Buying a dog bed might not be something you’ve given a lot of thought; after all, you’ve seen your dog sleep just about anywhere – on the carpet, on cement, and on every single pile of freshly cleaned laundry you’ve ever tossed upon your sofa. But, while a dog bed seems like a straight-forward purchase, there’s a lot of choices and a lot of things to consider. In other words, there’s a lot you need to know.
Luckily, you’ve got this handy guide to help! So, read along and make your shopping experience a bit easier.
What Vets Say About Dog Beds
Whether or not your dog sleeps on a bed is up to you. That’s one of the great things about being a pet owner: so much power! But a private sleeping area for your pooch is beneficial in several ways. It’s something many veterinarians encourage too!
According to Health Pet Magazine, veterinary professionals are less likely to allow dogs to sleep with them in their own beds (but they’re more likely to allow this behavior from cats). Their reasons have to do with both human and canine health.
While a small percentage of the vets polled said they believe sharing their bed with their dog helps them sleep, over twice as many vets believe it to be a hindrance (with the remaining percentage reporting indifference).
Many pet owners agree that sharing a pillow with a Pug or the covers with a Collie isn’t conducive to a good night’s sleep; every time they chase a rabbit, they kick you in the face. And lack of sleep contributes to all sorts of physical and mental health problems.
The health issues from sleeping with a pet can be more direct as well; in 2015, residents of Colorado were advised to refrain from sleeping with dogs and cats because of a plague outbreak; a pet with plague-infected fleas could pass along the pathogen to its owner.
In regards to your pet’s wellness, a dog bed is also helpful for health; it offers benefits that a human bed does not. Some of these include:
Better Posture: Dog beds are designed to work with your dog’s physique. Though posture doesn’t seem important to a canine – not unless your Golden Retriever is the cover model for Dogster Magazine – a dog that’s forced to sleep in cramped spaces or strange positions may experience skeletal issues as they age. A dog bed is that much more vital for dogs that are already old or arthritic.
Temperature Control: If you’ve let a dog sleep with you then you know what it’s like when they’re hot: your entire bed shakes and shakes. Dog beds prevent dogs from getting too hot due to contact with human bodies. They prevent dogs from getting too cold by keeping them off the floor.
More Space: Dogs love their owners so much it’s as if we all have our own personal stalkers, but they like alone time every now and then. Some need more of this than others, but each pet benefits from personal space. A dog bed provides this, allowing a pooch to sleep as spread out or as curled up as they desire.
An Appreciation for Rules: Dogs that sleep in their owners’ beds don’t turn into rebels, playing hooky from obedience school and getting their snouts pierced. But a dog that’s allowed on your bed may have a hard time understanding that it’s not allowed on everything – your sofa, your recliner, your lap while you’re driving your car.
Naturally, a dog bed saves your own bed from wear and tear. Dogs are messy – we love them, mud and all, but they’re dirty, nonetheless. Letting them into your bed means cleaning your bed frequently. And that doesn’t bode well for the longevity of your comforter, your bed sheets, your pillows, or your mattress.
If you’ve decided that a dog bed is right for you (or, more accurately, right for your pet), continue on to learn much more.
The Different Types of Dog Beds
Gone are the days when a dog bed consisted of little more than a mat tucked neatly into the corner of a bedroom. In the modern era, there are no one-type-fits-all beds for our canine companions. Instead, there’s much to choose from and much to snooze on.
The most popular types of beds for pups include:
Memory Foams: Memory foam provides the same benefits whether it’s in your dog’s bed or yours. Its firmness supports joints, sore muscles, and aching bones. Memory foam dog beds are ideal for older dogs or any with problems getting around.
Plush Beds: If you’ve ever caught your dog fluffing up a towel after you’ve dropped it to the floor, you know that pups like things that are soft and cozy; plush beds gives them this comfort.
Mats: Mats are low-maintenance beds that provides your pet with cushion so it doesn’t have to nap on a hardened surface. They’re good for dogs of any size, but most apt for long-legged beasts that love to stretch out.
Sofas and Chairs: Some owners ban their pets from getting onto the furniture; others don’t care. It’s your prerogative, but many dogs do enjoy the comfort of couches and recliners. If you want to make your pooch happy and protect your things, consider slipcovers, something that stands between your stuff and the pounds and pounds of pet fur.
Cot or Hammock-Style Beds: Both cots and hammocks elevate your dog, which allows air to circulate and helps maintain a comfortable temperature. They are free of stuffing or filling, something you’ll want if your dog assumes its bed is also its chew toy. Very small dogs may struggle getting up and down - keep that in mind if you own a miniature anything.
