As dog owners we are always one step ahead of science when it comes to the benefits of sharing our lives with our dogs.
Our anecdotal evidence is often confirmed years later when studies are performed on the relationship between humans and dogs. And the latest bit of information to hit our news feeds has to do with sharing our beds with our dogs!
I can’t recall a time when I have not shared my bed with my dogs. Even as a kid growing up on the family farm I would sneak the family dog into my room late at night and let Zephyer sleep on my bed.
As a mature (ahem) adult I still enjoy the comfort of having my four leggeds on the bed with me. And despite the contortions I often find myself twisted into when I wake in the morning, I actually sleep better with them than without them.
New research has confirmed what we already knew: that sharing your bedroom with your dog has some surprising physical and mental health benefits.
Now, if the thought of having Fido in your bed or even bedroom gives you the heeby-jeebies as you think of the smell, fleas, and dog hair, all of those issues are more about your ability as a dog owner to maintain a clean, healthy and well-groomed dog than the dog itself.
If your dog has a slovenly appearance and smells like the seawall on a hot summer day, then get your act together and clean up your pup!
I digress . . . anyway.
A study from the Center for Sleep Medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz. found that of the 150 dog owners that participated in the study, 41 per cent who shared their sleeping quarters with their dog reported having a better night’s sleep because they felt more secure with their pup at their side.
Additional reports found that people who let their dogs sleep with them felt less stressed throughout the day compared to those who do not own a dog. An added bonus is that dogs also reap the rewards by showing an improvement in their mental health and emotional well-being when they share a sleeping area with their owners.
Besides warding off the chill during the night, sleeping with your dog can help ward off depression. It is suggested that the supportive unconditional love that owners feel from their dogs helps to balance brain activity during the night and they wake happier and feeling less lonely.
Besides feeling more secure and safe during the night, people – single or in a relationship – felt comforted during the night when they cuddled up beside their pup.
Studies also showed that people who curl up beside their dog at night reported having a better and deeper sleep overall, waking up feeling more rested and alert throughout the day. Who needs caffeine when you have canine!
All of this makes for a pretty compelling case to bring Fido into the bedroom at night, right?
Well, not always. As touching as all this sounds it’s not always a bed filled with roses – or cute puppies! There are times when a dog should not be on your bed or even in your bedroom. This is when your dog is showing behavioural problems regarding aggression.
If your dog growls at you when you ask him or her to get off the bed, bed sleeping privileges must be revoked. This also applies if your dog growls at you when you enter the bedroom. That dog is no longer allowed in the bedroom!
These dogs are showing possessive aggression. The bed and or bedroom is a highly coveted item to the dog and it is protecting it by showing aggression in an attempt to prevent it from being taken away.
If you dog does show aggression in this manner it is best to work with a professional and address the issue immediately.
Using positive reinforcement techniques and treats can help a possessive, aggressive dog learn impulse control and how to share.
The evidence keeps stacking up in a favour of sharing a life with a dog. They are good for us, mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to go have a nap.
Joan Klucha has been working with dogs for more than 15 years in obedience, tracking and behavioural rehabilitation. You can contact Joan by email at email@example.com.