Pets on the Pillow


The pros and cons of co-sleeping with your pet

By Renee Berg

To co-sleep or not to co-sleep? Many pet owners struggle to find the balance between wanting to cuddle up with their hound or feline, but also desiring a good night’s sleep. 

My Bed vs. Your Kennel

For some, the choice is an easy one—it’s a definite yes or definite no.

Liz Dicke of Rochester co-sleeps with Lola, her Basset Hound. “I love how warm she is,” she says of Lola. “It is comforting and relaxing to have her with me.” She says pets are great snugglers, are cozy to co-sleep with, and co-sleeping can create a stronger bond between pet and pet owner.

Pets can be beneficial to sleep and make you feel safe, she says, but “the downside of sleeping with your pets is that they can take up quite a bit of room and be restless. Personally, I think sleeping with pets improves sleep, but every situation is different.”

Rochester’s Shannon Hrabak says her Yellow Lab mix Jack doesn’t sleep with her. “Dogs are den animals and need to have a space that is theirs and is a safe zone for them,” she says. “Jack will retire to his kennel of his own accord to nap and is kenneled whenever we are not home.”

Best of Both Worlds

Rochester’s Michael Cleary reports that he and his wife have settled on a co-sleeping medium, which they regard as “the best of both worlds.”

After their two sons go to sleep, Michael and his wife, Kristin, tuck into their bed with Ruby the Pug and Sirius the Boxer.

“We read, catch up on our email, watch some TV, and enjoy having our slumbering dogs at the foot of the bed,” Michael Cleary says. “They give us a lot of comfort and joy. When it’s time for lights out, the dogs go to their own kennel. We tried letting the dogs sleep at the bottom of our bed, but everyone’s sleep suffered.”

Hairballs & Other Night Terrors

At the Rochester home of Cristi and Art Lyke, cats Buddy and Ozzy have polar opposite sleeping patterns. Ozzy beds down in the living room nightly, whereas Buddy’s almost too close. Buddy sometimes sleeps at the foot of their bed, but just as often has restless nights where he lies on Cristi or Art or jumps across their pillows.

Cristi says Buddy disrupts the couple’s sleep all the time. “Typically once or twice a week there’s a hairball fiasco that wakes us,” she says. “Or he decides to pull an all-nighter, pouncing on the bed or meowing. He will lick our skin just as we’re falling asleep. We’ve attempted shutting the bedroom door but he just meows and scratches the door incessantly.”

Pet experts say sleeping with your pet can be calming but, as the Lykes and Clearys have found, also disruptive if you have a pet who likes to move around throughout the night.

Pets that smother you, hog the bed or, even worse, “a pet that growls or even lifts a lip at a family member who enters the bedroom” should lose their bed spot, says Bradley Treder, DVM, of Rochester’s Northern Valley Animal Clinic. “Guarding behavior by a pet should end all bed privileges,” Treder goes on. “Just as worrisome, one spouse in a relationship should not be displaced by a family pet.”

Cold Nights, Warm Puppy

Shanna Wegman of Dover is in the ‘yes’ camp, sleeping with her Miniature Schnauzer, Hans, during the colder months. When it’s warm, he opts to slumber on his bedroom floor blanket.

“It is comforting to have a built-in doggie bed heater,” Wegman says of Hans joining
her during the fall and winter. “I especially enjoy early morning snuggle time with him. He’s tired, he’s adorably sleepy, and he reminds me to slow down and savor the process of waking up.”

Renee Berg is a Rochester freelance writer with two cats, Frankie and Hazel. She can’t tell them apart so calls them both Frazel.


Where the Pets Sleep

“Scout (Chocolate Lab) was about 3 months old when we got her. She was crate trained and preferred to sleep in her crate. At night we’d say, ‘Kennel up,’ and she ran to her crate. She slept in it for the first 5 years of her life. We got rid of it because it took up too much room in the kitchen. Now she sleeps on the couch. We’re weak. We don’t even pretend that it’s not OK.”  ~Lindy Lange

“The dogs are allowed on the bed during the day for cuddles and napping, but at night are kenneled. The cats do whatever they want day and night because—cats.”   ~Chelsa Kern

“[Jersey, my Cavapoo] is warm, which I love, and sleeping together makes her so obviously happy that it makes me happy, too. She’s usually in bed before me waiting and when I get in, her wagging tail thumps the bed. She lies down so close to me that she’s sometimes half on top of me.”
~Jennifer Schnaedter

“I love sleeping with my dog because when I wake up in the morning, she is instantly happy to see me. She is also great to snuggle with and fall asleep with. Kind of like a living, breathing, snuggly teddy bear.”  ~Bryten Hanson

“We do not sleep with our dog. I have enough trouble with my husband stealing the covers! But as soon as one of us gets out of bed in the morning … (Retriever mix) Daisy ventures into the empty spot. She’s no dummy.”  ~Jennifer Koski

“I have three dogs: a German Shorthaired Pointer named Kona, a Shiatsu-Pekingese named Lucy and a mixed Terrier named Harry. With Kona, we sleep every way imaginable. Sometimes we spoon, sometimes he just lays in the middle of my bed and I have to find a way to lay down around him; we also just cuddle as in he’ll lay right up next to me face-to-face. With Lucy, she’ll either lay at the end of the bed or on a pillow. Which can be right next to me or above my head! Harry likes to lay right next to me no matter where it is.”  ~Jacelyn Horsman