Padded Bolster Beds: These types of beds are used inside crates, carriers, and pet houses. They’re much more comfortable than bare plastic and offer a rim for your dog to rest its head if it so pleases.
Pet Houses: While not commonly known, dogs are in fact den animals – in the wild, wolves live in dens when they’re first born. It may be difficult to look at a sweater-wearing Maltese and picture a fierce grey wolf, but dogs do descend from these fanged ancestors. As a result, your pet has a natural inclination to sleep somewhere safe, sound, and enclosed. Hence, many take to pet houses quite easily.
Snuggle Slipper Style Sleeper: These types of beds are better for small dogs than large ones. Made of plush material, they resemble giant slippers (which is where they get their name) and provide your dog with a sense of security. If your canine loves a good cuddle, these comfy quarters serve them well.
Dog Bed Materials
Dog beds are made of different kinds of materials, each with benefits and drawbacks. Your dog does not care about this, but you do….and you’re the one with the credit card making the purchase.
The following is an overview of some of the most common materials on the market today:
Vinyl Weave: Vinyl weave is good for beds placed in the great outdoors. Air flows through this material easily, which your dog appreciates on a hot day. The downside is the durability; if your dog likes to claw or dig at its bed, one made of this won’t last too long.
Nylon: Nylon is perfect for dogs that have sensitive skin or allergies (real allergies - not dogs that claim they’re allergic to the family cat). This material provides lots of traction, which is beneficial for canines that struggle getting into and out of bed. It’s easy to clean and, unlike your clothes as you ready for work, it won’t attract buckets of fur.
Heavy Duty Vinyl: If you need durability, heavy duty is the way to go. You don’t need to own a Mastiff or a Saint Bernard to appreciate strength; you require durability if your dog chews on the bed or digs at its fibers. Importantly, vinyl is easy to sanitize in the event your dog’s a bit of a drooler.
Polyester: Polyester, it seems, is in almost everything, including dog beds. It’s soft and comfortable and simple to clean. Most dog beds made of this material are lightweight, something that’s both good and bad. They’re easy for you to carry, but also easy for your dog to drag out the dog door and bury behind your oak tree.
Faux Leather: Faux leather tends to be soft to the touch, making it something dogs enjoy sleeping upon. This material is posher looking than others – it fits in with your home’s décor. It’s not real leather, so your dog probably won’t mistake it for beef jerky, but that doesn’t mean they won’t “taste” it every now and then just to be sure.
The above is fine for some pet owners, but if you’re concerned about potentially toxic fabrics, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. You can find eco-friendly dog beds several places online. These are made of organic hemp, recycled plastic fibers, and organic cotton.
A Soft Bed Versus a Firm Bed
Your dog likely cares more about choosing between chicken and beef than it does soft or firm, but both types of beds offer your pet something it needs.
Soft beds are fantastic for puppies and young dogs that sleep in floppy positions; they’re extremely comfortable and invite your dog to sleep soundly or until it senses a mailman within a ten-mile radius.
Firm beds are much more supportive than soft beds; they’re ideal for older dogs or younger dogs with joint or bone problems. They are easier to get in and out of and they brace your dog’s body as it sleeps. Of note, however: thicker firm beds are more expensive than those that are thin. But they’re higher quality and typically worth the money.
When deciding on a firm bed, egg crate foam is an option. This is a type of foam that resembles the crate of an egg – it’s full of lumps and bumps. But these serve a purpose; they promote health! They do this by soothing your dog’s pressure points, which not only helps relieve pain and tension but invites a more soothing night of sleep. Larger dogs benefit from egg crate beds more than smaller breeds. Yet they’re also great if you have several dogs that share one bed.
Shredded memory foam is another option. Like egg crate, this type of bed is designed to stimulate your dog’s pressure points. It’s lightweight and most beds fit easily into crates. It’s especially recommended for dogs that suffer from hip dysplasia, a disease where the ball and socket joint are malformed. This malady is common in certain breeds, particularly Labrador Retrievers and other large dogs.
Each of the above varies in regards to price: you can find both inexpensive and expensive brands. Yet a dog bed is like anything else - you get what you pay for. A higher quality bed will cost you more bread, but it will last longer and do its job more efficiently.
Specialized Dog Beds
Dogs are simple creatures and easy to impress when it comes to many things, including their beds – no matter how much your Pomeranian tries to convince you it needs a princess canopy bed, it doesn’t. But some dogs benefit from beds with a few more bells and whistles – not actual bells and whistles, mind you, those would hurt their ears.
The following are beds that include a little something extra that your dog might appreciate:
Beds with Headrests: Some dogs enjoy sleeping like their human counterparts, with their head on the pillow. If your dog tends to lie its head on things, a bed with a headrest is a good choice. If you aren’t sure, a cushion that you can move and remove is an option.
