In a recent study, women with both dogs and partners reported they sleep better next to their canine friends than their human ones. And it’s no wonder: Research has shown that pooches can ease anxiety and stress. If you want to reap the benefits of snuggling up to your furry friend at night (or you just can’t resist those puppy dog eyes), veterinarian Courtney Campbell suggests taking these steps first.
Check him for pests
“Fortunately, most dogs and cats are really good at self-cleaning,” says Campbell. “But it’s still important to inspect them regularly for dirt and debris.” Keep Fido on a regular bath schedule: Depend - ing on the breed of dog, you can probably bathe him every three to six weeks (ask your vet first), and use conditioner at bath time to keep your dog’s skin moisturized. Also, make sure your dog doesn’t invite a tick or fleas into your bed. “The most effective parasite prevention is prescribed from your veterinarian,” Campbell says, so keep your fur guy up-to-date on treatments.
Make it “invite only”
Like treats, access to the bed—“a highly valued reward”—can be a great motivator for good behavior, says Campbell. To include it in your training regimen, have your dog sit on the floor until you’re ready for her to come up. “This is called the Bedtime Invite,” says Campbell. An invitation can be as simple as patting the mattress and calling her up. As with teaching any new trick, repeat until it clicks, and reward for good behavior—yes, that means extra snuggles!
Give him his own spot
Since you don’t want your dog’s rear end anywhere near your pillow, it’s worth training him to sleep at the foot of the bed—you’ll just need a mat. (You could also use a blanket or towel.) “Practice the ‘down’ command on a blanket or mat several times a day in a variety of places,” says Campbell. “Each time you practice, try to lengthen the amount of time that they are in the down position.” Once you’re confident that your pup can lie in the down position uninterrupted, move that mat to the bed. If he moves off the mat, have him get off the bed and repeat the process. And be patient, Campbell says: Skip any punishment and instead reward the behavior you want (lying on the mat) with a treat or praise.
Start a bedtime ritual
Your dog will pick up when it’s time for bed based on your cues. It can be as simple as letting him out to do his business, then turning off the lights and saying good night. “Repeat the same activities in the same order and your dog will soon understand that it’s time for bed,” Campbell says. If your pooch wants to horse around instead of sleep, it could be a sign that he needs more stimulation during the day. In that moment, Campbell suggests walking for 5 to 10 minutes and then starting the Bedtime Invite. “By rewarding calm behavior after a brief period of exercise, it will signal that it’s time to rest and recharge for another day.”
Get up when you’re ready
Got a dog that’s always waking up at the crack of dawn for food or a bathroom break? If you give into his demands, you’re just reinforcing the behavior. Take your dog out right before you go to bed and, barring any health issues, he should be able to make it through the night, says Campbell. “There are dangers of prolonged and repeated urinary retention (i.e., not urinating). But for the most part, healthy dogs should be completely fine if you want to sleep in a little.”