Spoiler alert: There's no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing the best place for your dog to catch some z's. But you do have the power to determine which sleeping option is the most comfortable for you and the furry friend in your life.
Whether you've already settled into a routine or you're still trying to decide between sharing a bed and giving your pup his own place to crash, we chatted with a few local pet experts to help you get one step closer to finally putting the debate to bed.
For your own dog, at least.
THE CASE FOR HUMAN BEDS
When it comes to owners who let their pets sleep on the bed, Tai Federico, a veterinarian at Riverview Animal Hospital, has noticed a pattern.
"The more emotionally attached you are to your pet, the closer it sleeps to you at night," he says.
If that rule is to be believed, Federico and his two dogs, Tesla and Doodle, should be considered total BFFs. Each night, the dogs can be found snuggled up beneath the covers all warm and cozy with Federico and his wife.
Sure, the dogs' occasional wriggling means the humans' sleep isn't as sound as it could be, the veterinarian admits. But is it worth it?
"Oh, yeah!" Federico says without hesitation. "It makes them happy, it makes me happy. What's not to love?"
> It boosts your bond. Some believe this is especially true since dogs are pack animals, sleeping and hunting together in the wild.
> Extra warmth for cold winter nights. Plus, your furry friend will never complain about your cold toes!
> Built-in guard dog. For those living alone and worried about nighttime intruders, knowing your cuddle buddy would "sic 'em" in a heartbeat could be a source of comfort.
> Your snuggle buddy could get clingy. For dogs with separation anxiety, sharing a bed could worsen the problem, experts say.
> Dog hair. Everywhere. Nighttime snuggles may come with the burden of having to change sheets more often. It may also come with the unintended consequence of having to bathe your dog more often — unless you don't mind a little dirt and mud on the pillows after a day at the park.
> Decreased sleep quality. While a 2018 study by the Mayo Clinic recently revealed that sleeping alongside your dog is not likely to disrupt your sleep patterns, some pet owners, like Federico, are still convinced their dreamtime is at least somewhat affected, though it may depend on dog's temperament, the vet says.
THINGS TO CONSIDER
> Your sleeping habits. Your cuddly little friend gets to sleep in all day, so he or she might not mind being disturbed by your tossing and turning. But Sarah Speer, director of operations at The Ark Pet Spa & Hotel in East Brainerd, says it's not unusual for her to see tiny dogs limping slightly the day after their owners rolled over on them by accident.
> Your bed's material. A feather bed may seem cozy and inviting, but just one tear from those excitable paws and you'll have feathers everywhere.
> Your house rules. If your dog is not allowed on the couch, they should not be allowed on the bed, Speer says. Dogs need consistency. It will be difficult for them to understand they're allowed on one piece of furniture but not another, she explains.
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THE CASE FOR DOG BEDS
Caitlin Jones, merchandise buyer for Nooga Paws pet store, has never had a problem with pets sleeping in her bed; she and her husband have shared their mattress with five furry bedfellows for years.
A few years ago, however, she found herself considering separate sleeping arrangements for one of her dogs, Tucker, when she noticed how difficult it was becoming for him to jump down from the shared bed due to his worn-out joints.
Each morning, the Irish Wolfhound mix would pace back and forth atop the sheets, eyeing the ground below as he contemplated the newly complex maneuver. Once he finally committed to taking the leap, however, his legs would often spread apart too far, causing him to smack onto the hardwood floor.
"He's just an old man," Jones says affectionately of the 13-year-old pooch, whose long, lanky legs had been causing him joint problems long before dismounting the bed became an issue.
After shopping around, Jones and her husband bought the aging pooch an orthopedic dog bed, which they set up in the bedroom right next to their mattress.
So far, it seems, Tucker has taken quite well to being the only one in the household who gets a little leg room.
"He loves his bed, and the other dogs just know that's his spot," Jones says. "He hasn't attempted to get on [our bed] since."
