Three Dog Night

by Lisa Ellman

I’ve been sleeping with dogs for years. Of course I’m referring to the canid species — well, more or less. I often have clients tell me, sheepishly, that they let their dogs sleep in bed with them. My reply is, so do I.

I wrote last month about leadership, so why should your subordinate dog be allowed to sleep in your bed? In the prior article I also mentioned spoiling them but setting rules and boundaries; just as one might do with a child. A “spoiled” dog is not necessarily a bad thing. My dogs have always been overindulged, but they know their place in the pack. It’s a matter of balance. Yes, they sleep in bed with me, but they know who the bed belongs to, and it isn’t theirs.

The number one rule of dogs in my bed is that I invite them to be there. I am the first one in bed and they wait on the floor until I invite them to get in. If they choose to go under the covers, fine (but this rule is clean with no fleas). If your dogs are in your bed before you at night, tell them to get off the bed until you get settled in, then invite them to join you.They can sleep wherever they want, as long as their butt is not in my face – hey, it happens!

The number two rule of dogs on my bed is that they’re not allowed to play. I don’t let my dogs play on my bed because I don’t want them to associate wrestling and playfulness where I sleep. I don’t allow them to have toys on the bed when I’m in it. The bed, my bed, is for us to relax and sleep, that’s it.

Since we’re on the topic of sleeping dogs, I must address a potentially dangerous situation: let sleeping dogs lie. When your dog is asleep and you want to move it, no matter where, it’s critical, for reasons of safety and respect, to make sure that your dog is awake and aware of what’s happening. If you’ve ever been unexpectedly woken from a sound sleep by someone, you know that it can be alarming. Often, when a dog is woken by surprise from a sound sleep, their startle response is activated and they lash out. They have no time to think; they just react. The dog only knows someone is hovering over them, or forcefully pushing and they feel threatened. All you need to do is clap your hands, or call out the dog’s name as you approach. Make sure the dog is awake and alert to avoid the startle. This is especially important for kids to learn. 

In bed, with your dog and yourself asleep, it’s not likely that you will make any type of movement that would cause them to be startled or abruptly awoken.

So go ahead and sleep with your dog(s) if you want to, they’re so nice to cuddle with, and they keep you warm!

Good Dogma has been training humans and their dogs since 1996. Readers are invited to submit questions to gooddogma@hotmail.com. Contact information for all offered services can be found at www.GoodDogma.net.