One of the most controversial topics for dog owners, yet one seldom addressed in dog training books, is whether dogs should sleep on their owners' beds.
Arguments addressing its pros and cons are not limited to those pitting trainer versus owner; when it comes down to whether "Fido" should share the sheets, it's often owner versus owner.
Personally, I'm not a sleep-in-the-bed-with-the-dog person. As a Newfie owner, I have more than enough dog hair and slime in my life. My dogs sleep on large fluffy pillows on each side of the bed and they are perfectly happy with the arrangement.
But there are many people who would consider it a torture akin to waterboarding to spend a night without their dog on the bed. They go into withdrawal at the thought of not being pushed to the edge of their mattress each night by talon-equipped paws skewering the flesh between their ribs, the blood supply to their extremities shutting off under the crushing weight of a comatose canine or having an affectionate powderpuff snuggled against their face blocking oxygen to their brain.
I'm asked so frequently about this topic by new dog owners who want to start the pup off right, owners who say they "know" it's wrong but allow their dog to sleep with them anyway and couples asking me to weigh in on their he says/she says disputes on the subject, that a column seemed in order.
For starters, having a dog on the bed is about the owner's needs, not the dog's. With only a few exceptions, there is no right or wrong -- it's simply a personal choice. Dogs that don't sleep on the bed at night don't secretly mourn their lot in life wishing they had picked a kinder master. If they have a comfortable draft-free place to sleep, they are content.
On the other hand, a clean and parasite-free dog sleeping on the bed does not present any major health or hygiene concerns, although people who suffer from asthma, severe allergies or autoimnune diseases should refrain from even having a dog in the bedroom. Considering the documented benefits of the ability of companion (therapy) animals to lower stress and blood-pressure levels, it is not surprising that many people look at allowing their pets on their beds to be a form of relaxation at the end of a long day.
That is unless a couple disagrees on whether the dog should sleep on the bed, and then contacts me to referee and declare one the winner. To which I reply, "nice try."
Preferring to have what happens in the bedroom stay in the bedroom, I advise owners that since this is a people (read personal) problem it's one best addressed through compromise. And I have to admit to being blown away by some of the creative, although rather different, solutions that some couples come up with. Here are just a few examples:
Couple No. 1: The woman was determined to have the tiny unhousebroken dog sleep in the bed; her husband was tired of rolling over on to pee spots during the night. They compromised. The dog now sleeps in a crate, in the bed.
Couple No. 2: Disagreed about having their 50-pound standard poodle sleep on the bed. After weeks of compelling testimony pleading both sides of the argument, an agreement was reached. The dog is off the bed and the cat is on.
Couple No. 3: The blended family. Before they were together, the man had two large Labradors that always slept on the bed; the woman had two small dogs that didn't. Neither side was willing to give an inch yet they wanted this relationship to last, so they compromised. The big dogs now have their own twin bed in the bedroom!
Next week: Dogs on the bed? No laughing matter when the dog is aggressive.
And: To the lady who wrote asking for help with her destructive terrier that tears up paper while she's away, please resend your email. I lost it when my laptop crashed over the holidays.
Sherry Davis is a dog trainer/owner of CSI 4 K9s. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. These are her opinions, not necessarily The Californian's.