Majority of Dogs Have Bed Privileges

December 8, 2020

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Buffalo, NY – If you’re a dog owner who snuggles up with your four-legged friend each night, you’re not alone.  A new study at Canisius College finds that nearly 70% of pet parents co-sleep with their dogs.  The finding is one of several revealed in the study, which examined the contextual nature of human-animal co-sleeping practices, including who is more likely to allow their dogs in bed at night, where their dogs sleep in the bed or bedroom and their impact on human sleep quality.  The study was conducted by Christy L. Hoffman, PhD, associate professor of animal behavior at Canisius College.

“Studies of humans’ relationships with their companion animals have almost exclusively focused on the ways people engage with their pets during their waking hours yet people commonly spend their sleeping hours with pets in their beds or bedrooms,” says Hoffman.  “This study presents one of the few comprehensive investigations into the practice of human-dog co-sleeping and supports previous claims that dog owners commonly choose to sleep with their dogs in their beds or bedrooms.”

More than 1,000 people between the ages of 18 -78 participated in the study titled “Human-Animal Co-Sleeping Practices Among Australian Dog Owners.” Of those, nearly half (49%) reported sleeping with their dog in their bed.  Another 20% indicated their dog slept in the same bedroom but not in their bed.  The remaining 31% of those surveyed reported their dog slept outside the bedroom.

A number of factors were associated with whether participants shared their beds with their dogs.  According to Hoffman, “Older participants were more likely to bed share with their dogs, as were singles and individuals who had small dogs rather than medium- or large-sized dogs.  Bed size also impacted the likelihood of bed sharing.”

Heat map images of three different scenarios revealed that when two people co-slept with a dog in a double, queen or king size bed, the dog tended to sleep at the participant’s feet or in the middle of the bed, “presumably where there is the most available space,” Hoffman explains.  In situations where one person co-slept with a dog in a double, queen or king size bed, dogs mostly slept at human chest level on the bed, “notably in a position identical to where a human partner would lay,” Hoffman continues.  For participants who co-slept on a single bed, dogs most commonly slept on the floor beside the bed.  When dogs did sleep on a single bed, they typically slept at human chest level.  Further research revealed that nearly a third of the dogs that snuggled alongside their owners slept under the covers; the remaining bedded down on top of the covers. 

A final element of Hoffman’s study examined the impact of human-dog co-sleeping on sleep quality.  In this instance, more than half (65.6%) of participants indicated that their dog “rarely” or “never” disturbs their sleep.  These findings support prior research by Hoffman from March 2020, which shed new light on the benefits and drawbacks of humans sharing a bed with their beloved pet. 

In the February 2020 study, Hoffman used activity trackers to determine how women’s nighttime movements were affected when they shared their bed with a dog. 

“We were interested to see if participants’ impressions on how well they slept corresponded with how much the activity trackers indicated they and their dog moved throughout the night,” Hoffman states. 

The study found that women were three times as likely to transition from an inactive state to an active state if their dog moved during the preceding minute.  Interestingly, however, women only recalled their dog disturbing their sleep on 22 of the 124 nights studied. 

“Given how little participants recalled dog-related sleep disruptions in relation to how much dog movement we observed across nights, it seems that humans are not consciously associating their nights of poor sleep with their dogs’ nighttime activities,” Hoffman notes.  “This discrepancy suggests that despite the disturbances canine bed partners create, they may be fulfilling a psychological need for feeling safe and secure during sleep periods.”

Hoffman’s most recent research, “Human-Animal Co-Sleeping Practices Among Australian Dog Owners,” was published in the Human Animal Interaction Bulletin (Volume 9, No. 2).  The study can be read in its entirety by clicking here.  Co-authors on the study are Peta C. Hazelton, PhD, from the Appleton Institute for Behavioural Science School of Health, Medical and Applied Sciences, and Bradley P. Smith, PhD, from Central Queensland University in Adelaide, Australia.

For more information on Hoffman’s current research or prior related research, contact the Canisius College Office of College Communications at 716.888.2790.

One of 27 Jesuit universities in the nation, Canisius is the premier private university in Western New York. Canisius celebrates its sesquicentennial anniversary during the 2019-20 academic year, marking 150 years of Jesuit education and leadership in the city of Buffalo and Western New York.