This is a bone of contention for all dog owners, not only for Border Terriers owners. It is the good old ‘heart over head’ battle – or for some owners indeed, head over heart. But the question has now been asked since dogs have been used as domestic pets: should I let my dog sleep on my bed? Is it healthy, for both your dog and for you, to allow your dog to sleep on your bed? Or is it even hygienic?
Not on my bed, you are dirty!!!
Let’s get the biggest gremlin, the hygiene issue, out in the open straightaway. I don’t believe for a single minute that allowing your dog in your bed is dirty, or makes you a dirty person with personal hygiene or the hygiene of your household. It is your dog, and as such he/she would be kept as clean as you keep the rest of your house, and of its household. So, if you are more of a domestic goddess, you would probably take care to brush your dog thoroughly every time you get back from a walk, or to shampoo him/her once a week (cards on the table, I don’t!!!). If you, on the other hand, are not that carefully inclined, well your dog will reflect that personal attitude. Yes, your dog may put his paws on a paddle of mud or pick up all sorts from the ground, but by the same token then you would not want your dog to walk past your front door mat. My view is that, so long as you change your bedding regularly enough and hoover your mattress thoroughly, as you would do anyway, the problem is solved.
Too many cuddles do not compromise good training
But why should a dog be allowed in the bed with humans? Does it not defeat the object of training your dog to respect the order of the pack? Where are all those boundaries and limitations going to end up if not out of the window, if after all the hard work you have put into training your dog to respect the fact that you are the pack leader and he is is last in the pack, you then allow him in the human?
The way I see it is that what you decide to allow, or not allow, your dog to do is entirely the decision of the owner. Once you have decided on which boundaries and limitations to impose on your dog, then you can implement them on your dog without affecting training.
Some currents of thought amongst behaviourists even go a step further by saying that allowing your dog in bed with you, or even in the bedroom, reinforces their aggression. I do not believe so. Your dog may develop aggression as a result of an unwanted behaviour, such as over-protection of a spouse over another. In this case, you stop the dog from being naughty by restricting his/her human bed privileges.
In other words, you stop your dog from nurturing a naughty behaviour in the same was as you would stop your child. You then re-educate your dog provided he/she keeps behaving correctly.
Bond between dog and his owner
The first few days we had Indy, we would leave him downstairs on a comfy sofa, and the door shut. After a few days, Indy started crying at night. Remember, Indy was no longer a pup, but a full adult. My husband insisted for a few more nights that we should train him to stay downstairs, as allowing dogs upstairs would give in to allowing full rummage of the house, and this was not good. Allowing a dog everywhere in the house would mean not setting boundaries for the dog, but letting him believe he was at the same level of hierarchy as the rest of the family.
It goes without saying that, after very few more nights, and more due to sleep deprivation than overthinking the implications, we opened that door at night and slow but sure Indy started making his way upstairs. Initially he started sleeping by my son’s bed, and eventually settled permanently next to our bed, by my side.
Ever since – and this was 6 years ago – Indy has his bed, made of and old duvet and ragged bed covers, always by my side of the bed, including when we go on holiday. On the rare occasions when I have been confined to bed rest due to flu or I have had afternoon naps on the sofa, Indy has had his snoozes in bed or on the sofa with me, but otherwise he is in the bedroom with us.
So, were we too weak and soft in giving in to Indy’s nocturnal cries all those many years ago, when we finally gave in to his demand to be with us at night? Has his sleeping with us caused his behaviour to become worse, or has Indy become more aggressive since? Has Indy’s snoring or shuffling disturbed our sleep? The answer to all of these questions is: absolutely not!!
If at all, you may forgive me for possibly wanting to read too much into this, but I believe being so close to each other has reinforced our bond of dog and owner. Sleeping in the same room has enabled us to keep an eye on Indy at night, whilst reassuring Indy that we were in the house with him. And I have read somewhere, this becomes particularly a necessity to dogs who spend longer periods of time in the house by themselves during the day. And Indy has – especially in the past when we used to be out of the house for longer hours.
Your dog is your companion
More and more behaviourists are doing away with the concept of ‘a dog should remain as such’. Don’t get me wrong, I do not agree with overly trying to ‘huminise’ your dog. I believe a good dog owner should respect the needs of your dog, and his/her canine nature and instincts.
But when getting a dog, surely you buy or adopt one (or two, or three!!) for companionship, and because you feel the need of an addition to your family. I do not necessarily expect you to start dressing up your dog. Nevertheless, allowing your dog on your bed will not preclude his canine instincts. In fact most dogs find sleeping on the big human bed more comfortable, as cosier and more snugglier.
Not all dogs will want to sleep on your bed, or even with you. Many dogs will be happy to be left in their bed in the utility room, or in the hallway. Some dogs will find it too crowded to have to share such a lovely comfy bed with the ‘hoomins’. But if your dog does enjoy the comfort of your bedroom and of your bed, he/she should not be thought of as spoilt.
Sometimes needs must
There may be odd circumstances when it is not possible for your dog to share the bed with you. Firstly, if you are in a relationship, you need to ensure that your spouse is in agreement. Whether you give in to the demands of the dog, or the requests of your partner, I shall leave that choice to you. Nevertheless, you must make sure that your dog sees both of you as his handler. Should he display an overprotective behaviour toward one of the two partners, that is when you impose boundaries on your dog, by training him that the human bed is off limit until the obstructive behaviour stops.
Other times, and especially if your dog is older or affected by back problems, you may want to avoid him/her sleeping on the big bed. You may want to avoid the dog jumping on and off the bed at the risk of causing himself more harm. In this case, however, you can still make a nice bed in the bedroom, so that your dog can still feel close to you.
And likewise, if you suffers from allergies, or are a light sleeper, having your dog on the bed might cause disruption to your sleep. We would all like to sleep endlessly like our dogs, but we all have to go to work or run the household, or both, and nothing can be worse than not being able to function due to lack of sleep. Again, if your dog has the tendency to shuffle a lot, or doing a lot of noisy licking, you may want to consider encouraging your dog to sleep next to you rather than with you, by making a creating a cosy environment of duvets and old bed covers conducive of snuggliness for your canine friend.
What are your thoughts?
To sum up, I firmly believe that allowing my Indy on our bed has brought further closeness between the two of us. In turn the stronger bond has enabled healthier minded training, and a positive outcome. I do not make claims to being the most thorough of home keepers. By the same token, both my husband and I, and my son, are lucky not to suffer from any form of skin problem that could prevent us from having Indy in our bedrooms, or on our bed on occasions.
Some dogs may be quite happy and contented with sleeping elsewhere in the house, but if they prefer the closeness of your bedroom, they should not be stopped from sharing your bedroom or your bed for fear of affecting the owner-dog hierarchy – your dog will not stop respecting you and looking up to you as the pack leader, nor will he stop responding to your training. On the contrary, the closer bond will serve for a better outcome when it comes to better behaved dog.
Many dog owners may relay to my view point. Many others may run away in horror. Before you do so, please leave your comment below and share your feelings of approval, or indeed disapproval. Let me know if have had not pleasant experiences, so that we may share them with other dog owners.