It seems simple: you love your dog, he’s damn cuddly, so why not let him snooze it out with you under the covers every night?
There are few aspects of living with a dog that sparks more divided opinions than the question of is letting your dog sleep in bed with you really a good idea. Dog trainers can’t even come to a united decision on this and you’ll get different answers depending upon who you talk to.
So let me give you my take on this confusing topic so you can understand it and make a good choice for you and your dog.
I say . . . do whatever you want to do.
Crappy answer, I know but I’ll explain in a moment. First let’s go over the issue a bit.
Why People Say It’s Bad
Most people who tell you that it’s bad to have your dog in bed with you will say that you need to be “the leader” and should have the elevated sleeping areas, and by allowing your dog to be up there with you all hell is going to break out in your pack.
They believe that by giving your dog the right to take the best sleeping spot in the house it’s going to empower your pooch and he will become more assertive and stop listening to you because he’s in the power position.
If you give your dog that kind of power, they think he will abuse it and it will make your communication difficult and may cause a series of other issues in your home.
That’s pretty much why some dog trainers will discourage you (sometimes adamantly) from spooning with your dog every night.
The people who feel this way are typically the ones that subscribe to the “must be alpha” mantra and also don’t like your dog walking in front of you, leaving the house before you or eating meals before you eat.
Although I do believe that structure is critical to having a healthy relationship and agree that you can run into problems if your dog isn’t given rules and boundaries, I think they are missing the real way leaders operate.
How To Run A Pack (aka Family)
The problem with the strict “alpha” kind of thinking is that it goes to an unnecessary extreme. Yes, we need to control our dog’s resources, but it means “control” not eliminate. And the rules set are up to those in charge (aka parents, which is exactly what your role with your dog is like) and different people can have different rules if that’s what they want.
The relationship between you and your dog is the same as parent-child. You are in charge, setting the rules so that your children (and/or dogs) will receive the structure they need to become a healthy, well-balanced adult. And just like different parents have different rules, everyone can and will have slightly different rules with their dogs. And that’s okay.
Let me give you an example in human terms to illustrate how this works.
My kids go to bed at 8pm (I have 8 year old twin girls), while some of their friends go to bed a little earlier, and others go to bed later. So which of us parents is doing the right thing?
We all are, IF, we as parents are the one’s deciding when our kids go to bed. If I would prefer my kids to go to bed at 8pm and they don’t listen and stay up to 9pm than I have a big problem, which will cause a whole lot of other issues (namely, my kids not listening to me in other areas of life).
So what’s important is not when my kids go to sleep, but on who’s terms it happens. It all comes down to who is the one setting the rules and controlling all the resources.
How To Do It With Your Dog
Okay, so if you’re following me so far you see that you can let your dog do whatever you want – as long as it’s on your terms and your idea, lets put it into action in the real world with dogs.
My dog usually goes out the door in front of me, but only after she says please (looks up at me) and I tell her okay. My dog always eats before me, but she has to say please and be calm first. And my pooch can come in bed with me but only if she asks for permission and I invite her up.
Anything you want to do with your dog or allow your dog to have is okay if it’s your idea. Just remember that how your dog gets his rewards (all the good stuff that dogs love) will determine his behavior long term. So only reward what you want repeated.
If you want your dog to cuddle up under the covers with you every night, that’s cool. Just make sure it’s your idea. For me, all I ask of my dog is to say please, which is a pause and to look up at me for a moment. That’s it.
When she was younger and could jump onto the bed, she wouldn’t do it without first looking up at me and then getting my invitation to come up. That’s creating structure, that’s resource control, that’s parenting.
You don’t have to deny your dog from doing things to show them you’re the leader, you just need to make things on your terms. Some simple eye contact is all you really need (a sit is fine too but make sure you still get the eye contact – that’s the important part).
So feel free to let your dog up into bed, under the covers and get your snuggle on each and every night. Just make it your idea first and everything will be fine.