Dogs do so many cute things that make us humans melt, and sleeping with us could be one of them!
However, a dog sleeping with you could make nights unrestful. It can be hard to stretch out on the bed, moderate your body temperature, and even be unsanitary to have a furry ball curl up at your side in the bed.
Dogs can develop a dependence on sleeping with you due to biological needs, being allowed into the bed too often, forming a habit, suffering from anxiety (especially separation anxiety), or wanting to protect you. You can encourage independent sleeping by offering your dog their own comfortable sleeping space, rewarding sleeping alone, and working on the anxiety.
Even if you once allowed your dog in the bed and then changed your mind, this article is for you.
In this article, I will explain why dogs want to sleep with you and how to encourage independent sleeping habits to take hold!
Ready? Let’s dive in.
Dogs developing a dependence on us is not an unusual thing. If anything, we’re partially at fault for this as we humans bred dogs to have this type of disposition.
Dogs are pack animals, retaining this biological need from their wild counterparts: the wolf. But as much as humans have bred out most wolf instincts out of dogs, we never wanted to breed out the social aspect. Therefore, encouraging a temperament that becomes dependent on us.
If we allow the dog to sleep in the bed with us for one night, then two, then three… the dependence grows, and your pup has to sleep with you to be comfortable and content.
That’s why deciding whether or not the dog is allowed to sleep in the bed early on becomes crucial to mitigate problems later on.
This can also build a habit that becomes harder to break. We humans often have nighttime rituals that help us sleep as well, and cozying up next to you in bed may be your dog’s nighttime ritual.
Dogs that suffer from anxiety (especially separation anxiety) are also very prone to being unable to rest without being right by your side. Your dog may worry that you will leave them while they’re asleep! Or your dog is so fearful of the world that they must be near you to feel safe enough to sleep.
On the flip side, dogs that are very protective of you may also be prone to being unable to sleep without you. Breeds, such as the German shepherd with very strong guardian instincts, want to be by your side to keep you safe. As such, your dog won’t be going to bed until you go to bed.
If sleeping with your dog impacts your nightly rest, it’s time to teach your dog to be an independent sleeper. Don’t let guilt eat you up over this either; it’s perfectly alright to not want your dog to sleep with you! Plus, it can build their own self-confidence to sleep alone.
First, you have to dedicate a place for your dog to sleep. Using a crate or kennel and making it super comfortable is a great idea for your dog’s personal space, as this imitates the comfort of a den.
By using a crate, you are utilizing a dog’s innate need to den, as crates mimic this. Dens have been used for hiding, sleeping, and raising young for a very long time by members of the Canidae family, including wolves, wild dogs, and other canid species. The impulse to den hasn’t vanished even though our furry friends have been separated from their wild counterparts for thousands of years.
As a result, dogs may feel more at peace and have their own private space to unwind and fall asleep in a crate or kennel. This makes the new sleeping arrangement a much easier transition.
Next, you should follow the guidelines for crate training. Offer food and special toys in the kennel and reward your pup for enjoying their time inside of there. The more your dog enjoys being in the kennel, the easier the nighttime routine will become.
Once the evening sets in, you’ll want to encourage independent sleeping in stages. Forcing your dog to be entirely alone right off the bat can cause a lot of anxiety issues to form! You want to avoid this.
Start by placing the crate right by your bed, so your dog is still near you. When your dog settles and relaxes, offer a treat reward. You’ll be amazed at how fast your dog starts to fall asleep in there!
As your dog’s comfort level increases, move the crate further and further away from the bed gradually. If you want your dog to sleep in another room, move the crate there after your dog has proven their comfort level with the crate being further away from you. If you’re fine with the dog sleeping in the room (just in your bed), then you can stop moving the kennel once it is in the right spot in your bedroom.
To be consistent with your dog not sleeping with you, don’t allow your dog into the bed at all. You don’t want to send mixed signals to your pup, as they won’t understand why they’re allowed in the bed with you sometimes and not other times! It’s an all-or-nothing deal regarding this.
If your dog suffers from separation anxiety or extreme anxieties that are not improving, it is time to consult a professional.
Look into hiring a canine behaviorist or professional dog trainer specializing in anxieties. They should help your pup gain independence over time.