Can My Dog Sleep in My Bed?

“Can my dog sleep in my bed?” 

This is one of those questions that, after years of working with families, I noticed people were anxious or sheepish about.

This, like so many other aspects of pet care, is one of those things that people have The Big Feels about. 

So let’s talk about it, because of course the answer isn’t, “Yes!” and the answer isn’t, “No!” It is our so, so, so dissatisfying answer of, “It depends!”

Is my dog sleeping in my bed going to cause problems, aggression, or dominance? 

Before we get into some things to consider when determining if your dog sleeping in your bed is the right decision for you, let’s clarify one thing. When people are anxious to mention their dogs sleep in the bed, I most often find that they are feeling that way because they feel that they are doing something “bad”. It usually goes a little something like, “Yeah, I know this is bad, and I probably shouldn’t, but I let McFluffs sleep in my bed with me.” 

To which I often respond, “My dogs do too! We’ve worked with them to find ways that everyone can get a good, safe night’s sleep. If we need to make adjustments to your bedtime routine we can, but I’m not here to fix what isn’t broken.”

There’s all sorts of information out there, but I can tell you one thing. In all my years of working with families, I have never seen sleeping in bed be the cause of behavioral challenges. 

But let’s pull out the kernel of truth to that myth, and that is that sleeping in bed can provide some unique (or not!) situations that can exacerbate challenges that are already there. And sometimes, it can help us catch challenges we haven’t discovered yet!

And, because he teaches me everything I didn’t ask to learn, we can use Griffey as an example…

When we first brought Griffey into our home, he wasn’t allowed to sleep in the bed. With two dogs who are new to one another, we wanted to make sure that they had consistent and constant supervision until they were well acquainted and we understood their relationship. Instead, I would sleep upstairs, in the bed, with Laika, and Griffey would sleep downstairs on the couch with my partner, Nathan. After they had started to bond, and we felt comfortable, we did allow him to start sleeping in the bed, and he did that for about two years without issues. 

About two years into having him, I awoke, halfway across the bedroom, as he was letting out a low growl. Thank goodness that my body was well-trained to respond to growling, I was out of there before I was even conscious! But this was the first time that we had ever seen Griffey growl at anyone or anything. I knew that something wasn’t right, so instead of moving him, I went and slept the rest of the night on the couch, and called the vet for an appointment first thing in the morning.

With some exploration with our vet, we found that Griffey had suspected spinal narrowing, and as a result, was in some pain. During the night, I likely rolled over and touched him in a way that hurt. To this day, I’m incredibly grateful that he responded with a very appropriate, and very appreciated warning growl. 

It was now troubleshooting time. Griffey sleeping in bed didn’t cause the issue. Griffey had a back injury, and my being an active sleeper led us straight to the perfect storm that exacerbated issues that were already there. And that meant it was no longer safe – for him or the rest of the family – for him to continue sleeping in the bed. We needed to hash out his health before we did that again. 

Now, sleep is important to me. I mean, it is important to all living creatures, but if I want to show up as the version of myself that I’m proud of, I know I need to get sleep. So our troubleshooting took some things into account: 

  1. What does Griffey like about sleeping in bed? Was it the cuddle time? Was it the warmth? Was it that it was the cushiest of spots? Was it the proximity to the rest of the family? 
  2. What is going to help Griffey transition out of bed as easily and with the least amount of disruption as possible? 

Throughout the years, we’ve done a few different iterations, but what we landed on was an elevated platform next to the bed (this has been night stands, storage crates, a storage chest, blankets, and pillows piled up…) where we could put his bed. The bed you’ve seen throughout our social media. And here’s why: 

  1. He likes to be under the covers. He asks to go under the covers, and his cave bed provides stable covers for him to ask to go under or to go under himself. It helped him stay warm throughout the night without leeching the body heat from the humans.
  2. Having him elevated next to the bed maintained that proximity to the family. Throughout the day, he will choose less “comfortable” spots near family members compared to more “comfortable” spots on the floor. I knew that if we asked him to go from sleeping in bed to sleeping in his bed on the ground, I’d be one cranky, sleep-deprived $)#*(#)@. 
  3. Having him elevated next to the bed in a clearly defined location meant that we could communicate clear criteria to him during the transition. 
  4. Having him elevated next to the bed also allowed us to give him his pets and scritches while he was falling asleep when he asked. 

And this clearly defined “Griffey bed” quickly became a spot that he looked forward to going to each night. 

Now that we have a better handle on his pain management and rehab, he will still sometimes come sleep in bed with us, but if he’s having an ouchy day, he will spend most of the night in his bed–and that works well for everyone. 

