Nothing says home quite like your dog happily asleep in his bed. And nothing works better for keeping him off your furniture (or your own bed!) than a bed he loves to lie in.
A bed that your dog loves is also important because he needs his sleep just as much, if not more, than we do. Your dog will generally spend 14 hours or more asleep every day.
And, just like us, a dog that gets the rest he needs is a happier, healthier dog.
But, out of all the mind-scrambling array of choices of different styles, sizes, materials, designs, cost … how do you find the perfect bed for your dog? A bed that not only provides what he needs, but also one that suits your home and lifestyle?
The first step is to begin by looking carefully at your dog.
How long is your dog — at a stretch?
Your dog will sleep more soundly and get the rest he needs in a bed that’s the right size for him or her. Which is to say, a bed in which s/he can lie in comfort.
So the first step towards getting the perfect bed for your dog is to make sure that the bed is large enough for him to lie comfortably in all natural positions. Big enough, in other words, so that she is comfortable when curled up and when she may like to stretch out her legs.
After all, neither we nor our dogs lie immobile when we sleep.
Dog bed retailers will almost always provide a guide to bed size according to breed and age of dogs. But the best way to be sure that you’re getting the right size dog bed — is to measure your dog!
How to measure your dog
Measure your dog from the tip of the nose to the rump, where the tail begins. Then measure from the crown of the head to the paws.
To both these numbers add 15–30 cm (6–12 inches) to allow for ease of movement.
Larger, not smaller
As a rule of thumb, when selecting the bed from the range of sizes available, size up rather than down (and in the case of bolster style beds, don’t forget to allow extra because the bolsters take up space).
The wrong size bed can give your dog sore joints due to lack of support, or sore muscles from being cramped. This is particularly true for older dogs, who may often be affected by joint issues and feel more comfortable stretching out to sleep.
At the minimum, if the bed is too small your dog may begin to resist using his bed and/or not get enough restful sleep.
Cradle her dreams with the cushioning she needs
Along with size, think about your dog’s age and weight. For larger, heavier dogs, and older dogs, a bit more cushioning and support will be important for a good, undisturbed night’s sleep. The extra cushioning will provide the necessary protection for their joints.
Many older dogs, particularly larger breeds, can develop chronic joint pain that affects not only their mobility but their sleep patterns.
In such cases an orthopaedic bed, usually produced in a flat, mattress shape, may be a good choice. Ortho beds provide extra cushioning and pressure relief, usually through a top layer of memory foam over high density poly foam layers.
An over-sized, mattress-style bed will provide plenty of room for the dog to stretch out, as well as good support for dogs with joint problems, and will ensure your noble pooch can get in and out of bed easily.
Notice how your dog likes to sleep
No two dogs are quite the same (just like their owners)! They have their own, individual personalities and preferred sleep style, and their bed needs to accommodate this. Take note of how your dog likes to sleep.
Is he a sprawler..?
For example – does he love to stretch out in all directions; is he active, chasing rabbits in his sleep?
In which case make sure the bed you choose gives him lots of room and doesn’t cramp his style. You don’t want your dog waking himself up because he hits his legs against the sides of his bed when he stretches. A large rectangular bed will often be a good choice in this case.
Or maybe your dog likes to lounge — do you often see him leaning or resting his head against something (a cushion, say, or the edge of a bed? In this case a rectangular mattress with a bolster — either just at one end or on three sides — will give him the space to stretch out but also the head support he’s looking for.
Does your dog like to sleep on his back for any amount of time? Make sure the mattress is soft but also firm and deep enough to support his spine.
or maybe a curler?
Or perhaps your dog is happiest curled up into a tight ball. Many dogs instinctively curl up to sleep, for the warmth and feeling of safety this provides. This harks back to the pack mentality when dogs, sleeping outside, would curl up to provide warmth, conserve body heat and gain an element of protection from predators.
Anxious dogs can often be curlers and a bed with sides, or a bed that allows your dog to really cosy down and snuggle, such as a ‘burrow’ or ‘igloo’ style bed, can give anxious dogs the added feeling of security and safety they’re looking for.
These beds will help keep them warm and protected them from any draughts. But note that you may want to get another, more open style bed for the summer months so your dog, all curled up as he likes to, doesn’t get too hot.
Embrace your dog’s style
In most cases your dog will enjoy a range of different positions: stretched out; curled up; on their back with legs raised if they are particularly warm; even stretched out on their belly with their legs extended in opposite directions (like superman in flight).
The ideal bed for your dog will allow her to lie comfortably in the sleeping position she likes best, but also provide the space to move around.
