Many dogs have it great: They get up, go for a walk, eat some food and then go back to sleep again. The actual amount of time they spend sleeping varies substantially between different breeds, but most dogs spend around 50% of their time slumbering in their beds. The question is, then, is any one type of dog bed better than the others? And are the top-rated dog beds any good?
Dogs aren’t that dissimilar to humans — most sleep on their sides with their legs extended. Anyone who has seen a dog sleeping will likely have observed their paws twitching or even their legs outright running. Dogs dream, after all, and like humans, it appears to be a state in which they can consolidate memories gained throughout the day and transfer important ones into long-term memory. Essentially, sleep helps them learn.
And just like humans, disturbed sleep has an impact on their memories and ability to learn. It also reduces their quality of life — sleep deprivation in dogs increases aggression, lowers patience and reduces their ability to cope with stress.
Much of the research concerning canine sleep patterns builds on notes from a study in 1993. In it, the authors noted that dogs sleeping indoors spent about 80% of their time sleeping. However, dogs who were in a yard spent 70% of their time asleep, and dogs who were outdoors in an unfenced area spent 60% of their time asleep.
The idea of location being important had not really been thoroughly examined previously, and it triggered a lot of questions. One of the most important is whether the dogs who were inside were more comfortable because of their sleeping arrangements or simply due to a lack of stimuli compared to outside.
There's a lot of marketing around dog beds, and many ads will claim to be based on science. However, there isn’t much evidence to suggest that any one type of dog bed is better than another. Most dog beds are made the same way:
Large dog beds typically contain a little more fill, as it's usually said that larger dogs need extra support. The reality appears to be, however, that most healthy dogs do not clinically need a dog bed.
There are exceptions, of course. Humans with lower back pain, leg pain and so on tend to do worse on a firm mattress than on a medium-firm mattress, and it stands to reason that dogs with arthritis would similarly prefer a slightly softer bed so they can rest their joints. Latex mattresses, in particular, reduce peak body pressure, resulting in fewer pressure points compared to memory foam.
Again, this can be extrapolated to include dogs, as their sleep posture isn’t that dissimilar from human body posture.
While having a dog in the bedroom doesn’t necessarily disturb sleep, a 2017 study found a link between disturbed sleep and the presence of a dog on the bed. This was built on a 2015 study that showed that a sizeable portion of owners who allow their dogs to sleep in the bedroom acknowledged that those dogs were disruptive, which may indicate signs of sleep deprivation.
As a result, having a dog bed can be extremely beneficial for human sleep. It keeps your dog away from the bed, reducing the likelihood that they will toss and turn and wake you up.
Top-rated is highly subjective, but going by the results on a certain major online retailer, the top 20 dog beds range in price from $29.99 to $239.95, with a mean price of $65.14 and a median price of $46.95.
They vary significantly in shape and style, with some being extra-plush and soft while others are much pricier heavy-duty orthopedic dog beds. Others were more like camp beds, elevating your pet off the ground.
There are clear advantages to those that are elevated in that they keep your dog off the floor, and they promote airflow while they are sleeping. This can reduce discomfort to a certain extent while sleeping, especially in hot or cold environments.
The ultra-plush ones mainly marketed themselves as being soft and comfortable. For dogs with arthritis, a medium-firm bed would be desirable, so the ultra-soft beanbag-like material that these very cheap beds are filled with may not be suitable for pets with arthritis. However, for many pets, they will be sufficient to establish a place where the pet can rest.
The harder, much more expensive orthopedic beds, on the other hand, are reportedly backed by a single exploratory study, which showed that there were modest gains in comfort and modest reductions in stiffness when used. Like any study that has been commissioned specifically to sell a product, it should be treated with caution. However, it does broadly mirror the results of human studies, which are much more numerous.
Ultimately, your pet’s sleeping environment is much more important than the bed. If your pet sleeps outside, they are more likely to have disturbed sleep. And if they sleep indoors, and they sleep with you, both you and your pet are more likely to be sleep-deprived.
For most pets, the quality of the bed appears to have little effect, even among the top-rated dog beds, unless they have a medical condition that requires a specific bed. At that point, it may pay to treat your pampered pooch to a place where they can sleep in comfort.
© 2021 American Sleep Association.