Most dogs are born cuddlers, always looking for quality snuggle-time with their owner. For some people, the idea of dog hair on clean bed sheets, and dirty paws treading on the comforter is too disgusting to bear, while others cannot imagine banishing their pups to sleep alone in another corner of the house. Letting the dog snooze in the same bed is an increasingly common practice.

A recent survey showed that over 42% of pet owners allow their dogs to sleep in bed with them. While this is still less than the majority, it does represent a large amount of the population, which leads us to wonder, is this healthy? We know it is easier (and more comforting) to cuddle a pet, but for safety’s sake, here are some warnings and concerns to be considered.

Concerns About Sharing Your Bed With A Pet

It undermines “Pack Leader” mentality. Experienced pet trainers agree, that having a dog understand that their owner is the pack leader is one of the most important factors in training. If the dog sees himself as an equal, it would be difficult to obey commands, when there is no reason to believe the owner is his superior. Some vets believe sharing a bed may create a competition for dominance issues, if the pooch is already inclined to be rebellious. However, veterinarian Dr. Cori Gross disregards the concern, insisting that dogs without the alpha male complex, will not likely develop one simply because they share the same sleeping place as their owner.

Hygiene issues: The California Department of Public Health just published results proving that sleeping in the same bed as a pet could prove harmful, even leading to illnesses. (Not to mention allergies, sneezing, stuffy noses, etc.) The Department of Public Health’s primary veterinarian Ben Sun warns against problems like Chagas disease, scratching infections, cat-scratch disease, not to mention the potential for fleas, mites, and ticks if your dog or cat has not been carefully checked. One boy in Arizona contracted a plague from sleeping with his flea-ridden cat (fleas have been discovered to be bubonic plague-carriers in the western coast of America. Which is a bone-chilling concept, considering the history of that disease). Other illnesses that you can get from sleeping with a pet are Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, and meningitis.

Though these cases might be very rare, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that over 100 of the 250 zoonotic diseases actually infect humans through domestic pets.

However, as long as the pet is regularly washed, checked for parasites, and taken to the vet, the odds of contracting an illness are not extremely high. One further note on the hygiene considerations, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) advises pet owners to use common sense, stating that though zoonotic diseases are uncommon, people should be active about washing their hands and helping their pets stay in good sanitary condition.

Other downsides to think about: You might wake up more often, if your dog shifts around in his sleep, or if he suddenly smells something, and wakes up barking to beat the band. If your pet is still working on being potty-trained, you could wind up with an accident in your bed (what a nightmare that would be!), and if he happens to snore, it could be noisy night of restlessness for you. Marriage experts note that a dog sleeping in between a husband and wife actually creates emotional division that is highly detrimental. Cuddling and sleeping in close proximity to each other is one of the key “Seven Secrets of a Successful Marriage” that authors Elizabeth and Charles Schmitz described in their book. (Some dogs have been known to edge out their owners, taking the central part of the bed for themselves. If this starts to happen, then your dog is assuming the leadership role in the pack hierarchy, and he must be moved.)

Positive Aspects of Sharing Your Bed

(These are pretty obvious, so we will just list them!)

  • Pets are comforting and warm.
  • Dogs make us feel safe and protected.
  • Petting and holding pets actually releases oxytocin (a content/safe/happy) chemical in our bodies.
  • Having pets nearby makes us happy! (Here is the proof!)

Ultimately the decision is up to the pet owner, to choose what is best for him and his family. Our job is to provide the facts so that our readers can make educated decisions, being aware of the risks and advantages. The good news is, if you and your spouse decide to keep sharing your bed with a canine companion, the odds of contracting a horrific diseases or watching your pet develop behavioral issues are decently low. As Larry Kornegay, the president of the AVMA, says “If you have a healthy pet, you probably have a healthy family.”