The jury is out. All you have to do is type in the words ‘sharing a bed with your pet’ and Google will present you with compelling reasons ‘for and against’ pets on beds, not to mention a myriad of contradicting arguments just to confuse you and your pet (cue adorable dog head tilt here). So, should you, or shouldn’t you?
We’re here to summarise the sea of information out there on this very important matter, allowing you to make up your own mind...which may, or may not dramatically affect who you choose to share a bed with.
Good for your health and well being, or detrimental to both?
Some people are surprised to hear that sharing a bed with your pet may not be the greatest idea. The whole concept of companionship is the reason a lot of people choose to get the pet in the first place. In fact, it has been proven that sleeping with your pet has physical benefits such as reducing stress and anxiety. In the same way that snuggling with a baby or your partner gives you a warm fuzzy feeling, so too does sleeping with your pet. It releases oxytocin which reduces stress and anxiety. This chemical reaction is a result of the bond between you and the other party (in this instance, your pooch or kitty) and is why pet ownership can be a common form of therapy for those experiencing stress, depression or anxiety.
The flip side of this, is the idea that inviting your pet into your bed may also invite a range of other not so nice guests that could potentially affect your health. Some studies suggest that your pets may harbor germs, bacteria and bugs ranging from the bubonic plague, to parasites such as roundworms and hookworms, staph infections to ticks, mites and fleas. Which all sounds reasonable right (well, all except the bubonic plague theory which sounds a bit extreme)? When you think about where your dog has been during the day, what it’s stepped in, what it’s sniffed or even eaten (yuck), there is a possibility that parasites and bacteria are being brought into bed.
The risk of getting sick from being close with your pets is real (particularly if you suffer from a compromised immune system), but many of the diseases they pass on to humans can be identified and eliminated by preventive veterinary care. In terms of germs, one suggestion by Veterinarian Dr. Carol Osborne is to spritz your dog’s feet with a 50/50 mix of rubbing alcohol and water when it comes inside to help decontaminate it’s paws!
But what about the sneezing and wheezing you ask? Even if your pet is man’s best friend, your allergies may not feel same way. Asking your dog or cat to share your bed linen could be a trigger for allergies - in fact, even having an animal in your bedroom could be a trigger for respiratory allergy symptoms.
Could it affect the quality of your sleep?
Again, there are a range of opinions on this. A scientific study conducted by Mayo Clinic found that your pet (specifically dogs in this instance) may not disrupt your sleep by sleeping in your bedroom, however sleeping on the bed was a different story - cuddle time with pooch could indeed result in sacrificed sleep!
Many people find comfort and a sense of security from sleeping with their pets. Given that pet owners are often away from their pets during the day, they may want to maximise the time together when they are home. Having them in the bedroom is a simple solution. And on a chilly night, a pet curled up next to you is as good as having a mini (or not so mini) radiator in the bed….who doesn’t love a little natural warmth in the winter?
However, the study, “The Effect of Dogs on Human Sleep in the Home Sleep Environment,” found that the sleep benefit only applies to dogs in the bedroom….not on the actual bed! Once dogs are snuggling up with you, under the covers or otherwise, the study found your furry friend may actually disturb your sleep. They have a tendency to act out their dreams, twitching, maybe even barking or whining, or digging at the sheets as they nest. It’s a similar story for cat owners. Cat’s, although smaller and potentially less disruptive when moving about it the bed, are still nocturnal creatures with different sleep patterns to humans. Not to mention, they can be territorial, bossy and they’re certainly not afraid to let you know when it’s time to get moving.
Is bed sharing good for your pet, or are you teaching them bad habits?
The research from a behavioural point of view, is much like reading articles on whether or not it’s bad for your health. There are arguments both ways. In general, trainers who doggedly (sorry, couldn’t resist) oppose pooches being on the bed, come from a ‘dominance’ training school of thought. Other trainers believe that the dog who wants to sleep on your bed is not trying to take over the world...rather, he wants to be close to his people….and be comfortable!
Professional dog trainer Robert Haussmann encourages cuddling up in bed with your dog, as long as the dog knows the rules - the bed is a human space into which he needs to be invited.
So should you or shouldn’t you share your bed?
The decision should be entirely up to you (and any other parties who may have invested interest in your sleeping arrangement). There are so many factors that may influence your decision. You may be cautious about allowing dogs in the bed or bedroom due to from allergies or health issues such as weakened immune systems. Or your pet may exhibit annoying behaviours (such as night time noises, licking habits or bladder control issues) that disrupt your sleep. A good night’s sleep and your health are most important at the end of the day. Alternatively there may be reasons that make you more likely to want to co-sleep with your pet such as a heightened sense of security or reduced anxiety when having your pooch close. Or you may just need the extra warmth on the cooler nights.
So, if it makes you (and your pet) happy, then by all means, snuggle up with your four legged friend.