How Do I Choose a Bed for My Dog?

Sheltie Dog sharing bed with its human
If you want to keep your bed strictly for humans, consider a dog bed.

Let’s face it, we all know your dog will prefer your bed or couch to anything you spend money on specifically for him, but if you choose a bed to meet his needs, you may just be able to convince him to use it. Consider his preferred sleep style, his size, his special needs, and whether or not he will be in a crate before you decide on the type of bed in which to make your investment.

Sleep Styles

Remember that your dog will likely spend an average of 14 hours each day sleeping, so you want to make sure he is comfortable. By spending a little time observing your dog during those 14 hours, you will be able to determine his sleep style preference, which will guide you as you begin looking at beds.

Most dogs will seem to prefer one of four styles:

  • Enclosed in a small space
  • Supported so they can lean against something
  • Sprawled out, taking up as much surface area as possible
  • Burrowed under a cover

Dogs who like enclosed spaces

If, given his druthers, your dog finds the smallest place possible in which to sleep, he may prefer to sleep in his crate, with simply a small pillow or even an old towel to keep him warm. If you won’t be crating your dog most of the time, he probably will feel most comfortable with a bed that has a raised edge on all four sides. You may see these advertised as “bumper beds” in stores or online. You might also consider some of the designer beds such as those that look like canopy beds or hammocks, both of which will give your dog that sheltered feeling he likes.

Dog in a hammock style bed
A good choice for a dog that sleeps in small spaces.

Dogs who like to be supported

If your dog likes to sleep on the couch, leaning against the arms or the back, he might like a bed that is shaped like a chaise lounge. I’m not talking about the beach chair kind of chaise, but rather the kind you see at the end of a bed in a large, upscale bedroom. In addition, some dog beds are even shaped like an actual couch, which may be just up your dog’s alley. The key here is to provide something he can curl up against, or possibly even place his head on top of. There are also beds that have bolsters along one or more sides, or your dog may be happy to simply rest his head on a pillow.

Dog beds for sprawlers

Dog sleeping on a chaise lounge
A chaise lounge-style dog bed.

Sprawlers may appreciate a large pillow or mat, or they may prefer to simply stretch out wherever they plop down. These are the most annoying dogs to have in your bed with you because they take up the entire bed and refuse to move. You might encourage your dog to move to his own space by putting a treat on his bed or playing with him for a bit near his bed, then placing the toy on his bed. Make sure you buy a bed that is big enough for him to fully sprawl out.

Beds for burrowing dogs

The perfect bed for burrowers is marketed under the brand name of Cosy Cave. This bed has a pocket which allows the dog to go under the top layer of the bed. The bottom layer is a thick mattress, while the top layer is more like a heavy blanket.

What about older dogs?

As your dog ages, he may begin to develop joint problems that make it difficult for him to sleep. Orthopedic dog beds help to distribute the dog’s weight and take some of the burden off of his joints. They are even making dog beds with memory foam. These beds conform to your dog’s curves, providing support for all parts of the body. (Remember the commercial where they jump on the mattress and the wine glass doesn’t tip over?)

In addition, heaters are available to keep the dog’s joints warm throughout the night. If the bed itself is not heated, you might purchase a heating pad that goes into your microwave to provide warmth. Never put a heating pad directly under your dog! He can be burned or may chew into it, causing electrocution.

To heat or not to heat?

Other than with elderly dogs, the decision about heating your dog’s bed is pretty much a personal choice. Consideration should be given to the type of fur your dog has. Long-haired dogs are much better able to keep themselves warm than are short-haired dogs. Think about how warm you keep your home during the winter. Do you turn down your thermostat to save energy? Do you sleep with the window open? Do you crank up the heat for your small children?

Observation of your dog can also guide you on this question. Dogs who tend to curl up or burrow may be doing so simply because they are a bit chilly, and they may benefit from a heated bed. Dogs who stretch out or pant all night may not appreciate the extra heat.

Conversely, there are beds that come with cooling pads to help your dog beat the heat during those dog days of summer.

What’s the best material for a dog bed?

Dog bed in home office
Consider a bed for the rooms you spend the most time in.

The materials you choose for your dog’s bed really depend on your lifestyle and where the bed will be used. For example, if you are taking your dog camping, you may want to choose a heavy-duty cover with cedar chips inside. The oil in the cedar is a great insect repellant and can keep the bed smelling fresh even after your dog has romped through a stream or rolled in something fragrant.

Another good choice for outdoors is a nylon cot. It keeps your dog up off the ground and is easily hosed off when your dog lies down after rolling in mud or anything else. This is one of the most frequent applications where cooling pads are used.

Beds or mats made from fleece or corduroy may provide a good way to keep your dog warm without driving up your electric bill with a heated bed. These beds are made from synthetics which are easily machine washed and dried.

Sheepskin beds are a bit harder to clean, typically needing to be hand-washed. However, they provide warmth in the winter while staying cool in the summer.

Yorkie in a stylish dog bed
A stylish dog bed for a stylish dog!

Designer beds

For the truly pampered pooch, you may want to look at designer beds. With choices ranging from a “Sugarplum Princess Tent” to a Papasan chair to cabanas to beds covered in exotic prints, you are sure to find a bed that measures up to your dog’s discriminating tastes!

How many dog beds does one dog need?

The minimum number of beds you could have is obviously zero. If you don’t mind having no room in bed and no un-furry places to sit in your house, then you don’t need a bed for your dog at all.

However, if you want to protect your furniture and preserve your bed space for you, you might consider providing your dog with his own sleeping place. Your dog will naturally want to be near you and the family, so consider buying a bed for the room(s) where you spend the most time. Obviously, one will go in your bedroom. You may also want one in the kitchen, den, family room, and / or rec room, so your dog can settle down in comfort but still be part of the action. Some families also place dog beds outside if they spend a lot of time in the yard. This can be helpful in keeping your dog from dragging leaves, mud, and bugs into your home by keeping him from lying on the ground.

With so many styles and colors to choose from, there’s no reason you can’t find one to match any décor. The online store iDogBeds has a huge selection of all types of dog beds as well as a page of helpful information to help you choose the right bed for your dog.

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