As much as I enjoy my family bed, shared with my husband and our two Golden Retrievers, I’ve come to a cold-nosed realization: My boys are canine cuddle-blockers. (Full disclosure: My husband nudged me toward that realization. And yes, potty brains, we really do mean cuddling.)
It’s hard to admit, I know. But think about it. We may want to spend every waking (and sometimes sleeping) hour with our pets. But three or four to a bed doesn’t just make for a hairy crowd, it cuts into quality time with our two-legged loved ones.
Dog trainer Mike Rae realized this while sharing his bed with his wife and Sim, their 150-pound Mastiff. His wife, like me, is coming to that understanding at her own pace.
“He doesn’t really sleep on the bed,” Mariellen Rae insisted in that protective voice all dog lovers can all relate to. “Every once in a while, when we’re out late, we let him come up. But that’s every once in a while. Mostly we let him have morning cuddle time, but him actually sleeping on the bed throughout the night, I’d say that’s rare.”
Mike, who remained quiet for much of the conversation, suddenly chimed in. “I’m going to have to interrupt here,” he said cautiously. “I feel like he’s in the bed a lot more.”
Doghouse, party of one. We’re kidding, of course. But the Raes illustrate an issue many couples with pets deal with: How to balance the cuddling needs of your pet and your partner.
“Sometimes it’s the saddest thing the way he looks at you when he’s not on the bed with us,” Mariellen Rae admitted. “He just looks at me, and sometimes I want to give in. He’s the love of our lives.”
Make no mistake, Mike Rae adores his big guy, too. And he likes to cuddle with him, he said — even if he’s not crazy about all the hair he leaves behind. But he also loves his wife. “And I’d like some cuddle time with her, too.”
Fair enough, and chances are a lot of pet owners can relate. Studies vary, but most estimate that more than half of all pet owners sleep with their pooches.
That’s right. Turns out many of those family beds that experts have written so much about aren’t just filled with parents and their two-legged children. And just like the more traditional family beds, sharing your bed with pets comes with pros: Who doesn’t feel better after cuddling their pet?
And cons: There’s the obvious –- hair. And also, at least in my house, the uncanny ability for a dog to double in size during the night, leaving you with a postage stamp’s worth of covers.
In 2011, a study published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also found that sleeping with pets could also lead to serious diseases. But usually, furry bedmates lead to more domestic and practical issues.
Alison Brooker, Mariellen Rae’s sister, said she and her husband have begun setting some boundaries with their 14-pound Miniature Pinscher, Riley, in anticipation of sharing their bed with a baby.
Little Riley is a bit more malleable in bed than her cousin Sim –- though not by much. Riley prefers to be under the covers, and is partial to laying her head on a pillow. She, of course, has her own.
Riley’s also been known to vocalize her displeasure with being displaced from the bed with a brilliantly timed middle-of-the-night bark or two, which usually leads to getting her way. “It’s hard,” said Brooker. “I like sleeping with her. She’s comforting. She’s a little teddy bear.”
No judgment here. My guys just have to look at me and I’m skooching my husband and myself over to make room.
But in the spirit of marital harmony, I’ve recently started to point the boys to their own comfy beds while trying really hard not to feel like Mommy Dearest. Some nights are more successful than others.
If you’re trying to set some boudoir boundaries with your pets, here are a few tips:
1. Schedule cuddle time
Mariellen is onto something with designating the morning for cuddle time with Sim. I’ve found that my big boy Major loves morning cuddles, too. Max is more of a 24/7 snuggler. But if I’m consistent about a schedule, he relents –- most times -– and stays on his own bed until he’s invited up.
2. Cuddle RSVP
Don’t let your pets assume they have the run of the bed. Better to invite them up to at least create the illusion of you being in control.
3. Pick a spot
If you really want to sleep with your dog -– and really, who doesn’t? — designate a spot at the foot of your bed. Brooker does this with Riley, and it works. It’s a win-win for everyone. Your pooch is nearby but not wedged between you and your partner.
4. Be consistent
As we’ve mentioned, this is harder than it sounds. But when you’re tempted to fold, remind yourself that relationship harmony is on the line.
Do your pets sleep in your bed? Have you noticed the extra company coming between cuddle time with your significant other? How do you juggle the cuddle needs of your pooch and your partner? Please share your thoughts in the comments.