What Do You Do When One Partner Doesn’t Want the Dog in the Bed · The Wildest

Skip to main content

Heavy Petting

Three’s a Crowd: When One Partner Doesn’t Want the Dog in the Bed

You want them to cuddle up; your partner doesn’t. Here’s how to handle the great bed debate

by Maggie Lange
14 February 2024
An illustration of 2 dogs on a bed

Heavy Petting is a new column full of relationship advice for pet parents – so you and your boo don’t end up fighting like cats and dogs over the cat and dog.

The objections to dogs in the bed are manifold: dirty paws, stinky butts, hair everywhere, no room, paws sleep-kicking your legs, grizzled snoring. The presence of a pet, a 20kg dog stretched out between two human bodies could also compromise the sex life of these two human bodies. Meanwhile, the supporting arguments for having a dog sleeping in the bed are, namely, one: snuggles.

I’d originally considered this pros/cons list and determined: absolutely, a dog will never sleep on my bed. Dogs might be my very favourite creatures on Earth, but their paws would never grace my duvet cover. I write all this after a morning of snuggles with my pup, Finn, whose doggie face was directly drooling on my only medium-pricy silk pillowcase, which I will now have to wash immediately. Life is a series of compromises to our most deeply held beliefs.

And what if not everyone is so quick to compromise?

The dogs love our bed for their own reasons. “It’s comfortable, and it’s also where their humans – the people they’re attached to in this life – spend a lot of time, so a lot of our scent is there,” says Jennifer Abrams, an animal behaviourist who works as a behaviour consultant in Brooklyn. What’s more, if it’s where the family is, they’ll want to stay together for comfort or feelings of safety. But togetherness can happen on a sofa, and it’s fair for people to have their own spaces and not share everything. 

What about when your love interest objects, and even if they love your dog, they simply will not be charmed into sharing their pillow with them and their rancid morning breath? 

“Look, my girlfriend was firm the whole time we were dating, and especially when she moved in, that she didn’t want the dog to sleep with us on the bed,” says my friend Annie, who’s got a white Springer Spaniel mix named Leggy, known for shedding, and once eating an entire pizza. “Honestly, I thought she’d change her mind before she moved in.”

They had a fight that leaned towards the absurd – accusations of being jealous of the dog were thrown around. “It was so stupid, but I think arguments about changing habits are hard.” It doesn’t help, Annie admits, that whenever her partner is out of town, Leggy is allowed back on the pillows.

Bed policy changes: they’re possible! 

What about if your dog is accustomed to fine linens? Or you regret your initial bed-permissiveness and want them to sleep on their own? “It’s a tough one,” says Jennifer, but she’s been there before. First, you want to give them a space that’s equally appealing, safe-feeling and comfortable – and reward them when they use this new bed with attention, praise and maybe a special bedtime treat. 

You can also try to make your bed less appealing or easy to hop on to, she says. You can line up pillows so there’s no longer space for the dog or move their new space outside the bedroom and close the door. “It’s absolutely doable,” says Jennifer. “But when we’re asking them to make a big change, it’s about making it as appealing and easy for them as possible.”

But not everyone keeps their policies so firmly as Annie’s girlfriend. “The bed is a sacred space, which I only say with partial irony,” says my friend Jamie. Jamie is a famously delicate sleeper: eye masks, no liquids two hours before bedtime, no screen time an hour before lights out, no caffeine whatsoever. But he met Allison, and they adopted Juniper, a smiley, sleepy Pit mix. 

Juniper loves Jamie, Jamie loves Juniper, and even though Juniper has been “no doubt, fully detrimental to my sleep” and “responsible for the loss of dozens hours of sleep a month”, the sacrifice is worth it. “I swear there’s, like, a transfer of oxytocin or serotonin that happens sleeping next to a dog,” he says.

When all else fails: consider the classic charm offensive 

You can also try for some more, uh, manipulative strategies. My friend Hilary’s policy is to slowly introduce the idea of Biscuit on the bed to her partner: “She’s such a little guy – who could have a problem with her quietly resting at their feet all night?” But Hilary admits that, even if she lets her partner believe this at first, Biscuit doesn’t always stay at the foot of the bed. “She has her stations.”

By the time the alarm goes off, she needs to be in between the pillows. Of course, it’s probably not the best communication policy to evade the truth about Biscuit’s true sleeping habits. Hilary knows this, you know this, Biscuit knows this. But it’s never failed her yet. “It’s lucky she’s so charming. No one has really objected.”

Not to brag, but I like the logistics of my arrangement with Finn and my partner. We met while Finn was a little puppy, but we started seriously dating when Finn was about a year old and pretty established in his habits and training. Here are his bed rules: Finn can only come up with permission and only in the morning, though sometimes this means 5am, if we’re too tired to check the clock. He has to knock on the side of the bed (the knock is more of an urgent scratch). Then one of us has to say “up, up, up” for him to hop on up. 

We have the bed to ourselves almost the whole night, and the only real problem that remains is how frequently I feel the sheets need to be washed if a dog is sleeping in them. Anyway, my previously held beliefs – like the importance of not having paws on my silk pillow – were less deeply held than I’d thought. 

maggie lange

Maggie Lange

Maggie Lange is a writer, editor, and columnist. Her work has been featured in New York Magazine, Vice, Guernica, GQ, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Elle, and Bon Appetit. She lives in Philadelphia with her favorite brindle boy, Finn.

Related articles