As the old saying goes, “let sleeping dogs lie” - but where they lie can be quite another matter. Like dogs themselves, dog beds come in various shapes and sizes - so it’s important to find one to suit their build and temperament.
Depending on their age and size, most adult dogs require between 12-14 hours of sleep a day - more if they’re overweight, unwell or just certain sleepier breeds such as larger dogs or very busy active breeds such as collies.
Like humans, dogs need rest and recuperation to function at their best, so giving them a place to slumber in peace is very important. This is important to remember, especially with children in the home (for certain dogs who might become aggressive when startled).
The first consideration should be size - it should be big enough to stretch out in, but not too big (unless you’re in a multi-pet household, where you might find they want to snuggle with each other). Avoid buying your large dog a too-small bed: it might seem funny at first but for a gangly greyhound or a big Bernese, sleep is a serious business - so here’s how to measure up for your pup:
- Measure your dog from nose to tail (A)
- Measure their front legs from shoulder to foot (B)
- Repeat this step again with the hind legs from hip to foot (C)
Now: here’s where a bit of maths comes in: Calculate A + B +C and subtract half of A - this should give you your dog’s average “sprawl length” - and a good idea of which size bed to buy.
Shape and Sleeping Position
Dog beds come in many sizes and shapes. What works for one pup may not be preferable to another - so suss out your dog’s natural sleeping position before buying to give you a good idea of what shape to buy. Below, here’s a list of the most common sleeping positions for dogs - what they mean, and suggestions for the right bed to buy.
The Sleepy Ball
One of the most common positions you’ll see a dog asleep in is curled up in a ball, nose-to-tail. This pose allows your dog to conserve heat, protect vital organs and get up at a moment's notice - so while it’s sometimes seen in dogs who feel in danger - it’s also common during winter months when they might simply need a little more warmth. Consider a circular, oval or closed bed for this pup - perhaps with a kevlar pad in the colder months (particularly for shorter hair breeds), or a self heating kevlar mat to keep them extra cosy.
The Sideways Slumberer
A sideways pose leaves vital organs exposed - suggesting a dog who feels relaxed, safe and comfortable enough to not (always) be on guard. This pose also leaves the limbs free to move about - so it’s likely that if you see a dog in this position asleep - you may also see them dreaming (watch out for the twitches!). The best dog bed in this case is something flat, perhaps a mattress bed with no sides for ease of movement.
Back-to-back, on their side or curled up in a ball, this pup is a sociable dog who loves to snooze in company, whether that’s a human, another pup or even a cat. Awww. A mattress bed might be best to let everyone stretch out here - but given their preference for snoozing with a friend, they may be happy in most beds - including yours.
The Snoozy Superdog
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No - it’s a dog that’s flat out - quite literally. This sleeping style (tummy down, with all four paws outstretched) is adorable - but it also allows your dog to be on their paws straight away should they need to be alert - and it cools them off: there’s nothing like a tiled floor on a hot day!. This position is common in puppies, and older, high energy dogs who don’t want to miss a thing. Again - a borderless bed might be just the thing for these pups - rather than something that leaves them feeling cooped up.
The Lullaby Leaner
This is a dog who prefers to have their head leaning against something - possibly a nesting instinct. Beds with sides or bolsters are generally best.
The Cosy Cuddler
This pup loves to burrow: under blankets, clothes or pillows. Dogs like this are affectionate but may also need to feel a little more secure. Consider a circular or igloo bed they can turn into their very own little nest.
The Hot Dawg
A dog on it’s back with all four paws elevated is not only very comfortable (leaving their vulnerable midline exposed and making it harder to get up) - it's probably also trying to cool off: since the paws contain sweat glands, sleeping in this position is a good way to feel cooler (think of it as the opposite to the sleepy ball).
Older dogs, dogs with joint or pain issues and dogs who need additional physical support might benefit from an orthopedic or memory foam bed that they can get in and out of with ease. Behavioural issues are also a consideration: if you have an especially shy or nervous dog, you might find they’re happiest in an enclosed “igloo” style bed - but if they’re alert and need to be on the lookout, this may not be the best option for them. Consider also whether your dog prefers to sleep with their head and necxk raised - as this can indicate potential breathing problems.
The material of your dog bed matters: if your pet tends to feel the chill (such as Italian greyhounds) they may appreciate a self-heating bed (perhaps with a dog blanket) while water puppies who love nothing more than a wallow in a mud puddle are best off with a waterproof (and machine washable) removable cover (look for pet-friendly detergent). Soft, quilted and orthapedic beds are ideal for those who need a little more comfort, while beds are built to withstand scratching and chewing - although bear in mind the latter can be dangerous if your dog ingests part of the dog bed. Look out for beds made from hardier,”chewproof”materials where possible.
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