While some owners prefer to let their dogs slumber just about anywhere, it’s not always ideal - especially when your own sleep is being disrupted. Training your dog to sleep on his own bed has multiple benefits - especially when buying dog beds for pets with specific health needs. Whether you have a pacing pup in search of a place to curl up, or a humongous hound taking up bedspace, feeling “ruff” after a sleepless night is no fun - so here’s a few tips on how to establish a routine that everyone is happy with.
Three’s A Crowd
While sharing your bed with your pet has some benefits, for couples it can create a less-than-harmonious atmosphere, leading to conflict over where the dog should sleep and creating an issue that can - quite literally - come between the both of you, especially if your dog is prone to lying right in the middle of the mattress!
When it comes to relationships (both human and canine), communication and healthy conflict management are key. Approach the problem as a team to address any reservations either of you might have: pre-existing health conditions or the presence of small children are both good reasons to consider purchasing a dog bed.
Alternatively, general hygiene might be an issue - and while some suggest bathing your dog before allowing them in the bed, it’s not realistic or healthy to do this on a regular basis - as washing your dog too often can lead to a dry coat and skin irritation.
As a compromise, you might limit cuddles with your furry companion to the occaisional Sunday morning treat, or - if you absolutely can't bear to be apart - a dog bed either in your room or in an adjoining room offers another potential solution. In any case, the easiest (and arguably healthiest) option for you, your partner and your pet may well be to find them a suitable bed - and with this comes training.
Practice Makes Perfect
Depending on the age and temperament of your dog, it might take some time before you establish a set routine - but stick with it and in the long run it should pay off (if it seems impossible, or if your dog exhibits any signs of distress however, consult your vet). Training your dog to sleep on his own bed - as with any other form of dog training - is a matter of consistency, repetition, positive reinforcement (never punishment!) - and above all, patience. Here’s how:
1. Set The Scene
Dogs like to feel safe, secure and comfortable - so once you have the right bed sorted (more on which below) - place it in a cosy corner where they have a clear view of the room - minimising any nervous tendencies they might have. Consider adding comfort items to the bed to entice them in such as a shred-proof chewy toy or a cosy, non-shreddable blanket.
2. Tucker Them Out
Exercise is essential to keep dogs healthy - so if your pet is understimulated (both mentally and physically), that pent-up energy will still be there at bedtime - so make sure your dog has the correct amount of daily exercise (most dogs need at least 20-30 minutes of physical activity a day depending on age, weight and condition).
3. Think Pawsitive
Reinforcing good behaviour and ignoring (not punishing!) poor behaviour is always good practice, including at bed-times: so if they make a dash for your duvet, guide them back to their own bed, making it clear that this is the place where they’ll get lots of pets and attention.
4. Command, Click, Treat, Repeat
You could even integrate clicker training into the process by saying a simple command (such as “bedtime!”), placing a treat on their bed and then treating them again with a click once they get there, before gradually phasing out both clicker and treat. That way, your dog will have a positive association with their bed.
5. Lead The Way
If your dog doesn’t immediately respond to the command, then lead - don’t force - your dog to their bed by gently redirecting them. The same applies at night-time - if they get up, guide them back to their bed and offer a treat - but only do this once, as craftier canines might start to make an association between getting out of bed and a tasty reward! If they get up in the night to go to the toilet and return to their bed, reward them - but again - just the once.
6. Keep Things Consistent
For training to work, both your routine and training method need to be well-established and as consistent as possible. Repeat the command each time you want your dog to lie on their bed (this can be done during the day or night) to help them remember. Eventually your dog should know the routine so well they could do it in their sleep - but hopefully they’ll reach their bed before that happens!
Miss You Already
Pet ownership isn’t always about teaching your pet - it’s also likely you’ll learn a lot in the process. Unlike humans, dogs explore their world “nose-first” - meaning their sleeping habits are closely tied to their sense of smell. For this reason, dogs are generally happiest in a bed that smells like their “pack members” (in other words, you).
In an unfamiliar house after dark, without your scent there to comfort them, you may find your dog leaving their bed to sniff you out (this can happen if they are newly crate-trained, for example - or if they are an older rescue with separation anxiety).
If your pet seems noticably distressed, the best thing to do is to consult a vet - but you may also find that establishing a set routine also offers them an added sense of security.
Placing an old sweater that smells like you or temporarily putting the dog bed in your room (at least for the first couple of nights or until they feel secure) are just two ways you can help get fractious pups to sleep, safe in the knowledge that their fellow "pack members" are nearby.
And So, To Beds...
Some might think that purchasing a dog bed is as easy as picking one up from the pet-store and setting it down in the kitchen - but just like their human companions, dogs have their own individual sleep needs, too - so assess these first.
If your dog is a puppy, a smaller bed with raised sides can offer added security at night, while larger, leggier breeds might need more room to stretch out in. For older dogs or dogs with mobility or pain issues, consider an orthapedic dog bed that will allow them to find a comfortable position - and for creaky canines, a memory foam pad can help to soothe arthritic joints.
Dog beds come in all shapes, sizes and materials - so speak with your retailer to determine what’s best for your pet’s needs so that you can all get a good night’s sleep.