Many owners declare to sleep with their dog while many others are totally against it. Between preconceived ideas and subjective positions, the contradictory opinions do not help to make a clear opinion. However, one thing is sure, it is above all a personal choice. But is sleeping with your dog a good or bad idea?
From the scientists’ point of view
Let’s cut the suspense right away. Most of the studies that have been done on the subject have come to a conclusion. Sleeping with your dog is a good idea when it is freely chosen by the owner and accepted by the dog. And when certain conditions are respected, it would even allow to sleep better, to reduce stress, anxiety and fear and would significantly increase the feeling of security.
The effects on sleep
Scientists regularly conduct studies on the psychological and physiological effects induced by the relationship between humans and dogs.
One study, conducted in 2018 by two American researchers from Canisius University, focused on comparing the sleep quality and sense of safety felt by 962 women who slept with either a human (57%), a cat (31%) or a dog (55%). The results highlighted a less disturbed sleep and a feeling of safety more significantly increased by the presence of the dog than by that of the cat, or the human!
In 2015, the American institute Mayo Clinic, questioned 150 people who declared to sleep with their dogs. More than 40% of them indicated that they had noticed positive effects on their sleep, against 20% who reported having their sleep disturbed by the presence of the dog.
This same study also highlights the importance of the dog’s place in the bedroom. Disruptions were more noticeable when the dog slept in the bed and benefits were noticed when the dog slept in the same room, but outside the bed.
Animal assisted therapy (AAT) has long demonstrated the value of sleeping with a dog in certain pathological sleep disorders.
Effects on stress
Still on the study side, in 2015, scientists analyzed the physiological reactions of dogs and their owners, during a petting session. And the results are amazing!
Indeed, a short interaction (3 minutes of petting) measured a significant decrease in heart rate and cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and an increase in oxytocin levels (the love hormone) in humans. And on the dog’s side, the benefits were also there.
From the dog trainers’ point of view
Dog trainers have mixed views on the issue. Depending on whether they practice positive education or traditional education, opinions differ.
For positive education
Generally speaking, those who practice positive education do not object to sharing their room or bed with their dog. As long as it is done on your initiative and the dog obeys if you ask him to get off the bed.
Of course, hygiene issues are mentioned, but they are not put forward as a blocking factor to this practice which would have the advantage of strengthening the bonds.
The question of consistency in the education of the dog is also important. Indeed, it is easy to understand that if you have always forbidden your dog to climb on the bed, wanting him to sleep with you from one day to the next can generate incomprehension. And on the contrary, if he has always slept with us, to forbid him all of a sudden, will necessarily be badly experienced.
For the traditional education
On the side of the “traditional” educators, although mentalities are evolving, they are globally unfavorable. And the question of human/dog domination, which is the basis of this method of education, is the reason that most often comes up to justify this negative opinion.
Sleeping with your dog would create the risk that he would take your place as the dominant one and end up dominating you completely.
However, it is now established that there is no inter-species domination (between two different species) and that if it does exist within a species (between individuals of the same species), it fluctuates and varies according to the situation. A dog that is dominant in one situation may be dominant in another.
From a practical point of view
If the beneficial effects seem to tip the balance heavily in favor of sleeping with your dog, from a practical point of view, and particularly from the point of view of hygiene, the same is not necessarily true.
The detractors of this practice point out the unhygienic aspect of sleeping with your dog. Hair, fleas, ticks, ringworms, would potentially be found in the bed, and for the beasts, they would be more easily transmitted to humans.
Beyond the purely hygienic aspect, we must also be aware that some diseases that can affect dogs are also transmissible to humans. This is called zoonosis and in the register of these pathologist, we find, among others:
Immunocompromised and allergic people can therefore be penalized by sleeping with a dog.
Precautions to take
If you decide to sleep with your dog or if you already do so, and especially if he sleeps with you on the bed, here are some practical tips to avoid inconveniences:
Brush the dog frequently to remove dead hair;
Inspect him thoroughly beforehand to spot and remove ticks and parasites.
Make sure he is healthy, deworm him and remember to get his vaccinations;
Don’t make him sleep with you under the sheets;
Provide a special blanket or bedspread;
Wash sheets and blankets often;
Ventilate daily and vacuum the floors regularly.
And finally, with or without your dog, have a good night’s sleep!