Over half of pet owners admit to sleeping alongside their dogs. While there are many benefits to snoozing with your canine companion, some vets warn it can be a risky business, especially in the winter months.
One of the main concerns is overheating. During cold spells, dogs are more likely to snuggle in your bed under the covers for warmth. If you’re layering up on thick blankets and duvets, however, then some dogs may struggle to get out of the bed if they’re too hot, according to this veterinary researcher.
“Very small dogs, puppies, elderly dogs, and dogs with arthritis or other mobility problems may struggle to find a safe exit if they are getting too hot,” Katy Alexander, Veterinary Research Lead at Blue Cross in the UK, told The Telegraph.
“Weighted blankets which may be too heavy to allow safe exit should be avoided. Heated blankets may risk burns and the electrical cord poses a danger if chewed,” she added.
There’s also some evidence that sharing your bed with a dog might impact your quality of sleep. A study in 2020 found that having a dog in bed increased people’s movement throughout the night. Although none of the participants reported any trouble sleeping, the movement might have indicated that they weren’t sleeping as solidly as they thought.
This is just one side of the argument, however. Some pieces of research have indicated that bed-sharing with pets is not linked to any effect on sleep quality. Other studies have suggested that it might affect sleep quality, but the impact is very mild.
A number of other studies have investigated the pros and cons of having a dog in bed to conclude that it could actually improve the wellbeing of pet owners.
In a 2018 study, scientists concluded that women who sleep alongside their dog had “stronger feelings of comfort and security” during the night. Conversely, the opposite was true for cats, which most pet owners said was a disturbance to their sleep.
Likewise, researchers have argued how sharing a bed with pets has been widely practiced throughout history by a multitude of different cultures. For whatever reason, this sleeping arrangement suits many people and pets just fine, which is something scientists should look to understand more.
“Throughout history, humans have shared their sleeping spaces with other humans and other animals," said study author Bradley Smith, a psychologist at Central Queensland University in Australia.
"We propose that human-animal and adult-child co-sleeping should be approached as legitimate and socially relevant forms of co-sleeping,” he added. "Moreover, a comprehensive understanding of human-animal co-sleeping has significant implications for human sleep, human-animal relations, and animal welfare."