So, let’s circle back to that original question: “Can my dog sleep in my bed?” 

This is a personal question for each family and their pets, but let’s look at some factors I suggest pet parents consider when making this decision: 


Big Question #1: Do you want your pet in your bed? 

Honestly, this is the first question. If you don’t want your pet in your bed, then explore other options! If you aren’t sure, here are some questions to ask yourself: 

  1. Will both you and your pet be able to get a good night’s sleep? Sleep is important, don’t sacrifice it!
  2. Do you or your pet have allergies that will be exacerbated by both of you sleeping in the bed? (Yes, I have heard of pets being allergic to their people!) 
  3. Is this something you are ready to commit to in the long run? Transitioning pets out of sleeping in bed is often a challenging routine change for everyone.
  4. Is your bed big enough? 
  5. Do you have multiple pets? If yes, do you want them all in bed? If yes, will everyone fit comfortably? If they can’t all fit comfortably, is it going to stress you out having different sleeping arrangements for each pet? 
  6. Does anyone you share the bed with also agree to have a pet in the bed? 
  7. Do you have a new puppy and are they already potty trained?


Big Question #2: Can your pet safely, for you and them, sleep in your bed?

There are quite a few scenarios where this answer will be no. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but here are some questions to get your juices flowing: 

  1. If you have a pet experiencing pain, like Griffey, can you be certain that they will stay pain-free throughout the night?
  2. Does your pet have a history of resource-guarding that will be exacerbated by the bedtime routine? 
  3. Does your pet have any sensitive areas of their body or special considerations for getting in and out of bed? Is it safe or can you make it safe for the dog to get in and out of bed? 
  4. Has your pet shown signs of agitation or aggression coming out of sleep? 


Big Question #3: Do you have any prospective or upcoming life events that would require you to change your sleeping arrangements? 

Most of us are going to be lucky enough to have our pets for a long, long time. That also means they are going to be with us through many life stages! Of course, we can never really know what lies ahead, but here are some things to consider. 

  1. Do you have, or hope to have, little ones that will come to climb into your bed in the middle of the night? You may want the dog to sleep elsewhere to prevent the disrupted sleep!
  2. Are you planning on downsizing anytime soon? If you’re going from a queen bed to a sleeper in a camper for an extended road trip, you may need alternative sleeping arrangements. 
  3. Are you prepared to transition your dog out of your bed if something changes and you need to? For some pets, this is an easy transition. For others, it can be very challenging. 


Big Question #4: Do you have other concerns? Are you still unsure? 

That’s okay! Whether you’re unsure because you want to make the right decision for you and a new member of your family, or you stumbled across this blog because you have concerns about your pet safely sleeping in the bed, it’s okay to be overwhelmed. Crafting and fostering a comfortable and safe environment for ourselves and our pets is hard work. But remember, you don’t need to have all the answers or even half the answers. While no one but you can make this decision, behavior consultants are here to help you filter out the noise and determine the best path for you, your pet, and your situation. 

While it may feel like the options are “sleep in the bed” or “not sleep in the bed”, there are many options in between. We’ve helped families craft doggy “co-sleepers” like ours, we’ve helped families transition their pets from their bed to another nighttime safe space in preparation for a new baby, we’ve brainstormed ways to improve everyone’s nighttime sleep AND keep the dog sleeping in the bed, and we’ve helped families with special needs pets find safe and comfortable sleeping arrangements. We help people come up with creative solutions to their pain points and their concerns every day. Our team can help you find those middle grounds that keep you, your family, and your dog safe, comfortable, and harmonious. 


Now What? 

  • Do you feel a change to your sleeping arrangements is necessary? Start planning what that change can look like! Remember, there are often many options that are somewhere between all or none! 
  • Follow us on Instagram (@petharmonytraining) for more tips, tricks, and questions to ask yourself just like this!

2 thoughts on “Can My Dog Sleep in My Bed?

  1. I have two cats and one dog. I had my cats for about 13 years before I got my dog. (Cats are 18 now!) My cats used to sleep in bed with me every night.
    While I was crate training my dog, my cats continued to sleep in the bed with me.
    However, at some point during the night, my dog would wake up and start crying, and I would let him out of his crate and cuddle with him for a minute, and then he would come upstairs with me and get into bed, and my cats would jump off the bed and sleep in their own bed.
    I miss my cats sleeping in bed with me sometimes. But we have a nice balance in the house now. And now that they are older, I’d be concerned about them falling off the bed.

    1. That’s incredible that you found a system that works for you and your pets and has developed with your family over time!

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