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Does Letting Your Dog Sleep On The Bed Cause Separation Anxiety?

Dog Discoveries logo Dog Discoveries 3/29/2023 Adrienne Farricelli CPDT-KA

You may have heard that letting your dog sleep on the bed may cause separation anxiety, but how true is that? Let's discover what research and the experts in the field have to say.

Knowing whether letting your dog sleep on the bed with you can cause separation anxiety is important. 

Perhaps, you can't resist having your dog sleep on the bed, but you are worried about any potential negative consequences. 

If your dog sleeps on the bed with you, you are in good company! 

Many dog owners share their bed with their dogs and this is for many good reasons. 

Dogs are like family members, and it makes sense to allow them on the bed. Such closeness can help create a strong bond, a sense of security and comfort. 

Being social, dogs are very happy to share this closeness with their humans as they thrive on human companionship.

However, letting your dog sleep on your bed can also have some downsides. One concern is that such closeness may put a dent in your dog's ability to be left alone, but how likely is that? Let's see what the experts have to say. 

Separation Anxiety in Dogs: An Increasing Concern

Separation anxiety in dogs is defined as a dog undergoing distress upon separation from a particular person. 

Affected dogs manifest problematic behavior upon separation including excessive vocalizations, inappropriate elimination (pee/poop accidents around the house), destructive behaviors, drooling, lack of appetite and pacing. 

It has been estimated that separation anxiety affects 20 to 40 percent of dogs referred to North American animal behavior practices. 

This condition has seen an upsurge after the pandemic, with more and more dog owners reporting cases. 

Such increase has unsurprisingly created increased awareness, with many dog owners expressing concerns and seeking ways to prevent it. 

These concerns are valid considering how separation anxiety in dogs is difficult to treat in severe cases and how it often leads to dogs being relinquished to shelters. 

Factors Known to Predispose Dogs to Separation Anxiety

Although widespread, separation anxiety in dogs isn't always diagnosed correctly. 

There are several cases that may mimic separation anxiety, when in reality dogs are affected by something else. 

Board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Meredith Stepita in her series of articles on Separation Anxiety: the Great Imitator, lists several other causes of behavior that might be confused for separation anxiety. 

When true cases of separation anxiety appear, dog owners often wonder what may have precipitated its onset. 

Research from veterinarian Gerrard Flannigan, board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Nicholas H. Dodman lists several potential causes that may not be exclusive and that may even overlap. 

Following are several potential causes of separation anxiety in dogs. 

  • Enduring a traumatic experience when the dog is left alone
  • Formation of a pathological attachment to the the owner 
  • Changes in family circumstances (divorce)
  • Genetic predispositions 

Dog separation anxiety specialist Dr. Malena De Martini, in her book: "Treating Separation Anxiety in Dogs" adds several other contributing factors. 

  • Dog with a history of being rehomed multiple times
  • Illness during puppyhood 
  • A dog never being left alone and then suddenly being left alone
  • The loss of a family member (human or animal)
  • Moving to a new home
  • Owners being at home most of the time and then suddenly starting to work (as it has happened during the pandemic)
  • Noise phobias 
  • Old age 
Letting your dog sleep on your bed has been associated with an increase in separation anxiety © Provided by Dog Discoveries Letting your dog sleep on your bed has been associated with an increase in separation anxiety

Common Advice

The advice of not letting a dog sleep on the bed due to the risk for the onset of separation anxiety is something that has been promulgated by several books, online articles and dog trainers. 

This belief has likely stemmed from the fear of dogs developing a dysfunctional  hyper attachment to their owners due to the closeness that sharing the bed may bring. 

If we think about this closely, this advice doesn't sound too off the mark. 

After all, the formation of a pathological attachment to the owner is listed as a contributing factor, which makes us wonder whether sleeping on the bed may create a too strong bond and codependency.

Can sleeping on the bed cause dogs to become so bonded to their owners that being left alone becomes intolerable?

Does Letting Your Dog Sleep in Your Bed Cause Separation Anxiety?

Research by veterinarian Gerrard Flannigan and board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Nicholas H. Dodman clearly states that activities associated with spoiling dogs such as allowing the dog on the bed or feeding the dog from the table were not found to be linked with separation anxiety in dogs. 

This appears to be good news for owners of dogs who love to cuddle and share their bed with a furry companion.

However, the research also revealed that dogs with separation anxiety were found to be particularly clingy, being  3 times more likely to follow their owner excessively and being almost 4 times more likely to exhibit excited greeting behaviors lasting over 2 to 3 minutes.

What does this potentially insinuate? It insinuates that, if your dog sleeps in bed with you and follows you around all day long, struggling when you're in another room to the point that you can't even use the restroom in private, he may benefit from learning to become more independent and part of that may include teaching him to sleep on his own. 

After all, if your dog can't tolerate being away from you for even a second, how can he come to tolerate being left alone when you need to buy groceries or have to go to work?

This though doesn't mean letting him sleep in a cold basement all alone.

 It just means you should gradually work on fostering in your dog more independence by initially letting him learn to sleep on his bed on the floor, and if you desire, you can gradually move his bed further away. 

Of course, this is done very gradually, without causing stress. 

You also want to teach your dog to be less clingy. Several tips on how to accomplish this can be found in this article: What is a Velcro Dog?

A New Study Claims Hyper Attachment Not a Cause 

The subject of whether a dog's attachment to the owner plays a role in the incidence of separation anxiety is subject of controversy. 

Indeed, according to a recent study, even dogs without separation anxiety develop clingy behaviors, following owners room-to-room!

Contrasting research results and lack of in-depth research on the issue, has therefore caused confusion as to the correct way to prevent and tackle separation anxiety. 

For instance, ignoring the dog when he engages in contact seeking behaviors may appear as valid advice to prevent hyper-attachment, but one may argue that if a dog is seeking contact and is ignored, there are risks for the formation of a more insecure attachment making the problem worse!


Flannigan G, Dodman NH. Risk factors and behaviors associated with separation anxiety in dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2001 Aug

Parthasarathy, Valli & Crowell-Davis, Sharon. (2006). Relationship between attachment to owners and separation anxiety in pet dogs ( Canis lupus familiaris). Journal of Veterinary Behavior-clinical Applications and Research - J VET BEHAV-CLIN APPL RES. 1. 109-120. 10.1016/j.jveb.2006.09.005. 

De Assis Luciana S., Matos Raquel, Pike Thomas W., Burman Oliver H. P., Mills Daniel S., Developing Diagnostic Frameworks in Veterinary Behavioral Medicine: Disambiguating Separation Related Problems in Dogs ,Frontiers in Veterinary Science Volume 6, 2020


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