I was invited onto the Radio 5 breakfast show this morning to discuss whether dogs should be sleeping on their owner's bed. This is the second time I've been asked on to talk about this issue, and it's one that rumbles around and erupts into the news every so often. Interestingly, the latest survey in the UK has found that almost double the amount of dog owners in Scotland share their bed with a pet than the rest of us further south, and I think it's possibly because the weather up there is slightly cooler. They must have more "three dog nights" - that's an expression credited to Australian Aborigines, and describes a night so cold that you need a dog at your back, another at your front and on on your feet.
You see having your dog - or cat - on your bed is nothing new - dogs have been biological hot water bottles for centuries, and probably for as long as the dog-human bond has existed.
But there are other reasons and benefits from allowing your dog on your bed. Shepherd and author Graeme Sims has at times shared his bed with up to nine BOrder COllies, and maintained that it made them more tuned in to him because they'd had to be aware of him and his movements all night to avoid getting rolled on! So don't think that it's only pampered pet pooches that snore alongside their owners - a surprising amount of working dogs get to snuggle up too. Of course, there is immense emotional comfort to having your dog close by - my aunt has been a widow for over forty years, and her dogs have brought her much needed companionship all day and all night too.
This morning on Radio 5, Aggie MacKenzie argued that having dogs on the bed is unhygienic, but if you look into there are very few if any studies that suggest this is true. By contrast there is a wealth of research proving just how good our dogs are for us. They lower blood pressure, enhance our immune system and improve our sense of well-being, so why not have them on the bed?
Of course there are a few reasons why you might want to keep your dog off your bed - asthma or allergies being an example. I personally wouldn't let a dog sleep on a child's bed, and trainer Nick Jones reminded me that it can give rise to your dog becoming too reliant on you and developing separation anxiety. The key to the whole thing for me is that you should be in control of where your dog sleeps; if you allow him on the bed that's fine - as long as he gets off when you ask him to. So decide what your ground rules are, start off as you mean to go on, and stick to them.
One interesting point Aggie raised this morning was that apparently there have been studies that show cat dander can cause depression, and she suggested this was grounds to ban them from the bed. To me this jut means that if your cat sleeps on your bed then make sure your dog does too, so that beneficial, cheering effect dogs have on humans can balance things out.
If you have strong opinions on this subject you can join the debate by leaving a comment here, or contact me via my Facebook page, the DogCast Radio Facebook page, or on Twitter - @DogCastRadio.