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Latest health and behavior news and advice from the veterinarians at Tufts University.

News & Views March 2018 Issue

For Best Quality Sleep, In the Bedroom With You But Not in the Bed

Yastremska | Bigstock

Good for cozying, not so good for getting a restful night's sleep.

Tufts professor emeritus and animal behaviorist Nicholas Dodman, BVMS, was once at a professional meeting of veterinarians and other dog professionals, when one of the speakers asked how many of the 200 or so people in the room let their dogs sleep in their bedroom with them. Every single hand went up. When the speaker went on to ask how many let their dogs onto the bed with them, 75 percent of the hands remained raised.

But, according to a new study conducted by Mayo Clinic researchers, it was the 25 percent minority who kept their dogs off their beds who enjoyed better sleep.

The scientists evaluated the sleep of 40 adults and their dogs for seven nights with special activity-tracking equipment attached to their bodies. The upshot: those whose dogs slept in their bedrooms with them enjoyed higher-quality sleep. But those whose dogs slept in their beds with them had lower-quality sleep.

The study probably isn’t going to change any minds. People who let their dogs sleep in the bed with them don’t do it for improved sleep quality. They do it for improved closeness quality, for what it signifies about their bond with their pets.

We get that. (And many of us do that.) We would only suggest that dogs with what is known as conflict aggression be kept out of the bed. Conflict aggression means the dog, out of confusion about who the leader is, may growl or even bite his owner — the way a toddler may experience anxiety and act out if he doesn’t understand the social structure and limits of his autonomy. Such a dog should be kept off high places so that he understands his place in the household — and so that his owner doesn’t get bitten in the night by turning over the “wrong” way. (It has happened.)

People with allergies to their dogs should keep their pets off the bed, too. Your own health should figure into the cost-benefit analysis.

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