Dog Beds: How to Maximize Your Dog’s Health and Happiness
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It’s been often said that “sleeping is a dog’s life.” Dogs enjoy active times where they play, run, and sometimes roll in the smelliest stuff they can find. With all this activity, dogs need time to rest, and many dogs sleep 10 to 16 hours a day. It's important, therefore, to choose the right bed for that special pet in your life.
While it’s true that dogs can sleep anywhere, the reality is that dogs, like humans, need a bed of their own. That special place where they can relax, rest, feel safe and be peaceful. And, when a dog sleeps in a bed - their own bed - it’s much better for their overall health and happiness.
There are many things to consider when choosing a bed for your puppy so, read on and use this information to help make a good decision.
Their place to relax, rest and feel safe
All dogs need a special place that is their own, where they can relax and rest – a place to unwind during the day, and to sleep during the night.
A dog bed should not be a place they are sent to when punished. And, it should not be a place where a dog feels confined or trapped. A dog should always feel safe in their special place.
A dog bed can be placed in several locations in your home. Dogs are social and like to be close to the person they love. A dog can have more than one bed in different places they like. For example, a dog bed, in the shape of a cozy pad or mat, can be placed in a crate. Or a bed can be placed in the corner of a room where your pet can view people and activities, but also be safe from busy human traffic.
Dog beds are also important when you travel. A portable bed gives your dog a comfortable place to relax, rest and be less anxious when not in familiar surroundings.
Where a dog sleeps affects their health
Even though a dog can sleep anywhere, they should not sleep on a floor or a hard surface. This relates to dogs of any age. Dogs sleep 10 to 16 hours a day and sleeping on a hard surface is not good for their health.
As dogs age, they often experience hip dysplasia, arthritis or other physical conditions. For older dogs, consideration should be given to using orthopaedic dog beds.
‘Joint disease in dogs (particularly larger dogs) is an extremely common and painful ailment, but evidence shows that proper bedding can alleviate symptoms and serve as a preventative measure.’ Kristina Lotz, I Love Dogs
Good sleep improves learning
Like humans, restful sleep, along with exercise, is critical to a dog’s health and happiness. Training a young dog is important as you want your puppy to learn good habits from an early age. Good sleep is critical in how well a dog learns.
Memory is a key aspect to a dog’s training, and restful sleep is essential to a good memory, which was proven in The Family Dog Project, the largest dog research group in the world.
‘Not only did the sleep affect dogs’ learning, the learning affected dogs’ sleep.’ Julie Hecht, Scientific American
‘Memory is also important for dogs. Working dogs need to learn - and retain – a wide variety of job-specific skills, and companion dogs often learn basic skills to successfully live alongside humans.’ Julie Hecht, Scientific American
Your bed should not be your dog’s bed
For your health and for the health of your pet, you both need your own space to sleep. There are many reasons to not allow your dog to sleep with you:
The quality of your sleep will often be adversely affected by sharing your bed with your dog.
You might roll over or accidentally kick your dog and injure it.
It’s not sanitary for a dog to sleep in your bed. They might have fleas or mites, or they might not be clean after a day of digging or exploring.
You might have a mild allergy to your dog which is intensified when you share a bed for six to eight hours.
Not training a dog to sleep in its own bed increases ‘abandonment’ issues when you’re away for long periods of time.
Your bed might be too small – many large dogs like to sprawl out.
Your bed might be too soft – some dogs need more firm support to sleep well.
‘Don’t allow your puppy to sleep in your bed unless you’re prepared to allow it to sleep in the bed for the rest of its life. Remember—consistency is key.’ Dr. Janice Huntingford, Pet Wellbeing
Choosing a Dog Bed
There are many things to consider when choosing a dog bed, including: size of your dog, breed, sleeping style, habits and age.
‘Think about your dog’s needs before you shop. Consider any health issues, your dog’s age, and its personality when choosing a bed. Additionally, don’t forget your own concerns, such as the bed’s size and price, as well as whether the bed fits with your décor.’ Melissa Nelson, DVM, PhD
Size of your dog: Measure your dog when it’s sleeping and observe how it sleeps to determine the best size bed. The size of your dog and if it likes to stretch out or curl up when sleeping will affect the size of bed needed.
Breed: Dog breed is another important factor. Dogs with short hair will like a bed made of softer material with more cushion to help stay warm. Dogs with a thicker coat will appreciate a bed with less padding to help them stay cool.
If your dog sheds, you may want to consider choosing a bed with an outer material that is easy to remove fur.
Sleeping style: Each dog has different sleeping styles. If your dog likes to stretch out when sleeping, choose a large or flat bed. If it prefers to curl up when sleeping, choose a nesting or donut bed. Maybe it likes to lean its head on something when sleeping, chose an orthopaedic or furniture-style bed with side pads.
Your dog might also like resting or sleeping outside or being in the sun. Choose a raised bed that is perfect for the outdoors to keep your dog cooler, dry and away from insects and dirt.
Habits: Many dogs like to play in mud and water. If this is your dog, you may want a bed that is easy to clean and will last through repeated washings. Your dog may also like to chew and will shred a new bed in no time. If this is your dog, you may not want to choose an expensive bed.
Age and health: Older dogs may suffer from a medical condition such as hip dysplasia or arthritis. If this is the case, choose a supporting orthopaedic bed. If your dog has a recent injury or a medical procedure, a flat mat may be easier than a thick nesting bed.
If your dog is incontinent, choose a bed that can be easily washed and preferably one that can trap moisture.
Safety: Your dog’s bed should not be placed in areas where there is a lot of ‘people traffic’. You don’t want anyone tripping on your precious pet. Remove any buttons or ribbons that your dog can chew on. Rushing your pet to stressful and expensive emergency surgery will not be a pleasant experience for you or your pet.
Cleans easily: Lastly, like humans, dogs get dirty. Choose a bed with a removable outer cover and other features that allows the bed to be easily cleaned.
How to get your dog to use a new dog bed
You buy your dog a new comfortable bed – great! Now, how do you encourage your puppy to use it? There are some simple things you can do to encourage your dog to use their new bed. Keep in mind it may take some time for your dog to get comfortable with their new sleep-place.
A dog’s nose is very sensitive. Your dog might not like the smell of the fabric or material in a new bed. Try washing the outer cover - but be certain to use a laundry detergent that is fragrant-free.
Dogs are used to your smell. Try putting an old piece of clothing, like a t-shirt, in the bed to give your pet that familiar smell.
Dogs are social and they love being in the same room as you. Try moving their new bed from room to room where you are. That may help your puppy adapt better to its new place to rest and sleep.
Lastly, give your dog rewards. Take some time each day to train your puppy to sit on its new bed. Reward your dog with a healthy snack to encourage their behaviour.
Basic Styles of Dog Beds
There are several styles of beds to suit the size, breed, size and habits of your dog.
Flat pads or matsThere are rectangular ones and can fit in a dog crate.
- Nesting beds are usually circular with a lot of cushion, and are often preferred by smaller dogs who want to curl up.
- A ‘bolster’ bed is rectangular and has pads or pillows that are built-in. These are usually preferred by larger dogs. They are often referred to as a ‘sofa-style’ bed.
- Raised beds have a firm canvas cover that is supported and raised off an outdoor or hard surface on four legs.
- Orthopaedic beds provide support for dogs with conditions such as hip dysplasia or arthritis.
- Lastly, there are waterproof beds that are good for use outdoors or for pets that are incontinent.
There is a lot to consider when deciding on a bed for your precious pet. We hope that this information helps in your buying decision.