at all times.
As far as leaving a harness on a dog, it should only be for outside, I have seen dogs wear harnesses full time and have skin irritation issues because it's harder to keep them adjusted properly and they just cover more skin, leaving more to get irritated.
~Candy H., owner of Mastiff
Choose the right harness to help train your dog
If you have a dog that naturally (or through training) walks very nicely on lead without pulling, a body harness is a great choice for him. However, if you have a dog that pulls strongly, the types of harnesses where the leash attaches on the back are a poor choice. Those actually encourage pulling because they allow your dog to put his full weight into pulling you.
A good option is the Gentle Leader harness or similar harnesses, which have the leash clip in the front. What happens with those is, when the dog starts to pull, it turns the dog toward you. While they can still pull to some extent, this helps you in training your dog to walk nicely.
No type of harness or collar is ever a substitute for proper training, and everyone's goal should be to eventually only need a flat collar when the dog is trained to walk nicely without straining. All devices that control, correct, or turn the dog are TRAINING devices, not a permanent solution.
~Chris & Brian C., owner of German Shepherd