The million-dollar question.
Most new owners have a specific idea on how they intend to raise their dog. Many plan on ensuring a very structured routine, rigorous training from the get-go and under no circumstances, will their dogs be allowed on the furniture and in particular, the bed! Fast-forward to when your dog arrives home and this may change.
For a puppy, the first few nights in a new environment can be quite overwhelming. They have usually just been separated from mum and siblings and this stress may typically result in a lot of noise, crying and restlessness - and for the owner, sleepless nights. Puppy hasn’t yet learned how to self sooth and settle itself down. This moment right here is pivotal and quite often, the undoing of all those wonderful plans owners may originally have envisioned.
Option A. The owner will persevere knowing that if left alone, puppy will quickly learn to cope with his new sleeping arrangement and become quite comfortable in his crate.
Option B. Rather than endure one more hour of lost sleep, the owner will kiss the crate goodbye, admit defeat, and allow puppy to curl up beside them in bed.
But ... there are a few important points to note before inviting your dog to share your bed.
Your Bed Can Have a Whole New Meaning!
To you, sharing your bed with your canine companion may be no big deal but it is important to note that this is not always the case for your dog/puppy.
In the canine world, elevation is a privilege and in their world this can be a reflection of their own position in your household.
When your dog is up on your lap, in your arms, on the sofa or on the bed your dog is elevated. This can inadvertently send mixed messages. The issue here is not that the dog is on the bed or elevated, but rather what this privilege means to them! In fact, so many of the dog bite incidents that we attend, are associated with elevation
eg. someone going to move a dog off a bed/sofa and getting bitten; a child runs and jumps onto parents bed and gets bitten by the dog that was laying there; a partner rolling towards the other in bed and being bitten by the dog.
At no point are we saying “don’t enjoy your dog” but rather suggesting to get some good rules and boundaries established before you give privileges away and if you do notice a change in your particular dog’s behaviour when it is elevated, consider making some changes to its elevation.
It is also important to note that if you have multiple dogs, that they have a social hierarchy. To keep harmony within the household, privileges need to be carefully managed. Just being on the bed/sofa will not make a dog become aggressive or territorial but the elevation may build the ego often driving territorial behaviours to present.
Your Dog Is Missing Out on Opportunities to Build Independence
Currently, the number one behaviour issue that we deal with is Separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is often the result of a dog having too much access to the owner and not enough opportunity to learn how to cope with being on its own. Allowing your dog to have some alone time when you are at home, is key to their own development, shaping their confidence and promoting independence.
Sleep time is a perfect opportunity to implement that space.
Think about it like this; You allow your dog to sleep by your side each night, until one day you take off on a holiday, or need to visit family, or you have a child of your own and need to have the bassinet beside your bed – in short, circumstances often change.
The sudden shift in routine can cause your dog to become anxious especially if they no longer have free access to you.
This is not to say that all dogs that sleep in the bed with their owners will develop separation anxiety (in fact some dogs are naturally independent and cope when left alone without much fuss at all) however, some dogs are genetically predisposed to being more anxious than others. If your dog has an anxious nature or struggles coping when left alone, sleeping in the bed with you will make alone time more difficult to cope with.
Whether you should let your dog sleep in your bed or not is ultimately up to you. For some, a dog sleeping in the bed brings great joy, we just encourage owners to evaluate whether or not sleeping in the bed is equally in the dog’s best interest.
If the increased contact results in Separation anxiety then the dog’s mental health needs to be considered and at Found By The Hound, we are strong advocates for a dog’s health and well being.
If alternative arrangements need to be implemented then in many situations we may recommend crate training for sleep. If assistance is required to make this transition then for more information, please do not hesitate to contact the Found By The Team.