Don’t get trapped in a cleaning nightmare
Whatever type of bed you get for your dog, make sure the bed is easy to keep clean! This is essential so that you can prevent the build up of dirt, odours, fleas or similar.
Some beds are entirely machine washable — though remember a large bed will require a big washing machine! Alternatively, a bed where the mattress element can be removed, and/or the bed has removable covers, provide more manageable loads for the washing machine.
Waterproof dog beds
If you and your dog lead an active life out in the countryside — and especially if your dog loves getting wet and muddy (hello labradors!) — a waterproof bed may be a really good option. These are easy to clean and help to prevent the floor beneath the bed getting wet and becoming smelly.
A waterproof bed is also a good option if your dog develops incontinence problems, because it’s easy to clean and will protect the foam within the bed (and the floor below). And if you and your dog love going camping, waterproof or water-resistant beds can help prevent dampness from the ground reaching your dog.
Keep your dog warm — but not too warm
Dogs in warmer climates or those with thick fur or long hair can find a bed on the floor too hot, and can overheat easily while sleeping. If your dog tends to get too hot, a raised or ‘elevated’ dog bed can work well. The additional air circulation beneath the bed will help to keep him cool. And in colder weather you can add a mattress to keep your dog warm.
Equally, if your dog sleeps in a room that is unheated and/or has an uncarpeted floor, a raised bed can help to keep him warm, by preventing direct contact with the cold floor and by raising him above the coldest air which is always at floor level.
Will that bed look good in your home?
Consider how the dog bed will look in your home. You may not be an interior design obsessive, but be sure the style and colour of the bed will fit in with your interior décor. Many beds come in different fabrics or designs, so you can look for one that coordinates with your other furnishings.
Where will you put your dog’s bed? Think about whether you’ll want to move it from room to room (and therefore make sure it’s easy to pick up and move) or do you want the bed to fit a particular space.
Especially for night-time sleeping, dogs tend to prefer that their beds are in a quiet area of the house that doesn’t get a lot of foot traffic. That way, your pet can escape for some quiet time alone whenever he feels the need.
And before you start shopping
Have a good idea of your budget before you start shopping; it’s easy to get carried away because of course you want your pup to have the best of everything. But don’t forget your fine, four-legged friend is going to want and need many other things, from treats and toys to collar and lead, food and pet insurance, and more.
You can find dog beds at almost any price point, right up to luxury handmade beds. The old adage ‘you get what you pay for’ tends to hold true with dog beds as with anything else, but by shopping around you can often land savings on even high quality beds.
A simpler, cheaper bed can make good sense if your dog is young and/or prone to chewing and destroying things. If your dog begins to grow out of this behaviour, you can then consider going for a higher quality, more expensive bed that you can expect to last longer.
More than one dog?
To avoid competition you will need to have (at least!) one bed for each dog. If your dogs enjoy snuggling up together, consider getting an additional dog bed big enough for the both of them — or however many they are …
More than one bed?
In many cases you will want to have more than one bed — for when one bed is in the wash; or perhaps different types of bed for different times of year; or so you can have a bed in different rooms …
Finally, don’t just take our word for it
I hope you now feel better placed to find the perfect bed for your dog. But always remember — YOU know your dog (and your home) best.
Don’t think of this post as a set of rules, but as pointers, things to consider towards finding the perfect bed your dog will love to sleep in. Need a quick digest? OK, here goes. To find the perfect bed for your dog, think:
a) Size — check the bed sizes against the measurements you took of your dog
b) Ease of cleaning — always essential
c) Your dog’s temperament — how your dog likes to sleep and any particular needs. For example:
- For dogs who like to stretch out — a large rectangular bed will give them the space
- For dogs who love to lean — a mattress with bolster will give him space and support
- For curlers — an oval bed with sides, or perhaps a donut
- For dogs that are anxious or really love to snuggle — consider a ‘nesting’ or ‘igloo’ style
- For older or post-op dogs — ensure adequate support, consider a memory foam/orthopaedic bed
- For dogs that get too hot (or sleep in a cold room) — consider a raised bed
- For country (and other mud-loving) dogs — consider a waterproof bed
And (d) — don’t spend more than you can afford.
Now over to you
If you haven’t already, get your tape measure and measure your dog. Make a note (make a list!) of your pup’s sleeping preferences and temperament, and any key style features needed for your dog and your home. Think about what you are willing and able to spend.
With these few simple steps you can feel your mind beginning to unscramble, overwhelm replaced with a sense of calm purpose. The path ahead is clear and the perfect bed for your dog (and your home) is within reach. Go fetch!
Here’s to happy dogs, and happy owners. Sleeping soundly.