The dog is sleeping peacefully, gently breathing in and out. Every once in awhile, her whiskers twitch, her eyes dart back and forth under their lids, and her feet jerk as if she’s chasing squirrels in her dreams. Then, her ears, nose, legs and tail – which seem to never stop moving when she is awake – surrender to stillness and the comfort of…her blanket? Her bean bag? Her crate? The sofa? Your bed?
Your adult dog spends about 12 hours of her day – half her life – sleeping. Where she sleeps is important to her emotional and physical health, as well as to your family’s.
Most indoor dogs sleep at the foot or side of their owner’s bed, on a favorite blanket, cushion or dog bed, placed in a warm part of the room away from drafts. It’s normal for a dog to nap in the master bedroom when your house is empty during the day because it smells like you. She also may enjoy several “secondary” dog beds in other rooms, where family members like to congregate. Or, she might prefer her crate, a retreat where she can enjoy the privacy of the den that doggy natures crave.
Nightshirts, Beans and Sheepskin
If you use your imagination, there are as many kinds of dog beds as there are dogs. Internet sites, pet stores and pet-supply catalogs are filled with them. They come in styles and at prices that can satisfy the most humble dog owner or cater to last week’s newest millionaire. Here are some examples:
Baskets. A wicker basket with a pillow or bean bag inside is a common dog bed. Dogs who love to chew, however, can dismantle a basket and injure themselves by swallowing sticks. If your dog insists on chewing her “bed post,” an inexpensive plastic basket that’s easily replaceable may be your answer.
Blankets. Whether you line your dog’s bed with towels or old flannel nightshirts that smell like her favorite person, be sure that the materials are washable and flameproof, and wash them often.
Donut beds. Some dog beds are constructed by surrounding the center with padding to hug your dog when she hunkers in. Those made for smaller dogs sometimes allow her to crawl inside so that her head is covered, too, giving her a truly comfy den for security.
Bean bag beds and hassocks. Outer covers of fleece, sheepskin, lambswool and other fabrics cover dog beds shaped like pillows or hassocks. When these soft fabrics cover beans, the bed shifts to hold your dog’s shape as she changes positions. Cedar and other materials also are used to fill dog “mattresses” covered in fabrics that repel moisture.
Raised platforms. Some dogs prefer to sleep off the floor. Low platforms made of a light wood or aluminum frame with canvas stretched over it suit these pets just fine.
Crates. Every dog should have a crate or kennel where she can retreat when denning instincts take over. The crate, her “cave,” can be wire or Plexiglas. A variety of sizes and styles are available, many of them portable. Not only does the crate help when housebreaking your puppy or in keeping her out of mischief, it also affords the adult dog a haven at home and when staying with friends or in a motel.
Her Bed vs. Your Bed
Should your dog be allowed to sleep in your bed, with or without you? Probably not. If you decide to let her share your personal retreat, be prepared to deal with all sorts of dominance situations that can occur. Consider these examples:
Have you ever visited a friend for a weekend or holiday, only to find yourself sharing a bed with the family dog? Even dog lovers might not sleep soundly with a strange canine beside them. No guest can get a solid night’s sleep if an adorable little Yorkie finds strange toes as exciting as a new toy.
Power struggles and “love triangles” can develop when a single person who sleeps with his dog brings a human girlfriend home. Many lovers’ spats and break-ups originate with the hurt feelings of a dog denied her usual sleeping place. The request to “love me, love my dog,” can be a legitimate one, so long as it doesn’t require sharing a pillow.
Children and teenagers who are close to their dogs often disregard their parents’ wishes to keep the dog off the bed. When controlling child and dog become too much like nagging, many parents apply the “don’t ask, don’t tell” method and tacitly allow them to share a bed. This is never a good idea: Sooner or later, the child grows up – decides he or she doesn’t really want a doggy sleeping partner – and the nightly dominance dramas begin.
Your dog should never be led to believe that she has a right to your bed. As a pack animal, she understands that claiming the obvious position of power atop the leader’s bed will make her your household’s dominant member. Training anecdotes abound in which the family dog wages a war each morning when the owner attempts to make the bed. One woman confessed that the face-off concluded each morning when she turned on the vacuum cleaner and aimed it at the dog.
There’s got to be a better way, and that way is to never let your dog in bed in the first place. If you must, save it for the rare Sunday morning when it’s understood to be a special treat.
Above all, if your dog nips at you when claiming possession of the bed, call a trainer immediately. You need professional help.