Beds with Heating Elements: If you live in a cold weather climate or plan to put a dog bed in a garage or mud room, a heating element is instrumental in providing warmth. These types of beds come in many varieties: non-electrical microwavable options, detachable heating blankets, and beds with built-in elements.
Your dog will likely appreciate this type of sleeping pad, but heat has an inherent danger. A good rule of thumb no matter what type of heated bed you’re using: if the bed’s too warm for you, it’s too warm for your dog.
There are standards you should seek out when dealing with anything electric. Look for a manufacturer that offers thermostatic control, energy-efficiency, a warranty of at least one year, and low power consumption. Of special importance, make sure any product you’re buying has been tested for safety and certified by an outside laboratory. This certification assures the product adheres to safety measures and electrical standards.
Beds that Vibrate: A vibrating bed is hit or miss for your dog: some pets love the concept, some find it as threatening as the delivery man with the audacity to walk up to your front door when dropping off a package. If you choose to purchase this kind of bed, look for a brand with a liberal return policy in the event Fido or Fifi decide they’re not in a vibrating mood.
Beds that Play Music: Like a vibrating bed, musical beds are an acquired canine taste. Yet many dogs enjoy them, especially when they’re home by themselves; the music makes them feel less alone. Many musical beds are enclosed, which gives your dog an extra sense of security and ups the odds that it’ll sleep soundly. If you live in a home with lots of noise – you have an infant or you’re a professional yodeller – a musical bed helps drown out the clamor.
Beds for Travel: Not all dog beds are portable, at least not in the effortless sense. If you tend to travel with your pup, buying a bed designed for Greyhounds that like to get away and Spaniels that like to sightsee is wise. These are lightweight, compact, collapsible, and designated for use by the pup on-the-go.
A car seat cover is an alternative to a dog bed. These covers provide cushion and give your dog a place to sleep while you drive from one destination to the next. They also protect your car’s seats from claws, fur, and drops of drool.
The Different Types of Covers
Dog beds have a variety of covers (or no cover at all). You’ll want to choose which type you purchase based on your individual needs (and the needs of your pet).
Overall, dog beds have two types: covers that come off and covers that don’t. The covers that come off are much easier to clean for obvious reason: you take them off and toss them into the washer. The covers permanently attached require a little more elbow grease…and probably some dish soap.
Removable covers are generally less durable than other types. And their ease of cleaning does work against them: too much washing wears them down.
Regardless of what type of cover you purchase, tossing an old blanket, sheet, or towel over the dog bed provides an extra layer of protection and extends the life of the bedding. Even then, you’re sure to accumulate a lot of fur if you own a dog that sheds. It gets on all layers, no matter how many layers you own.
Hand washing or machine washing helps a little, but to truly defur a bed use a lint roller. The kind you use for your own clothing works perfectly.
Choosing the Right Size
No one likes cramped spaces – somewhere, there’s probably a story or two of the flea that moved from a Beagle to a Great Dane so he could live in a bigger “house.” This applies to dog beds too: size matters and bigger is always better.
This isn’t to say a Yorkie needs to sleep on a California King, but make sure your dog’s bed isn’t too small. The only way to do this right is to measure.
Use a measuring tape to calculate the length of your dog from the tip of its tail to the end of its nose. Then, add twelve inches to approximate the size you need (some sources suggest adding six inches, but – as mentioned above – bigger is better). Measuring is the most accurate way to figure out desired size – don’t rely on recommendations by the manufacturer.
Another factor to consider when determining size is your dog’s age. Older dogs need bigger beds because they don’t curl in balls as often as their younger counterparts. Their spines are less flexible and their bodies stiffer.
Finally, your dog’s sleep-style plays a role. Take a night or two and watch how it sleeps: Does it sprawl out with four limbs stretched? Does it toss and turn? Does it sleep tightly in one small space? Dogs that use more room as they snooze require more room.
When in doubt, avoid anything that’s too little. Canines won’t sleep in beds that make them uncomfortable - too tiny of quarters will only leave both dog and owner frustrated.
Teaching Your Dog to Love Its Bed
After you’ve purchase the perfect dog bed for your perfect pooch, the battle isn’t over; you must get your dog to use its bed, night after night. Usually this involves more than tossing the bed onto the floor and telling your dog to go to sleep.
To begin, introduce your dog to its bed the same way you’d introduce your dog to anything new: with bribery! Place the bed onto the floor and drop treats or a toy onto it. If your dog won’t go to the bed willingly, pick it up and place it on top (if it’s big, use a leash). Instruct your pet to lie down. Once it does, give another treat.
