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Should you sleep with your dog?

As published in Canadian Dogs Annual
Should you sleep with your dog?

Many people love having their dogs sleep with them. But if your slumber is being disturbed by a noisy, restless or bed-hogging canine, it may be time to make some changes.

Most of us allow our dogs to sleep on our beds. Children in particular like to curl up with their furry “siblings” because it gives them a feeling of security. Many adults find the gentle breathing of a dog comforting and sleep-inducing. But if you (or anyone else in your family) find that your dog repeatedly wakes you up during the night, then you may have to look at making some changes. Follow these tips for a better night’s slumber.

Illustrations courtesy of Mike Carless.

Get him his own bed.

If your dog is disturbing your sleep but you still want him nearby, buy him a pet bed and put it on the floor near your own bed (but not where you’ll step on it if you get up in the night). Dogs are easily trained to use pet beds – just make sure the bed is comfortable and away from draughts. Use toys and treats to help him associate the bed with something positive.

Tip: If you have hardwood or laminate floors in your bedroom, consider placing a non-slip rug where your dog jumps up or down. It helps provide better footing and a safer landing zone.

Give him some evening exercise.

Being tired is a good way to get the night off to a good start. Take your dog for a walk in the evening and have a play session before bed. If the weather is bad, try a game of indoor fetch, tag or hide and seek with treats.

Put him out just before bedtime.

Make sure your dog goes out to relieve himself right before you go to bed so he won’t wake you at 4AM wanting to pee. Even if he was out two hours earlier, that additional bathroom break could make all the difference. After, give your dog a small healthy snack to tide him over till morning.

What type of dog do you have?

If any of these describe your dog, you may want to take action to get a better night’s sleep!

  • The Jumper: These are the dogs that jump on and off the bed at night. It seems like they just can’t make up their minds. In reality, some dogs get hot sleeping next to you and seek out a cooler spot off the bed. Then they miss you and jump back up. And so the cycle begins again.
  • The Early Riser: Being woken too early by a wet nose or tongue is annoying, particularly if the dog doesn’t really need to go out. Perhaps he has a pre-dawn breakfast in mind, or is simply craving attention. In either case, you’re awake before you need to be.
  • The Noisemaker: Snoring, whining, licking and chewing – these are all noises you can do without while you’re trying to get some good zzzz’s in.
  • The Bed Hog. If you wake up with your head on the nightstand, chances are your dog is a bit too pushy in bed. He probably just wants to cuddle or maybe he needs more space. You will unconsciously try to accommodate him, so your quality of sleep is probably suffering.

Sleep study

In 2002, the Mayo Clinic did a study to see how many people experienced disturbances while sleeping with their dogs (and cats). They repeated the study 12 years later and compared the results.

The 2014 study showed an increase in the number of people who reported disturbances while sleeping with their pets, compared with the initial study. In the first study, only 1% of patients reported any inconvenience, while in the later study, 10% reported having their sleep disturbed by their pets.

“While the majority of patients did not view their pets as intolerably disturbing their sleep, a higher percentage experienced irritation — this may be related to the larger number of households with multiple pets,” says Dr. Lois Krahn, author of the study.

The disturbances that study participants reported include snoring, whimpering, wandering, the need to “go outside”, and medical needs.



Darlene Arden

The late Darlene Arden was a Certified Animal Behaviour Consultant, an author and speaker. Her books include the award-winning The Complete Cat’s Meow and Rover, Get Off Her Leg! Darlene was dedicated to the human-animal bond and enhancing the lives of animals and their people.


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