Should My Dog Sleep In My Bed?

by Wayne Booth, the Dog Training Blogger on December 3, 2008

This is a subject I have to address once or twice every week. It can be a very serious problem with some dogs. The role of dogs in our lives has changed a great deal in the last 100 years. There was a time in the United States and many other countries when dogs were not allowed in the house. In your great-grandmother’s day most dogs were outside dogs. They may have slept in the barn or under the porch. Wealthier people kept lap dogs but most farmers and working people had dogs that had to earn their keep in some way. These dogs were expected to do some work, whether it was herding stock, killing rodents, or protecting the farm.

Today most dogs are kept as pets. Instead of having jobs to do our dogs have become virtual family members. We love our dogs so much that this is not surprising. But it is sometimes confusing for a dog. Instead of having a well-defined role in the household as a dog, your dog is caught somewhere between being a dog, a pet and an almost-human. When this happens your dog can begin to challenge you and show aggression because he doesn’t respect your role as leader.

Many people routinely allow their dogs to sleep in the same bed with them today. Is this a good idea or not? There are millions of dogs who sleep in the bed with their owners and it never results in a problem. However, experienced dog trainers point out that in cases where a dog does begin to show aggression toward family members the dog almost invariably is sleeping in the owner’s bed. In these cases, when the dog begins showing aggression toward family members, the dog MUST be kept out of the bed.

The reason for this is simple psychology. You have to return to basics with your dog. You have to remind your dog that he is a dog and you are the leader in your home. Sleeping in the bed with you is a privilege. It is not something that he, as a dog, is entitled to without your permission.

Along with removing his bed privileges you will need to take away other privileges from your dog to lower his status. He will need to wait to eat until after you have eaten. He should not enter rooms before you do, for example. If your dog is showing signs of aggression to you or other family members he is probably asserting himself over you in many small ways in the house. You will need to reassert yourself.

Don’t try to force an issue in a way that could put you in any danger. But in small ways, in interacting with your dog throughout the day, do things to remind him that you are in charge. Teach your dog some obedience lessons. Teach him to sit before feeding him. Teach him to sit at the door before letting him go out. All of these small lessons remind your dog that he is dependent on you for all the good things in his life. They help you re-establish your authority.

Keep in mind that you should not try to take a toy or food away from your dog, especially if he is having problems with aggression. Your dog may have issues with giving things up or with guarding things.

If you think that your dog’s aggression presents a danger or if making these small changes does not help, don’t hesitate to seek out a professional dog trainer. Aggression can be a serious problem and may need more help.

Remember, if your dog does begin to show aggression toward you or other family members make a bed for him on the floor or in his crate and do not let him sleep in your bed for the time being. He will need to be reminded of his role in the household. The mere physical position of him on the floor and you up higher, in the bed, makes your point.

There is no rule that says you have to allow your dog to sleep in your bed. Many longtime, devoted dog owners have dog beds in their bedroom or have their dogs sleeping in crates in the house. What’s most important is that you and your dog have a comfortable relationship that fits your lifestyle.

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Daryl Houser 12.04.08 at 7:55 pm

Wayne,
I have been having an aggression problem with my beagle. He had become extremely aggressive towards me, my fiance, and my family when he comes to visit. Harley has been sleeping in the bed for the past year and just recently I have decided No More. Thank you for clearing this up and addressing my problem. It is greatly appreciated.

2 Wayne Booth 12.04.08 at 10:33 pm

Daryl - I’m glad you enjoyed the article. You may need to get a local trainer to help you with a little training and behavior modification.

3 Paul 12.08.08 at 12:29 pm

From your experience, do you feel that resource guarding is 100% attributed to a lack of proper leadership?

4 Wayne Booth 12.08.08 at 2:44 pm

Hi Paul

Thanks for the comment. Yes I do think it has to do with lack of leadership. The dog thinks he is in charge because he has been made an equal.

5 Kim 12.20.08 at 1:04 am

I enjoyed this article in particular because I have a 8 month old male border collie who was attempting to show dominance behavior where my bed was concerned. My 9 year old female has been sleeping with me for years with no problem. But he began to anticipate my getting into the bed and would jump on the bed and put himself in a blocking sort of position. He also would do this with my 9 year old when she would attempt to get in the bed as well.
Early in his training he was taught “leave it” “take it” and “drop it”. The leave it command turned out to be very handy in this situation because it let him know that the bed was mine and only after hearing “take it” was he aloud on the bed. Hince, as you said before, I was giving him permission to get on the bed.
He was also as I said taught “drop it”. Because of this I have no problem with obtaining anything he might have or pick up. He is reinforced for dropping whatever he has with something that is as good or better than what he had or picked up. I think it keeps the “possesion” problem at bay as well as keeping him safe from picking up something that may be harmful to him.
Thanks again for the article. Safe Journeys and Dog Bless!

