Most people assume that having dogs in the bedroom is bad for the dogs as well as for us.
The fear is that the dogs will develop 'pack hierarchy' problems and try to dominate us. For us it isn't just the dog hairs and the stolen socks, but the potential sleep disruption. Yet the reality is that many of us do let the dogs in the bedroom, so what are the real issues?
According to a study by the Mayo Clinic in 2017 "sleeping with dogs helps some people sleep better ─ no matter if they’re snoozing with a small schnauzer or dozing with a Great Dane. There is one caveat, however, don’t let your canines crawl under the covers with you. The sleep benefit extends only to having dogs in your bedroom ─ not in your bed. According to the study, adults who snuggled up to their pups in bed sacrificed quality sleep."
It stands to reason, to me at least, that especially when you first bring a puppy home at just 8 weeks of age, that like all mammals it would sleep as part of the family group and to leave a puppy in a crate to cry all night feels unacceptable for good reasons. It wasn't so long ago that we were encourage to leaved our human babies to 'cry it out' and that if we spared the rod we'd spoil the child.
But many dog experts support the idea that dogs need to 'know their place' and should not be allowed upstairs or in the bedrooms as it can lead to dogs developing 'dominance' and other behaviour problems. This is an interesting area and would warrant further study. There may well be a correlation between the two but I'm not sure we can say that one causes the other.
Dogs have been artificially selected over tens of thousands of years specifically for their abilities to work with us. They have great social skills and now live in mixed species human-dog families. They value their time with us which is often at a premium because of our modern world of work. But compared to their wolf-like ancestors and their closest cousins, the modern wolf, they have lost some of their reasoning and cognitive skills. In fact, the relationship between a dog and a human is very similar to the relationship between a parent and a two year old child. Dogs depends on us to provide leadership, set boundaries and solve problems. We don't let our dogs decide how much to eat and how much free run they should have when off the lead. They need us to keep them safe.
So, when it comes to sleeping arrangements, if our dog is suffering with anxiety or other behaviour problems we may well want to provide them with their own safe space. Somewhere quiet in the house, partly shaded, cool, with lots of toys and soft blankets for nesting. We probably do want to make sure that our dogs build a strong positive association to this 'safe place' by feeding them and playing with them in that safe place. Indoor crates are ideal for this, especially if you have a quiet place in a utility room for instance. Our dogs may even benefit from having a bed time and understanding that when we set that boundary, that we mean it. If our dogs believe in the boundaries we set, it helps them to feel safe and for an anxious dog it is essential that they know that we are sorting things out and that they can relax.
If our dogs are struggling with their behaviour and we are using them as our own comfort blankets and teddy bears we may be missing opportunities to help them. It's not that snuggling on the bed is 'wrong' but that your dog may get a huge amount more from a training session with you or a super enriching walk and a night in their own bed.
Are you thinking of getting a new dog? Are you considering adopting a rescue dog or choosing a new puppy?
Are you thinking of getting a new dog? Adopting a rescue dog or choosing a new puppy. What are the issues?
Rescue dogs may have unknown history, or just a history that lacks detail and that can put people off.
Some people are attracted to the idea that you can adopt an older dog and miss out on teething and toilet training and crate training. If you are adopting an older dog, they may also be calmer and may even be partly trained. If you choose an older dog, your dog may also have more of a stable, proven, temperament.
On the downside you may worry that you don’t know about their experiences during critical socialisation and imprinting stages. You may worry that you have missed out on some bonding time and that there may be more work to do than you expected. However, there are younger dogs and puppies available for rescue too.
You will know that you are giving a dog a home who otherwise wouldn’t have one.
Choosing a new puppy
Puppies are most often brought into the world for profit so there is always a risk that you may inadvertently support puppy farming. Even if you are careful and use a really ethical breeder you are still supporting intentionally bring more dogs into the world while rescue centres are full. Even if you give your puppy the best home, its unlikely that all of the litter from which you selected your puppy will get such a good home, and in reality the chances may be slim.
If you are choosing a puppy though, you do need to choose an ethical breeder, for the best chances of a balanced well socialised puppy. You may be excited about the blank canvass that you are getting from your breeder, and perhaps just a little distracted by the undeniable cuteness of it all. Remember that you may very quickly get a full-sized adolescent dog on your hands.
If you are choosing a new puppy you can select the specific breed you want with the traits, exercise requirements, shedding and temperament traits you are looking for. You may want a dog which is hypoallergenic or good for agility or needs very little exercise. The reality is though that even if you are careful with choosing the puppy you want, the genetics of each puppy can vary significantly across one litter so there are no guarantees that you won’t need to put in more work with behaviour and training than you are expecting. First time puppy owners often under-estimate the costs and time needed to care for a dog so if this is your first time do your research and even offer to look after a friends dog for the weekend.
What are the real issues?
Whether a rescue dog or a new puppy, one thing is for certain, investing in some training is one of the best ways of ensuring that you and your dog have a long and happy relationship. Missing out on training significantly increases the risk that your puppy or rescue dog will be surrendered in the future.
Whether rescue dog or a new puppy, they will need walking come rain and shine, there will be vets fees, training costs, vaccinations, boarding when you are on holiday and walking when you are at work. The best chances of us keeping rescue centres empty is to understand the commitment when we take on a dog.
Can you tell which of these lovely has been rehomed and which has been owned from a puppy?
[all from rescue or rehoming}