THINGS TO CONSIDER
> Your dog's sleeping habits. If your dog prefers to sleep curled up, Speer recommends a bed with a soft-sided frame along the edges. If your dog likes to stretch out while sleeping, however, it might be best to get a flat bed with no borders.
> Your dog's breed. For dogs that are genetically predisposed to arthritis, hip dysplasia or other joint problems — such as German shepherds, dachshunds and rottweilers, to name a few — it may be a good idea to invest in a memory foam dog bed. Researching your dog's breed can also help determine preferences, Speer adds. For example, since dachshunds are natural diggers, they might be most comfortable in a dog bed with a physical cover over the top, she says.
Aside from the obvious pros and cons of dog beds in general, the biggest considerations on both sides of the checklist have to do with individual beds themselves. Here are some of our favorites.
Kuranda Dog Bed, $70-$105
Raised off the ground by four peg legs, with soft bed pads available for added comfort, this easy-to-clean option is great for indoor and outdoor sleeping.
PetFusion Large Dog Bed with Solid 4" Memory Foam, $70-$120
In addition to its cloud-like memory-foam base, this option is waterproof with a cover that's easy to remove.
Snoozer Overstuffed Luxury Microsuede Pet Sofa, $180-$290
For those who want the best of the best, this top-of-the-line bed provides the perfect amount of support while still being comfortable for both large and small dogs.
THE CASE FOR DOG CRATES
As director of operations at The Ark Pet Spa & Hotel in East Brainerd, Speer says she occasionally finds herself trying to dispel the stigma behind dog kennels for customers who have seen horror stories of crate abuse on TV. But even as she lists the benefits of responsible crate use for housetraining, a small handful of animal-lovers still have difficulty picturing the kennel setup as anything but cruel, she says.
"I think it's because that's how humans are, so we think that's how an animal would feel. But their little canine brains are wired a little bit differently than ours," explains Speer.
Her favorite example comes from her own dog, a 150-pound Great Dane named Cash. ("Think Johnny Cash," she adds with a grin.)
Speer decided to crate train Cash as a puppy so she could keep him from leaping up on unsuspecting house guests.
"Like putting your kid in a room for an hour while you have company," she jokes.
Throughout the training period, she was careful not to use banishment to the crate as a disciplinary method in order to prevent the dog from associating the space with punishment, and in time, the enclosed lodging became something of a safe haven for Cash, who was prone to anxiety.
Now, he spends each night happily asleep on a dog beg in his extra-large crate with the door wide open.
"When he gets freaked out, that's his safe space, and I like having that option for him," Speer says. "As long as you do it right and there's no anxiety or aggressiveness associated with crating for [your dog], I think it's a great option."
> Peace of mind for owners. Imagine if you could drift off to sleep every night with no worries about waking up to find the contents of your kitchen pantry torn to shreds or a freshly delivered "surprise" awaiting you on the carpet.
> Easy to travel with. Plus, bringing the familiar hideaway on the trip could make it easier for your pup to adapt to strange, new surroundings.
> Long training time. Today, Cash will obediently retreat to his crate at the point of a finger, but the training process didn't happen overnight, Speer stresses. It took many, many nights, she says, several of which were filled with whining, begging and gnashing of teeth — and not all from the dog.
> More consequences for carelessness. Locking a dog in a crate for too long can lead to the development of harmful behaviors born from stress or boredom, such as sores formed by constant licking. Since dogs are social animals, the extended confinement can also lead to eating disorders, depression, aggression or hyperactivity, studies show.
THINGS TO CONSIDER
> Your dog's size. Your pooch should be able sit up comfortably without his or her head touching the top of the crate. Speer recommends owners always purchase crates a size larger than they think they'll need, especially if buying online.
> Your dog's past. If your dog is a rescue or has trauma related to kennels or other confined spaces, consider other options.
MidWest iCrate Double Door Folding Metal Dog Crate, $17-$78