6 Monique 04.21.09 at 10:35 pm

We have a 2.5 year old beagle, very non aggressive but over the past 3 months she’s peed on our bed 3 times. She sleeps in our bed at night and has for the last 2 years. I don’t know what to do other than retrain her not to sleep with us which at night is a nightmare in itself when she cries. Any advice would be great.
Thanks,
Monique

7 Wayne Booth 04.22.09 at 6:31 am

Hi Monique

Yes you need to get your dog out of the bed and into a dog bed or crate at night. If needed you can put her in another room so you don’t hear the crying, until she gets acclimated to the crate.

Find a good trainer/behavior specialist in your area who can help you if needed.

Wayne

8 Jennie 11.14.10 at 10:13 am

Hello, we have a 1.5 year old Jack Russell. I work at home and spend a lot of time with him. He seems to mind better for me than others in the house. I am concerned lately as he has started to growl and jump at others who disrupt him when he is sleeping or walk into the room when he is in bed. After reading, your article I agree it probably time to but him in the crate at night for a while. Do you suggestion a specific amount of time? What triggers them to start acting this way out of the blue? He was fine up until a few weeks ago?

Thank you
Jennie

9 Wayne Booth 11.14.10 at 11:41 am

Jennie:

What you are experiencing has become an epidemic in the last 5-6 years. My dog training business is consumed with this very problem.

The reason your dog acts this way is because when you but a dog in your bed it becomes an equal and you are no longer the Alpha in the pack. Of course there are millions of dogs sleeping in beds that are not a problem but those are dogs that are either trained and know there position in the pack or don’t want to be Alpha and or happy to allow you that position.

If you are in the Nashville, Tn, Chattanooga, Tn or Huntsville, Al area take a look at this http://www.caninebehaviorspecialists.com/family_aggression.html and give me a call if you would like some help. If your not in my area find a great trainer to help you. Getting your dog out of the bed is important but some good training is a must to get rid of this problem.

Wayne Booth
http://www.DogTrainingBlogger.com

10 Terry 06.01.11 at 11:21 am

I have to 2 year old Chihuha mixed with a Min Pin and he doesn’t like to sleep in his bed or eat dog food. When everyone is going to sleep he choses a bed to fall asleep in and periodically during the night he will enter different rooms and sleep with each family member. We thought it was his need for human body heat.I think he believes he is a human.

11 Delana 08.15.11 at 10:26 pm

I have a 6 month old maltese/shitzu mix and he is a very adorable and lovable puppy, but he does have aggression problem and likes to bite and snap at me and family members, and we say “no biting!” he stops but starts snaping and barking and growling again, he is a sweet puppy but this problem is getting out of hand and im running out of ideas. I let him sleep in my bed sometimes but he doesn’t seem to like the bed because he moves around alot as if he is trying to find a comfortable spot so i believe he prefers the floor. Help please!!!

12 Wayne Booth 08.18.11 at 3:38 pm

Delana, if your in the Nashville area give me a call @ 615-776-9663. I work with that do everyday.

Wayne

13 Dee 09.02.11 at 1:24 am

I have had a5 year old shih tzu cross for about 4or5 months now and he has his own bed on the floor of my room. I usually let him on my bed for an hour or so when I’m reading, but then when it’s time to go to sleep I put him in his bed. This has really worked well for us however on occasion he has jumped up on my bed in the night to curl up at the foot.

14 Crystal 11.25.11 at 9:28 pm

My dog is the most perfect bed-mate. She gets up when invited and jumps right back down when asked to leave. I often stay up late and if she goes to sleep before me, she sleeps in her bed (on the floor next to the kitchen table) or on the couch (where she likes to spend most of the day… which is fine with me). If I’m at the table typing and working she’s right by me even if she’s sleeping or if I’m up reading she likes to be in that general area, but really isn’t glued to me or over attached. I’m at the table right now and she’s on the couch. The only thing is, if she goes to sleep before me (couch or her bed only…. She won’t get in my bed without me. I see that as her way of respecting that it’s my space that I allow her into). I never know whether to wake her up and bring her to bed with me or just leave her there and go to bed on my own. I like her in my bed, she’s well tempered and stays on her side (I’m a bed hog… and she’s an 11lb chihuahua/jack russell mix) But if I leave her on the couch or in her bed and go to sleep on my own, sometimes an hour later when she realized I’m asleep in there she cries at the door until I let her in (I like to sleep with my door closed). My only question is, when I go to sleep later her, is it better to wake her up and bring her to bed with me or leave her asleep and hope she stops crying to be let in? Thanks!

