It might astound you to hear that approximately half of all pet owners share their sleeping spaces with their pets. I suppose it depends which side of the fence you are on – if you already do this, then of course you are going to view it as entirely acceptable. However, there are also people on the other side of the fence, who think it’s probably unhygienic and therefore not a healthy practice. So, is there now a definitive answer to should dogs sleep in your bed? Keep reading and you’ll find out…
The practice has been occurring through the ages, but the question about whether it’s right or wrong has been raging on possibly since the Victorian era. A recent Australian study has started to look a little more closely at human-canine sleeping arrangements to try and answer this question.
In an article in Springer’s journal Human Nature, the authors argue that society regards both human-animal and adult-child co-sleeping with the same unnecessary apprehension.
“These concerns should, however, be set aside because both practices have their benefits”, says lead author Bradley Smith of Central Queensland University in Australia.
Why would it be wrong, when it used to be a commonplace occurrence? In the times of Neanderthal man, it was very normal for humans and animals to sleep around the fires together. Anyone who has read Jean Auel’s series of books that start with The Clan of the Cave Bear will know the heroine is the best of friends with more than one horse, and then latterly a wolf as well. (By the way, if you like a good sweeping novel, I highly recommend these books – take a look here USA or UK).
They are always bunking down by the fireside together!
So what changed between those times and our current sleeping arrangements?
Even in medieval times, sleep was often quite a public affair. A bedroom could be quite a communal place, with people coming and going and multiple people in one bed – and before your mind starts to wander, not for anything other than sleeping – well, not usually anyway! Quite often, and particularly in poorer parts of society these type of arrangements were necessary to help keep warm during the night. And if animals were also included, it was probably the more bodies the warmer the bed!
However, along came Queen Victoria. Basically in Western Society, during Victorian times we appeared to become a bit prudish! As a part of becoming a so-called civilized society, social norms and practices began to change. It became the perception that a “civilized” person would sleep in their own bed, and be suitably attired with sleeping clothes. It is quite funny, as I think these social standards have since become a bit more relaxed – can you imagine the views of some of those people on the state of current sleepwear, or lack of it, depending on what is normal for you!
It should be noted however, that just because Queen Victoria reigned over the English Empire, didn’t mean that all cultures worldwide observed these changing sleeping practices. Even today, many cultures around the world still sleep with their children from birth.
In their paper, Smith and his co-authors compare human-canine sleeping with adult-child co-sleeping and argue that both forms share common factors for establishment and maintenance, and have similar advantages and disadvantages.
So what are the advantages and disadvantages of letting a dog sleep in your bed?
The psychological benefits of allowing your dog to share your sleeping space (bed or bedroom) may include feelings of security, bonding with another physical being, and ultimately helping both parties to feel good. The disadvantages may be purely physical – that is, you may have a disturbed sleep, particularly if you are a light sleeper and disturbed easily!
So back to the question of should your dog sleep in your bed? The authors of the study made the following statement:
“We propose that human-animal and adult-child co-sleeping should be approached as legitimate and socially relevant forms of co-sleeping.”
In layman’s terms, if you would let your child sleep in your bed, then letting your dog do the same is no different.
In Western society now, pretty much anything goes. Sleep is viewed as an individual experience, that is private. It’s meant to be a functional thing, that lets us rest and recuperate on a daily basis. So my answer to the question is, yes, let your dog sleep in your bed if it makes you both happy! I don’t think it’s any less hygienic than having a dog in your home, and handling/cuddling them However, you may want to change your sheets a bit more often!
Do you want to have your say? Feel free, and make use of the comments section below. I would love to know what people think, whichever side of the fence you are on.