Where Is Your Dog Sleeping Tonight?
I’ve heard many answers to this question: in the garage, in his dog house, in the laundry room, on the couch, in my bed, in a crate, on a dog bed, and even anywhere he wants. What’s the best answer? Near his human.
Dogs are social animals, and they like the feeling of belonging to a group and having companionship. Many, given the choice, will follow their humans from room to room all day. So it only makes sense that they would want to be near us when we sleep. There is safety in numbers for them, so sleeping near their “leader(s)” helps
them feel safe, so they can more easily rest.
When they sleep alone, they are often alert to subtle shifts and potential dangers. Some dogs are by nature very vigilant. Being able to really go “off duty” and get a good night’s sleep is important for them. Puppies that sleep near their people usually sleep through the night (without potty accidents) sooner than pups confined away from their humans. Also, having your dog sleep near you enhances bonding.
This doesn’t mean the dog has to be in bed with you, although some people enjoy that degree of closeness. If you enjoy having your dog in bed with you, just make certain of a few things: Your dog waits for permission to get on the bed, will get off the bed without a fuss if you ask, and settles down to sleep instead of thinking the bed is for games. If your dog can do all these things, then you have a perfect sleeping partner. If not, I suggest keeping the dog off the bed until he masters those skills. For some dogs, sleeping on the humans’ bed can reflect a lack of leadership in the house and be related to other behavior problems.
You could also use a dog bed or crate in the bedroom. Many young dogs need the crate to prevent them from getting into mischief at night. It helps create good habits. Most can eventually be transitioned to sleeping on a bed, but some still prefer the coziness and security of their crate. My dog started in a crate but now sleeps on a dog bed right next to my side of the bed.
It takes some time to adjust to sharing your sleeping space, with a dog or another human. So don’t be discouraged if neither of you sleeps too well for a few nights. You may have to get used to the dog standing up and circling to change positions. Your dog may have to get used to your snoring or getting up to use the bathroom. If you have some real limitations that make sharing a room impractical, at least move the dog as close as possible, like outside your door or in one of the kids’ rooms. If your dog is in the garage or outside, try moving him one step closer to being with you.
I don’t recommend letting the dog sleep “wherever he wants.” Most dogs thrive on having some boundaries and expected behaviors. Regardless of what happens during the day, at night you decide where you want him to sleep. You can use a baby gate in the doorway to your room or close the door for the first few weeks until he adjusts to the new routine.
Take your dog’s physical comfort and needs into consideration as well. Some young puppies need to sleep “bare” so they don’t soil or chew their bedding, but once past that stage, most dogs prefer something soft to sleep on. If you keep your room quite cool, you may want to provide a bed or blanket the dog can snuggle up in, or cover part of his crate for extra protection.
Avoid having your dog in a draft, or where it’s too warm. My dog used to be quite warm all the time, but he now prefers being covered with a blanket on cool nights. You can also use a simple “night-night” type cue to tell your dog it’s time to go to sleep.
Cricket Mara operates a dog behavior consulting practice in Corrales called Pawsitive Dog (www.pawsitivedog.com). Send comments and questions to email@example.com.