Let sleeping dogs lie: The top 10 rules of bed etiquette… according to my dog

As featured in The Huffington Post

Of course I started with the best of intentions. As I scooped my little mate up and took him home as a tiny pink-bellied puppy, I swore he would sleep in his own bed – a wonderfully warm padded basket with blankets and soft toys. But as I cuddled him, stroking his soft little ears after his first dinner in his forever home, we both fell asleep in the ‘human bed’ and the pattern was set for this pooch and his preferences for punching out zzz’s.

Nine years later I’ve just traded my old mattress for a plush new version. I have paid thousands for the multi-zoned marvel of all mattresses, and I’ve never slept better. Neither has Woofa. Right in the middle of ‘zone three’, tucked up behind my knees or lower back to be precise. My workmates chuckle with mirth at stories of my miniature mutt manoeuvring himself into prime position, but I know I’m not alone in letting my four-legged friend indulge in his canine instincts to burrow, snuggle and seek the companionship of his pack through the cold nights. What I have learnt though, is even though we broke the first big rule, there are still rules. Dog rules. If Woofa could talk, this is what he’d tell you about how to co-sleep with your canine:

  1. Puppy Scarf: Human, at some point you will wake up wearing me as a scarf. You will be pinned on your back, I will be draped across your throat. You’ll probably wake with a start, wondering why you can’t breathe. Don’t panic. I’m just making sure you don’t catch a chill. I’ve got this.
  2. Dog Hat: Ditto on the dog hat. You will find me wrapped around your head. Especially when it’s cold. It’s really cool how your head gives off so much heat by the way. You are awesome. I also do this to stop you hearing thunder, because thunder is scary.
  3. Paw Contact: Regardless of how we start the night, during the course of our slumber at least one of my paws must remain touching part of your person at all times or I might freak out and think you’ve run away to buy a cat or something. I don’t care which paw, which part of the person, or whether my claws have been trimmed. I love you. I must know you are there in case of storms, bogey-men and bad dreams.
  4. Dreams: And on that topic, I will have dreams. Glorious dreams of chasing rabbits through fields, ducks through parks, and kangaroos through paddocks. Because dogs are engineered to such fine specifications we have super-realistic dreams, sometimes I will act these out. Disclaimer: This may involve howling, barking, yipping, and pedalling my paws like I’m on a push bike. I get that this doesn’t really work for you with the paw contact rule, but I’m happy and I’m trying to share the joy. Also, what’s that thing you humans do when you twitch like you are falling as you go to sleep? Very disturbing.
  5. Snoring: When I’m not dreaming I might be snoring. Just little delicate snores. You can’t talk. Nuff said.
  6. Electric Blanket: If the whole new mattress thing hasn’t made this clear enough… what’s yours is mine. In case you were wondering, I like it best when you put the electric blanket on a bit before bed so the cold sheets don’t make me shiver. Also when you ‘forget’ to turn it off for a few extra minutes in the morning while you go to have a shower, that’s ace. Best. Morning. Ever.
  7. Heat Cycle: But there is such thing as too much of a good thing. So, I have a heat and cool cycle. It goes like this. First I climb in and snuggle and get hot. Then I stick parts of me out of the blankets – usually an awkward combination of tail, nose, and tummy – to try cool down. That won’t work entirely so I’ll climb out and pant heavily, make a fuss about going to get a drink, and come back and flop down on top of the bed like I’ve just trekked through the Sahara Desert. Then I’ll get too cold. Features of the cold cycle include; shivering, cold paws and nose, icy ears. At this point I reserve the right to use aforementioned cold nose to lift the covers and slide in alongside you to warm up. The cold bits of the dog adopt slightly magnetic properties in the vicinity of warm human skin. This said I reserve the right to assume the prime position, belly and boy parts up in front of the air-conditioner in summer.
  8. Pillows: With all this manoeuvring, is it any wonder I get exhausted and need to rest my weary head on your plush pillow? Right next to yours. Looking you in the eye immediately upon your waking because I know I am the first thing you will want to see so you don’t forget to feed me. If I yawn in your face, it’s just my way of saying thank you for a great night’s sleep. Comments about dog-breath are hurtful and unnecessary. Thanks for offering, but I don’t think my own pillow will work. It makes it harder to listen to you breathe in the night to make sure you’ll be ok to get up and feed me. Also, the closer I am, the better I can listen to the random thoughts that run around your human head keeping you awake all night. This lets me tailor my snuggling service.
  9. Spooning: This may mean occasionally we wake up spooning. Don’t make it awkward. It’s cosy, comforting and cute. And you love it.
  10. Stretching: When not curled up spooning, I will occasionally stretch. Possibly using my paws against you for leverage. You stretch too. Sometimes into MY space with little warning. I think if we tallied squashed tails, knee versus dog, and other accidental human-led contacts we’d be even.

So dear human, now I’ve got you trained is it bedtime?

*Disclaimer: Woofa’s human can report he adheres to excellent hygiene practices with regular baths and brushes. She also may or may not have just bought him doggy steps to get up on the bed because he’s finding the jump up a little hard on his joints.

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