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Old 11-08-2004, 10:38 PM   #1
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Default [News] Sleeping With Your Pets

I sleep with my pets. For more than 20 years, cats have shared my bed. My late cat, Shlomo, used to spend the night perched on top of my head, and I found this purring beret deeply comforting. When I just had cats, it never occurred to me that having pets in the bed was anything more than a harmless personal preference. Then I got a beagle and discovered the issue of allowing your dog to sleep with you is deeply fraught. Supposedly, bed privileges destroy the owner's standing as pack leader. Allowing a dog in the bed, I learned, is a critical dog-rearing error, like giving brandy to quiet a cranky baby and ending up with an alcoholic teenager.

The dogma was everywhere. A recent Washington Post interview with a dog trainer stated that a dog in bed is "a sign the dog is completely in charge. Get the dog off your bed. It can make a bigger difference than anyone can imagine." How To Be Your Dog's Best Friend, the dog obedience manual by the Monks of New Skete, advises letting the dog sleep on the floor in your bedroom, but never in your bed. A dog trying to get too intimate should receive "slapped paws and a shove off"—not wholly surprising advice from celibate trainers.

Despite this, my beagle, Sasha, got the opportunity to settle in for the night when my husband declared he was evicting from the bed our two current cats, all 36 pounds of them. He explained, "In the middle of the night they run up and down my body, then they sit on my chest and crush it."

Since I am a light sleeper, I told my husband it was hard to believe his description of our cats' ramblings. Ever the considerate wife, I suggested he might be having nocturnal psychotic episodes.

"Do I have to install a video camera?" he said. "They march up and down my body like they're on a picket line, then they sit on me. They're driving me crazy."

A few nights later, cats still in the bed, I got up at 4 a.m. to go to the bathroom. When I returned, there was Biscuit, sitting in the middle of my sleeping husband's chest, peering into his open mouth as if about to perform periodontal surgery. Goldie was climbing up my husband's legs. I was shaken. It was painful, but I agreed the next morning to banish the cats to the basement at night.

That left an opening for Sasha. She liked to curl up like an armadillo between our pillows during the day, but we had always moved her to her crate for the night. Despite the warnings of provoking deep status anxiety (my own), I decided to let her stay in the bed. I figured it was impossible that Sasha could wreak more havoc than she already was; she obviously wanted to be with us; and I missed the cats. Except for the occasional bout of rabbit-chasing during REM sleep, she has been a quiet and companionable bedmate. While her daytime behavior seems no worse, I have been troubled that I might be making a mistake that could come back to bite me.

There is historical evidence that sleeping with pets is not necessarily aberrant behavior. According to The International Encyclopedia of Dogs, the xoloitzquintli, or Mexican hairless, was used in pre-Aztec Mexico as both pet and bed warmer (and dinner—let's not talk about that here). An account from a 19th-century explorer in Australia, as quoted in The Domestic Dog, describes how Aborigines were so devoted to their dingoes that the dogs were treated as members of the family and allowed to sleep in the hut. (The rock group Three Dog Night takes its name from the supposed Aboriginal practice of judging the coldness of an evening by the number of dogs required to keep warm.)

And here in the land of the electric blanket and the 600-fill goose-down comforter, millions of pet owners are, like me, sacking out with their animals. A survey from the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association found that about 62 percent of American dog and cat owners keep their animals in the house at night, and of those, about half the cats and one-third of the dogs spend the night on the bed. Dr. John Shepard Jr., a physician at the Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Center, discovered so many of his haggard patients slept with their animals that he did a survey to see how much the pets disturbed their sleep: About half the pet sleepers said their animal woke them nightly.

But here's the good news. My unscientific survey of veterinary behaviorists concluded that as long as your pets are good at sleeping with you, it's just fine to sleep with them. Pets are not going to get any uppity ideas just because you're all snoring together, they say. Dr. Marsha Reich, who has a private animal-behavior practice in Maryland, says she disagrees with the notion that your dog will try to dominate you if allowed in bed. "It has nothing to do with social status," she says. The dog, like the owner, just likes being cozy and having a soft place to sleep. "Unless a dog growls when you roll over, I don't have a problem with a dog in the bed."

Dr. Nicholas Dodman, author of If Only They Could Speak and director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, celebrates the "warm and fuzzy feeling" of all species curling up in bed together. This is not to say that some animals don't abuse the privilege. He tells of one couple who came to him after their Yorkshire terrier, who liked to settle in with the wife when she went to bed early to read, took to lunging at the husband when he arrived. There was an obvious solution, and the couple chose it: The husband moved to the guest room. When this proved maritally unsatisfying, they turned to Dr. Dodman. He says such animals have to be re-educated by being placed in a crate at night, or even attached to a dog bed with a long line.

The most common problem with sleeping with cats, says Dr. Lynne Seibert, a behaviorist at the Veterinary Specialty Center in Lynnwood, Wash., is—as my husband can attest—they don't sleep. "Most of the issues I see are about exuberant play," she says. "They've got a captive audience and end up pouncing and scratching." The usual cause is that the cats have been home sleeping all day, leaving them ready to party all night. Seibert recommends getting the cats more daytime stimulation and engaging in a play session with them before bed.

Dog trainer Kathy Diamond Davis, in an article at veterinarypartner.com, writes that there's no reason a well-behaved dog shouldn't sleep on the bed. However, she recommends having the dog trained to reliably obey a "get off the bed" command, to be used in particular for those moments when "people want to be intimate." (For couples who don't use that command, she does not deal with the psychological damage the humans suffer when they find even their most fervent lovemaking doesn't wake the dog.)

