I am guilty of it too. I know that I am facing a night alone and I don’t like it. My better half is a third shift computer specialist and the night time means going to bed alone 5 out of 7 days. It’s harmless, isn’t it, to pick up the pup and let him cuddle in next to me? Yeah, right. Letting your dog sleep on your bed opens up a while host of issues.
When your dog sleeps on your bed, he is also bringing with him all his little treasures he has managed to pick up throughout the day. Since he doesn’t shower daily like you do, you are relying solely on the power of his tongue to clean away the dirt and the general ook he has picked up from outside. I like sleeping with my dog. I don’t like sleeping with his ook. And no matter how many times I convince myself that he is clean enough, he brings it in with him. The evidence is in the way the blankets smell the next morning. Kind of ookie.
What’s worse is when your sloppy pal has brought home a few friends. Right before bed while you took him out for his evening pee, he was out there collecting souvenirs. Of course, you’ll notice them the next morning when you wake up with flea bites on your rear. This can be a little unsettling. No matter how much I love my dog, I do not love sleeping with bugs. In fact, we spend a lot of money on shelter to guarantee we won’t have to sleep with bugs. If humans enjoyed sharing their bed with bugs, we’d all still be sleeping in caves. Fleas don’t care whether it’s human blood or dog blood they are consuming. They just need the blood to survive.
Aside from the issues of dirt and bugs, you (or I should say we) are setting ourselves up for a lifetime struggle with our dog pal. After all, he’s no dummy. He knows that there is supposed to be hierarchy, one that leaves him on the floor with his own bed. The instant we bring our dogs into the bed with us, we are granting them a new place in the pack. Especially if there are other dogs in the household who don’t sleep with us. By allowing them equality at night time, we are being completely unfair to them by expecting them to recognize their appropriate place during the day.
We want them to stay off the furniture and to listen to us and respect our leadership. But then we completely undermine our leadership when we grant them their own space in our bed. For some dogs, this isn’t a complete disaster.
Some dogs have the personality to be able to tell the difference between beds, and know exactly which ones they are allowed on and when. However, this is very rare, and most dogs will start to take a more definitive stance within their pack when they are granted such an even role with their leader. You are sending them the signal that they are sharing in your leadership, and this signal is likely to at least eventually carry over into other aspects of their pack life.
When you elevate you puppy into a leadership position, he has a harder time dealing with your absence, visitors, and even other members of his pack approaching you. When you give up your leadership to a dog, you are making him responsible for your safety. How nerve wracking it must be to be suddenly thrust into a position of leadership without having to earn it, only to not have the ability to keep an eye on his pack 24 hour a day, 7 days a week. After all, you leave the house to go somewhere almost every day. How is he supposed to protect you as your leader when you’re not there? Now he has to deal with separation anxiety.
Letting your dog sleep on your bed lays out a whole host of new problems. Dogs that are in a position of leadership without a struggle are likely to experience significant anxiety when you walk out the door without them. This can lead to other behavioral problems in some dogs, like chewing, marking, and barking. Other dogs will simply hold a vigil every day until you get back. How fair is that? He should be at home doing what dogs do, not stressing over your whereabouts and waiting for your return like a father on the night of his daughter’s first date.
All of these things can be avoided by setting firm ground rules and keeping the dog off the bed. We, as humans, tend to forget that our dogs are less human than we would like to make them. Thus, we offer that they can reason, they know it’s just for a few nights out of the week, and that they can be retrained. The truth of the matter remains, that when we are caught letting our dogs sleep on our beds, we have stirred their place in the pack to an unsettling degree. And we have done this because we are selfish and want to snuggle our cute and loyal friends. As their humans, it is our job to make decisions which are better for them, not necessarily ask them to graciously fill our current need only to give them inconsistent signals the following day. After all, we are supposed to be their leaders, and the worst mistake a leader can make is to offer the pack inconsistency.