15 Crystal 11.25.11 at 9:37 pm

By the way, she’s 5 years old and has been living with me and my roommate for about 6 months. Before that she lived with one of my friends who usually went to be a lot earlier than me. One other funny bed thing is that in the morning if I get up before her she’ll stay in my bed while I have my coffee (doesn’t bother me because I don’t make my bed then… if at all) If I do go back to make my bed and tell her to get down she always obeys immediately and respectfully. On an average day she’ll usually get out of bed while I’m getting dressed (after coffee) and prance around while I get ready then when I’m done she knows it’s walk time. So our normal routine is pretty good and she knows that I’m the one in charge… It’s just the confusion when I stay up late that I’m not really sure how to handle best. I’d appreciate any advice, I really try to remember that no matter how cute she is, she is a dog and thinks like one and I am a human who needs to take the alpha role. I’m looking forward to reading your advice!

16 Wayne Booth 11.26.11 at 4:14 pm

Crystal:

Wake her up and take her with you so she doesn’t wake you up later !

Wayne

17 Bob 06.30.12 at 7:08 pm

Hi I have 2 fully pedigree shih tzu’s ( Lucy and Benji) and are lovely dogs but only Lucy is playfull. But this aint the problem, Lucy is constantly biting and jumping over Beji (boy) dragging him by his ears and biting his leg and neck and we push her off gently and tell her no. What can i do to stop this or should. when we first got Benji she was scared and frightend as she would back of if we approched her and move back when she’s I between our legs also she is always jumpy, he also blinks fast and hangs his head when I raise our hand to stoke him. We suspect he was abused by a previous owner and dident have much rights what can I do to show we won’t harm him. Thanks

18 Cheryl 07.25.12 at 5:29 pm

Hi! We have a 1.5 year old yorkie (Murphy) who has been sleeping on our bed for nearly a year. We just adopted a new puppy (Maddie) who is 10 weeks and is a yorkie/ maltese mix. Murphy has had mixed feelings about Maddie and has attacked her several times since we got her on Saturday. Murphy is getting better daily, however he still seems to have triggers, one being our bed. The attacks that have happened the last few days seem to stem from allowing Maddie onto the bed with him. Our vet says to no longer let Murphy sleep on the bed or on the couch. The couch will be a lot more difficult to accomplish, but since he is only 4lbs, he cant get onto the bed unless he has puppy stairs. Do you think if we stop letting Murphy sleep in our bed that it will help stop him from attacking her? Do you think it is necessary for us to also prohibit him from being on the couch? Thank you!!

19 Wayne Booth - Dog Training Blogger 07.25.12 at 6:15 pm

Cheryl, your vet is CORRECT! Get Murphy out of the bed and off the furniture. Some training would help as well.

20 penny 12.05.12 at 12:01 am

Is it appropriate to rub you dog’s face in the carpet if he is peeing there? Other suggestions as well, please.

21 Wayne Booth, the Dog Training Blogger 12.05.12 at 8:18 am

Penny, that is an easy one…..never.

22 paul 03.09.13 at 5:33 am

My puppy Harvey jumps up on my bed and wakes up in middle of the night i think he’s lacking a bit of insecurity aftyer leaving him for 2hrs at the groomers recently his first cut before this he was sleeping through the night any advice would be helpful

23 Ricky 03.16.13 at 8:24 pm

My 8month American pit bull terrier listens very well everything but one thing , my cat when he see’s her approaching he stands still stiff and body has this shake too it,. Sometimes he is wagging his tail when he see her but most of time he gets very stiff posture and has the shake thing going on and it’s like he is in a trants does not take his eye off of her, does not want too listen too commands when the cat is in the room,. Is this the prey drive thingy going on? I keep the cat in the room when I’m at work cause I’m a little nervous about this,. Is there any suggestions on corrected behavior for this manner?

24 Pauline 12.19.13 at 11:32 am

My new husband has slept with his adopted plothound since the day he brought him home…..how do I help my husband understand & what is the best way to teach the dog not to be in bed with us until invited….. intamacy is becoming an issue

25 Wayne Booth, the Dog Training Blogger 12.19.13 at 12:49 pm

Hi Pauline:

Training the dog is easy, your husband may have a harder time. You can use a crate, you can put a kiddie gate at the door so he has to sleep out side the bedroom or you can simply drag him off the bed with an “OFF” command. However that last one may go on all night.

Good luck with the dog and hubby!!!

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