I was relieved to learn that Sasha can stay, but I realized, even if the experts had told me I shouldn't let her, it wouldn't have made any difference. Maybe some of us are just born with a desire to sleep with animals. (This could be a debate subject in the next presidential election.) Take my friend Nancy, who has slept with dogs since girlhood. So deep is this need that she and her husband spent years with their epileptic Dalmatian on the end of the bed. The dog regularly woke them in the middle of the night, in midseizure, flailing around and losing control of bodily functions. They became like paramedics, spending the night ever-alert so at the first twitch they could get the dog on the floor and covered in towels. Now Nancy has a Jack Russell terrier puppy. The puppy spends the night burrowed deep under their covers, attached to Nancy like a tick. Nancy is in heaven.

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Old 11-09-2004, 03:48 PM   #2
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"A recent Washington Post interview with a dog trainer stated that a dog in bed is "a sign the dog is completely in charge."

They say that like it's a "bad thing"?? I'm sorry, I thought all this time that Toto WAS in charge!!!!
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Old 11-09-2004, 09:21 PM   #3
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That dog trainer just doesn't know what love is! :P

I couldn't imagine it any other way, but then again, he may train huge German Shepherds or something... Heheheh
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Old 11-10-2004, 09:26 AM   #4
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I am sorry but my dog sleeps with me I can't sleep if my dog is not in the bed with me. I did not let him sleep with me until he was 1 years old. They just don't understand that is my baby.
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Old 04-27-2006, 03:51 PM   #5
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Love I sleep with my babies

I am the same as you, if my babies are not there, i cannot sleep, i use to let my Ali sleep with me too, that was hard work, cause he was far to big to go to bed.....i feel safe with my Yorkies at my side...they are so alert...the smallest noise they let me know....My 2 Persians sometimes come on the bed too.....I wonderd why i have been single for so long

I love my babies so much....i have to have them next to me
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Old 04-27-2006, 04:12 PM   #6
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I've always let my Yorkies sleep in the bed with me. Sometimes, I even let my lab sleep in the bed with me. And they all know full and I I am the dominant bitch in the family and that they obey me, without question. So allowing them in the bed has nothing to do with them thinking they're in charge. THAT has to do with how well you train your own dog and let them know who's boss.
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Old 04-27-2006, 04:23 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lilbumbleybees
And they all know full and I I am the dominant bitch in the family
LOL! sorry, but that sounded funny even though you mean like alpha girl, dog, person. my dogs have a dog house and they love to sleep together, they really dont like sleeping on the bed too much, but when i get my yorkie, i intend to have other plans!
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Old 04-28-2006, 03:21 AM   #8
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Default I too had read all the literature

And when I first got my baby dougal dog I was adamant he wouldn't go on the furniture or sleep in the bed.

yeah well that didn't last long! the cuteness overcame my hardline.

And as Dixie's second winter closes in she's finding the mornings just too cold to get out of bed.
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Old 04-28-2006, 03:46 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dougal&Little
And as Dixie's second winter closes in she's finding the mornings just too cold to get out of bed.
What a great picture!!

Awesome article, FE! Giggled all the way through it!
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Old 04-28-2006, 03:58 AM   #10
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My dogs are up and down all night. If they can't get comfortable on the bed they go to the floor and vice versa. Most of the time they don't wake me up.

Wyatt will wake me up of the mornings after my husband gets up and they both go out. He will run as fast as he can back upstairs and jump in the bed and come right up to my face and sniff me or give me a wet nose or a kiss.

Do I care? No way. He & Mollie both will snuggle right up with me most of the time one in front and the other in back and stay in the bed as long as I do.
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Old 04-28-2006, 04:27 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dougal&Little
And when I first got my baby dougal dog I was adamant he wouldn't go on the furniture or sleep in the bed.

yeah well that didn't last long! the cuteness overcame my hardline.

And as Dixie's second winter closes in she's finding the mornings just too cold to get out of bed.
What a great picture, I give it my " AHHHHH" award for the day! How sweet. and My dog and cat will remain in the bed, Bailey right up against me and Toto, my cat, on my pillow around my head.
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Old 04-28-2006, 07:21 AM   #12
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lexi sleeps with me too, wouldnt have it anyother way. she paws me to let her under the covers and inches her way close to me.. i feel she is safer when she is with me..
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Old 04-28-2006, 11:31 AM   #13
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Sleeping with Shelby has helped me sleep better after years (and years) of insomnia.

Someone want to do a study on THAT?
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Old 04-28-2006, 11:55 AM   #14
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Size...as the saying goes...does matter At one time we had a german shepard, a mutt (beagle size), and two cats. Hubby, I and all those animals slept in a DOUBLE size bed The biggest bed hog was Penny, the shepard. Penny didn't curl up in a small ball....no sir-ree stretched out full length...which when extended was MY height of 5'. Hubby sat up one night and said...."this bed isn't big enough for everyone...someone's gotta go". Told him...."hmmm, here's your pillow you know where the couch is"

Btw, the family that sleeps together, stays together

Another Awww + story, FE
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Old 04-28-2006, 01:08 PM   #15
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I love sleeping with Chachi and Jewels but couldnt imagine sleeping with a big dog in my bed.
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