The Struggle of Sleeping with Dogs in the Bed

Sleeping with dogs on the bed like Cooper.
Sleeping with dogs on the bed like Cooper. Photography by Wendy Newell.

Should dogs sleep in your bed? It’s a question I struggle with both as a dog owner and as a dog sitter who often has more than one dog in the bed at the same time! Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of sleeping with dogs in the bed:

Sleeping with my dog, Riggins

Sleeping with my dog, Riggins.
Sleeping with my dog, Riggins. Photography by Wendy Newell.

I have a 12-year-old mixed breed named Riggins. He is my world. As a puppy he slept on the bed because his human dad, my boyfriend at the time, wanted him to. When Riggins and I moved away from that dude, it was me who wanted Riggins in the bed for comfort. A year or so later, I realized Riggins’ need to circle, circle, plop throughout the night was causing me to lose precious sleep — which is something I take very seriously!

It took about a week to teach him to sleep on his dog bed. For years, that is where he stayed, waking me up around 5 a.m. for breakfast and then jumping in bed with me for early morning snuggles. Now, getting up on the bed is difficult for him with his old-man arthritis so he spends most of his time on his orthopedic dog bed. He will make it up with me for naps now and then.

You would think this means my “sleeping with dogs in the bed” issue has resolved itself. WRONG. I’m a dog sitter, which means at any given time I can have up to four pups snuggled up against me while we catch some zzzzz’s.

Sleeping with dogs in the bed who are ‘fair partner’ sleepers

Sleeping with dogs like Cooper is a breeze.
Sleeping with dogs like Cooper is a breeze. Photography by Wendy Newell.

There is one type of dog I have no problem being in the bed with — the one who thinks he is people and sleeps accordingly, head on the pillow, not touching, preferably facing opposite directions. He doesn’t disturb my sleep and I don’t disturb his. One of my clients, a big Golden Retriever named Cooper, is like this. It’s no problem when he visits because he knows the wall side of the bed is his.

Sleeping with dogs who are ‘trouble sleepers’

Sleeping with dogs becomes a problem when one dog sleeps ON you.
Sleeping with dogs becomes an issue when one dog sleeps ON you. Photography by Wendy Newell.

These pups toss and turn or MUST sleep half on top of you. I watch a Dalmatian who is deaf. Although she is sweet as pie, she must sleep under the covers, touching me. If I move an inch, she growls as if she is going to take my leg off. She would never hurt me and she has no idea how she sounds, but it means I better pick a sleeping position I like because I will be in it all night.

Cooper’s brother, a Black Lab named Beau, wants to sleep with me but prefers if it is ON me. He’s a big boy and acts like a weighted therapy blanket even if I don’t want one!

Sleeping with dogs who are ‘jealous sleepers’

Dogs who are jealous sleepers present another set of problems.
Dogs who are jealous sleepers present another set of problems. Photography by Wendy Newell.

The issue with having multiple dogs in the bed is the obvious fact that they are each vying for the perfect spot. It can mean trouble for all involved. One night, I was asleep with a couple of pups when a third jumped up and accidentally landed on a slumbering mutt. The resulting fight sounded bad. When I turned on the light, it took me awhile to figure out where all the blood was coming from. The poor pup who had made the mistake of trying to get in with the gang had gotten the tip of his ear bitten off. Needless to say, that meant NO sleep for me as I spent the rest of the night at the emergency vet.

Sleeping with dogs who are ‘bed hogs’

Don't let your dogs hog all the blankets!
Don’t let your dogs hog all the blankets! Photography by Wendy Newell.

Whether it’s one pup who manages to take up more space than a full-sized adult human or multiple animals building a game of Tetris for your body, bed hogs are the worst. I’ve gotten used to sleeping sideways, with my head at the foot of the bed, in an S shape, in a U shape … in any shape you can imagine. The secret is to grab the covers and wrap yourself in them so, if nothing else, at least you won’t get cold!

Sleeping with dogs who have cleanliness issues

Dogs who roll around in dirt all day make for some messy sheets!
Dogs who roll around in dirt all day make for some messy sheets! Photography by Wendy Newell.

Riggins and his house guests like to play, hike and wrestle. That means dirt. Dirt and hair everywhere. The state of my sheets would make you weep and be concerned for my health. I can change them daily and it wouldn’t matter. It’s gross.

So, why would I ever choose to sleep with dogs in my bed?

Two dogs on one bed.
So, why would someone ever sleep with dogs? Photography by Wendy Newell.

With all these negatives, why would I want a dog in my bed? Why?! BECAUSE IT IS THE GREATEST THING EVER! Being able to throw your arm over a big dog and burying your face in his fur is the best therapy if you are sad or just need a little extra support. Having a little pup burrow herself as close as possible in the back nook of your knees is comforting. A wet nose up against your cheek just makes you giggle. That move where a dog pushes his paws against you with straight legs is like a comforting backwards hug. Sleeping with dogs means being surrounded by pure love while you snooze.

That’s why dogs are allowed on my bed. Even when I know that, logically, it isn’t the best choice!

Tips for sleeping with dogs successfully:

  • Groom your pups daily. Brushing and gentle grooming wipes are great.
  • Stairs, ramps or carefully placed stools help small and older pups get up and down without hurting themselves.
  • Give your pup his own pillow that you can move to his favorite spot on the sofa and other places. Then he may stop stealing yours!
  • Give burrowers their own blankets on top of the bed.
  • You want a big dog off the bed? Cover him with love. If I throw an arm and leg over Riggins, he looks at me like I’m too clingy and jumps right off.
  • Did the dogs take over your bed? A sleeping sack or sheet sleeping bag will make sure what touches you is clean!
  • Invest in a washable mattress cover that is encased (like a giant duvet cover but for your mattress).

