Thursday, February 23, 2012

sleeping soundly.

When I first adopted Claire, people kept telling me that, whatever I do, I shouldn't let her sleep in my bed because it will be impossible to change that habit in the future. [Mind you, I had no idea of what I was doing when I first adopted Claire, so I listened to mostly everything that people told me about dogs and training]. Because of that advice, Claire slept in her crate in the living room until she was about six months old.

The first transition came one night when she was horribly sick. I couldn't leave her side because she had an awful reaction to a certain medication, and I had to watch her all night long in case she got worse. She had thrown up all over my apartment, so I put her in the crate to at least keep the vomit contained. Then I moved her crate into my bedroom and laid next to her on the floor until the morning when I took her back to the vet.

The next change happened a few months later. I bought a dog bed for Claire and put it right next to my bed. I think she realized that it was a step up in the world, because she immediately knew that it was her special place to sleep and curled up on it instantly when it was bedtime. What a good girl.

Whenever I fell asleep, I would hang my arm off the bed so that I could touch Claire while she was sleeping on her dog bed. After a couple months, I realized that I never moved during the night because I always kept my hand on Claire. And when you wake up with an arm that is completely numb every single day for a few weeks, you realize that something's gotta give.

That's when I started letting her sleep in my bed. After the first week or so, I noticed that were both sleeping better. While I was reading or checking my email, she would snuggle up with me - but as soon as I turned the lights off, she would move to the end of the bed, curl up, and fall fast asleep.

Claire slept at the end of the bed for awhile, despite my attempts to get her to stay up by me. Our trainer used to say that this shows that Claire respects me. But as time went on, I would wake up and find that she moved during the night; each morning I would find her paw resting on my hand or arm while she cuddled up against the pillow next to me.

Some trainers would say that this is her trying to show that she is "alpha" [a word that I come to hate more and more, since I do not believe that it applies to all dogs or all situations]. Some would also say that having Claire share my bed is wrong because it makes her think that she is my equal. But what it comes down to is that we bring each other comfort. And, you know, I don't see any problem with that.


  1. As soon as Elka was trustable so far as potty training goes, she's slept in our bed. She's a warmer in the summer, a comfort if you're unhappy, and in the bedroom with us keeps her "supervised" (in theory. I'm a very sound sleeper).

    I don't buy "alpha" as people seem to think it means.

  2. loved this and I remember each step as if it started yesterday - Also, when I visit she has to remember that I sleep next to you! lol lol...and lastly, you are going to be an incredible wife and mom someday like you have been for your dog, Claire!

  3. i've been through a similar situation with desmond, although he has never been crated (by us) or slept in any room other than ours. he started out in his own bed in our room, but not right next to my side of the people bed. he didn't like that. there was much whining. all night long.

    we moved his bed next to ours, but the whining didn't get much better. we tried a variety of options and nothing helped, but we knew that what he really wanted was to be in our bed with us, so we finally relented in hopes of getting to sleep through the night.

    he no longer whines all night but things still aren't perfect. he'll whine if he's uncomfortable or--god forbid--not covered by his blanket (we make him stay on top of our comforter but give him his own blanket). and he does not in any way stay at the end of the bed. inevitably, his face is up on my pillow or my face or my neck. he wants to be on top of you at all times. it's completely ridiculous and i do often wake up, but i don't really mind it all that much. i'm certain that makes me crazy/gross, but life is short--let the dog in the bed. i don't want to be regretting pushing him away down the road when we're doing the rainbow bridge thing.

    on another note, the whole alpha-dog thing has essentially been disproved by modern dog science (having much to do with the fact that the old theories were based on wolves from different families/groups who were thrown together in captivity--and not on how wolves actually live in the wild).