|This is probably the best picture I have ever taken of any of my dogs. It was taken about 6 years ago when we all lived in a Manhattan apartment. Tubby was 4, Norbert, 3 and Ping 2. No grey hairs, as much as I love my old guys, I do miss those days. It was pre-Bob and pre-Dr. Zira so they are not featured. It is also a fitting segue-way to my post|
Every night in our house is a four dog night, it would be a five dog night but Zira chooses to sleep on the floor, and that is not counting the three feline visitors who regularly stroll across the pillows. When I meet non-dog people they often ask me with a mix or horror and salacious glee, "they don't sleep in the with you bed do they?" Whether or not it is harmful for pets, particularly dogs, to sleep in the bed has long been a topic of debate. Many pet guardians admit to allowing their pets in the bed in embarassed and guilty tones. However, there is really no reason for this. Allowing your pet in the bed is a matter of personal preference and not a determining factor in whether or not you are a good pet parent.
One reason for owners shame over admitting to allowing their dogs in their bed stems from the training angle, and most particularly from what Patricia McConnell would call the "dominance myth." This is the outmoded idea that dogs spend every waking moment of their lives trying to stage a coup in the home and establish themselves as the leader over their owners. According to this theory if your dog gets on the bed or other furniture they are trying to establish themselves as "dominant" over you. The real reason a dog, or cat, lies on the furniture, is the same reason we do: Its comfy!
Certainly some dogs may demonstrate resource guarding and growl or even bite humans or other dogs who try to move them from a cozy spot. This is definitely a behavior problem, but the solution isn't to establish dominance over the dog. It is to teach the dog a good solid off cue. The most effective way to do it, as with anything in dog training, is through positive reinforcement. Armed with a clicker and some bits of chicken anyone can teach a dog a firm off command in a few days time. Many people also train their dogs to wait for permission to get on furniture and beds. I have not done that myself. However, even with four dogs in the bed and five dogs on the couch, I have never had any real problems. When Bob began to display some resource guarding behaviors around the furniture towards his canine siblings, I worked on his off command and also rewarded him for sharing the couch with the other dogs. Once I had changed his mindset, through attention and food rewards, that sharing the couch and bed with other dogs was a really good thing, his resource guarding tendencies pretty much disappeared. I still keep a careful eye on his behavior though, and we regularly review the off command.
The other argument for not allowing your pet in the bed is the health and hygiene one. Last year a report published by the University of California at Davis listed medical risks associated with sharing your bed with your pet including: bubonic plague, cat scratch fever, and fleas. Upon examination of the report though it is pretty clear that many of the risks where caused by poor decision making on the part of the pet owner or happened because the human in the equation was an immune compromised individual. Obviously a dog or cat who is not well groomed can contract fleas or other pests and pass them on to the owner, whether or not they share the owners bed. The other obvious response to the hygiene and health argument is that any contact with living things carries the risk of disease transmission. Think of all of the horrible diseases we catch from other human beings. Aside from sealing yourself inside a hermetically sealed plastic bubble there really is no way to avoid germs.
Of course if you don't want your pet in the bed with you that's fine too! Just make sure you get them something comfy of their own to sleep on like one of these great beds from In The Company of Dogs.
On a non-related topic please keep Dr. Zira
in your thoughts. She went to the vet to have a check up on her eye issue and they found a strange area of irritation on her leg that had to be biopsied. Hopefully it is nothing.