What bet­ter way to spend qual­i­ty time with  your dog than to share your bed with them?  Dogs love com­fort just as much as humans do and being close to their human is as good as it gets.  There has been sig­nif­i­cant research done sur­round­ing the con­cept that sleep­ing in the bed caus­es aggres­sion and the gen­er­al con­clu­sion is that it does not.  Most dogs will con­tin­ue to be hap­pi­ly part of a fam­i­ly bed and it will not cause any issues.  BUT, while most dogs will not expe­ri­ence any issues, the prob­lem lies in the ones that may have a ten­den­cy to what’s referred to as resource guard­ing.  This ten­den­cy often does not show up in the first year of life, but may become more appar­ent as the dog reach­es a state of matu­ri­ty around 18–24  months of age, when they are more like­ly to attempt to assert themselves.

Resource guard­ing is defined as an ani­mal’s effort to pre­vent access to their high­ly val­ued items, includ­ing  beds, laps, bones and toys through aggres­sive dis­plays.   This is the num­ber one cause of aggres­sion towards fam­i­ly mem­bers and may be demon­strat­ed through growl­ing, lip lift­ing, air snaps or actu­al con­tact.  The key point here is that sleep­ing on the bed does not cause the aggres­sive dis­play, but sim­ply pro­vides one more high val­ue ele­ment to pro­tect, and one that will nec­es­sar­i­ly include con­tact with a fam­i­ly member.

So if sleep­ing on the bed does­n’t cause aggres­sion, why be con­cerned about it?  Many dog own­ers may not rec­og­nize the slow increase in pro­tec­tive behav­iour that hap­pens as their dog matures, until it has reached the point of a full chal­lenge.  This chal­lenge may nev­er in fact hap­pen, but if it does the long term impact on the rela­tion­ship is a neg­a­tive one.  For this rea­son, I high­ly rec­om­mend that dogs not be allowed to sleep on a reg­u­lar basis on the bed for the first year, although invit­ing them up for a cud­dle is great and a good first expe­ri­ence to teach them that this is a priv­i­lege to be earned and enjoyed.

Teaching dogs to wait for an invi­ta­tion onto the bed helps them under­stand clear­ly that they should look for direc­tion from their human when access­ing high val­ue resources.  It will also be impor­tant that the dog is taught a con­sis­tent ‘off’ com­mand, so that at any giv­en time they under­stand that maybe they’ll be on their dog bed tonight.  By prac­tic­ing the pro­to­col of get­ting the dog off the bed with no issues, the like­li­hood that they will feel enti­tled to pro­tect the space is great­ly diminished.

The key take away here is that your dog sleep­ing on the bed with you is won­der­ful, but that rules of use need to be intro­duced ear­ly on and fol­lowed through on, so that the dog that may just have a ten­den­cy to guard does­n’t feel that it is even remote­ly an issue in this situation.