Never reward your dog for leaving its bed; only reward it when it goes towards the bed. You don’t want to teach that ignoring the bed is the desired behavior.
Most dogs take to their beds easily; dogs like comfortable things! But if you have a dog that refuses to use its bed, put something that smells like you on top of it. A t-shirt you’ve recently worn (but haven’t washed) works wonders.
Putting the dog bed in the proper place ups the odds of your dog using it. Dogs want to be near their owners; it’s their job to protect you from things like doorbells! This makes your bedroom the most model place for your dog to sleep.
But, of course, dogs don’t sleep on the same schedule as us; they sleep all night and all day long. Because of this, the living room, or any room where you spend your waking hours, is a good alternative location (under these circumstances, having more than one dog bed is advised).
Whatever you do, refrain from placing a dog bed in an area where your dog will constantly face disturbance – such as the hallway or the room of your five-year-old daughter with a penchant for pet-themed tea parties. You should also refrain from placing a bed anywhere your dog will be too warm (like a sun room) or too cold (like a basement).
Dogs prefer beds placed in corners instead of out in the open. The adjacent walls provide them with security and help them feel safe.
Dog Bed Troubleshooting
If your dog refuses to use its dog bed although you’ve begged, you’ve pleaded, you’ve bribed with Kibble, there could be a reason. Dogs, like us, don’t like to be uncomfortable and if a bed causes discomfort, they’ll avoid it.
You can assure your dog’s happiness by looking for signs of distress.
Dogs that are too hot will pant or whine; toss and turn; sit up; and abandon their bed for a cooler area, like a bathroom floor.
Dogs that are too cramped will move around; readjust their position; sit up; or abandon their bed for a larger area.
Dogs that are uncomfortable for other reasons (the material makes them itchy, for instance) will scratch; sit up; move or roll around; whine; or abandon their bed for something that doesn’t give them hives.
A bed that’s unstable may be something else that causes a great deal of distress in your dog; if the bed moves too freely with the dog’s body, your pet may grow scared and hesitant to sleep upon it. A bed with a non-slip base solves this issue.
Keeping Your Dog from Destroying Its Bed
While it seems like the more expensive a dog bed, the more likely a dog is to ruin it, dogs are equal-opportunity destroyers: they attack both the discounted and pricey. They do this in two main ways: nesting behavior (fluffing or digging) and chewing.
You can break both habits by using the following tricks:
Remove the Bed When You’re Not Home: Supervise your dog until it learns that its bed is a bed, not a toy.
Assure Your Dog has Plenty of Chew Toys: Dog need to chew – if they don’t have toys on which to do this, they’ll find other outlets: your shoes, your table legs, their beds.
Correct Bad Behavior: If you notice your dog treating its bed poorly, correct its behavior immediately. Firmly tell it no or make a loud noise to get its attention. Once it’s laid down on the bed properly, reward with a treat.
Laud Good Behavior: If you catch your dog sleeping on its bed like it’s supposed to, praise it. And, again, bribery goes along way.
Make Sure Your Dog Gets Plenty of Exercise: A dog that’s not exercised enough will find its own entertainment, and it might turn to its bed for some cheap thrills. Strive to either walk your dog daily or play a game of fetch in the yard. Younger dogs need more exercise than older ones and some breeds, like Jack Russell’s, need a great deal of stimulation or else they act out.
When to Replace a Dog Bed
Most people are told to replace their mattress every seven or so years. But, in regards to dog beds, there’s really no time frame; it merely comes down to one thing: grossness!
A few signs that your dog’s bed should be hauled out to the curb and discarded forever include: it’s stained and dirty (and washing doesn’t do much); it’s sagging in the middle; it’s ripped and torn; it no longer fits into your home’s décor; it’s falling apart; it’s lost its thickness; your dog once loved it and now refuses to go near it.
Be careful though – a dog bed that’s not overtly gross may still be filled with germs. Dogs, like all domestic animals, carry bacteria, parasites, viruses, and fungus. If you live in an area with a recent outbreak of a communicable disease, replacing your dog’s bed – or giving it a thorough washing – is smart.
You may desire to replace your dog bed simply because there’s something better on the market. The dog bed business, like many businesses, is an evolving industry with new products available every year.
Purchasing a dog bed isn’t like buying a house or a car; plainly put, it’s not one of life’s biggest decisions. Still, a good bed means the difference between a well-rested pup and one that’s unhappy. And that means the difference between a well-behaved pup and one that thinks your slippers belong in the middle of the backyard. Buy a good bed and see for yourself.
Enjoy more tail-wagging from the dog and less finger-wagging from you.