Tell us: What about you? Do you let your dogs sleep on your bed? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Still stumped if you should let your dog sleep on your bed? Read more about allowing your dog to sleep on the bed with you on Whole Dog Journal >>

Thumbnail: Photography by Wendy Newell.

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21 thoughts on “The Struggle of Sleeping with Dogs in the Bed”

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  7. Johanna McGhee

    My alaskan malamute usually only sleeps with me if he isn’t feeling well
    After a bad tic bite he was on the bed for a week but he is now off the medication back eating well and exercising well but he still remains in the bed every night
    I like having him here but its not the most comfy due to his size and me liking my space but still be remains and I worry that maybe he is still unwell and the vets have missed something

  8. Sleeping with 2 Golden Retrievers, my most important command is “scootch”. My dogs are wonderful in that they tuck me in with snuggles and then mosey off the bed just as I am dozing off. Like they can tell or something. Then, they don’t bother me all night (in their beds) until I rise. PERFECT! I have had many Golden’s thru the years, and they all were the same regarding. I nominate the Golden Retriever for “Bestest Seeepy Pups in the World”!

    1. My goldie does exactly the same! He’s 8 months old and jumps up onto the bed when I climb in and just as I’m dozing off I feel him climb off and settle down on the floor next to me. I thought it was him getting too warm but maybe it really is a goldie thing x

  9. Thank you for this great article! How nice it is to hear that others love sleeping with their doggos as much as I do.
    I am not quite certain how I have taught them, but each dog understands two simple sentences; “ Okay, you’ve got to move.” And “Let’s get up!”
    On those wonderful nights that I am framed on every side by dogs, but I need to change positions as they are dreaming of chasing rabbits, I just say, Okay, you’ve got to move. I speak softly but every dog jumps off the bed until I readjust and say, okay. That’s when they jump back and secure their new place next to me.
    When I wake up with the same loving puppers they know the second that my eyes open, the grow alert and watch for a signal. I can say, “Should we get up?” and they wait, but if I say, “Let’s get up!” The jump up and bounce to the floor, ready to start our day!
    Gosh I love these sweeties!

  10. I have 4 fur babies, all, Shihtzu’s that have all slept with me, from being puppies (Once, they were housetrained)!! And I wouldn’t have it any other way, I love it! Plenty of time for snuggles and cuddles, before we all settle down for the night. They sleep on their side and I have some space for me! Have to have a king size bed though! But, it feels the most natural thing in the world, to have them, all with me and get woken up with wet kisses. I am disabled and spend a lot of time resting in bed and they are never far away from me in the day either, by their own choice

  11. After my husband died, my 12 yr old italian greyhound decided he needed to cuddle with me at night – he sleeps with his back to my chest with his head under my chin. My 14 yr old IG just curls up around the back of my knees – as long as he is touching me, he is perfectly happy. They are the loves of my life – always there ready to give unconditional love.

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  14. I share a bed with a Redbone Coonhound (65lbs) and a hound mix (55lbs). The Redbone usually ends snuggled up close especially in the winter. I love it because I have my best friends with me all night long! And the bigger dog is so warm and cozy! BTW my husband sleeps in the other bedroom and is fine with it.

  15. I have 3 Chihuahuas, ages 12, 10, and 8…..they are the absolute joy of my life, (besides my daughter and grandson’s of course) each one has slept in my bed since the very first day they joined my family, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Now don’t misunderstand me, there are times when I say to myself, “why do I allow this”? but then comes those wet, sloppy, full of love “doggie kisses” and I know exactly why. When asked if I allow my dogs to sleep in my bed, my response is usually, “it’s more like they are allowing me in THEIR bed”. For the most part I still wouldn’t have it any other way, Snickers, Nutmeg, and Cocoa are family, my 3, four- legged furry children, and just like children they can get pretty jealous over who gets the most “mommie time” so I make sure each one gets their own quality time. The bottom line……..a dog or two…or more in the bed (depending on their size of course) is absolutely the way to settle down for the night.

  16. I’ve always heard that allowing ’em to sleep with you causes obedient issues, like not minding or ignoring the owner. My dog (Trixie a fiest) thinks she’s entitled an loves to sleep ‘some where’ near by couch if I’m on it or bed. There are times I let her but mostly try to get her to sleep on HER bed which she reluctantly does. It does seem to make her ‘mind’ better.

  17. Hello sweet Riggins & Riggins wonderful owner please.
    Below is your quote, “Now, getting up on the bed is difficult for him with his old-man arthritis so he spends most of his time on his orthopedic dog bed.” I had two black labs who had arthritis very badly. I tried everything including the prescription drugs & over-the-country treats for arthritis. Nothing worked! I was told to try Myristin before putting the dogs to sleep. I did! Myristin not only saved their lives for over three years! Both dogs had the spring of a puppy back! Jessie did 180* jumps again before meal time!! Myristin is 100% natural! The vets told me that Myristin has one natural ingredient in it that other arthritis drugs do not have. That one ingredient made the world of difference. I’m sharing with you because it is obvious to me that you love your dog as I did my Girls. You can order from Myristin or from Amazon. It could take some weeks up to four to six before it kicks in, but when it does, there is so much glorious difference over everything I’ve tried. It works for cats, dogs, horses… It is so great that I thanked the company! My best wishes to Riggins and you…

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