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A: You are smart to be crate training your puppy. As you know, it’s one of the best steps you can take to instill independence and keep your dog out of trouble while she’s still in that exploratory puppy stage. A crate gives a pup a secure place to be when she’s tired or when you’re not around to supervise her chewing, play and other actions that can be destructive, such as pottying in the house.
But, I also know just how sweet and comforting it feels to have a puppy snuggling next to you in bed. That little, warm body and sweet puppy breath are hard to resist. Before you let your pup share your sleeping quarters, though, she should have reached certain milestones. Here’s what to consider:
She sleeps through the night without needing to be taken out to go potty. Being nighttime house-trained is an important milestone to meet before a pup is allowed to sleep on the bed and not in her crate. She may still need to go out every two to four hours during the day, but if she can go all night without a potty break and knows to wait until you take her outdoors, she may be ready to be your bed buddy.
She stays in her crate without crying for release. It’s important to develop a spirit of independence in your puppy, so she becomes a confident adult dog. She should be relaxed and happy in her crate. The ability to stay comfortably in a crate for up to four hours during the day — or overnight — signals that your puppy is mature enough to tolerate limited periods of separation from you. My own new puppy, QT, is crate trained and likes going into his den at night.
She’s not so small that you might squish her. My little QT still weighs only two pounds, and I worry that he could be hurt if I roll over on him while I’m asleep, or that he might fall or jump off the bed. Wait until your pup is big enough to fend for herself before you bring her into the bed.
She’s not so big that she’ll hog the bed. It’s one thing to let a small or medium-size dog share your bed, but if your pup is going to weigh 50 pounds or more at maturity, you might want to think twice before you invite her up. Small dogs can sprawl, sure, but it’s easy to move them to another part of the bed if they’re in your way. That could be more difficult with a big dog, even if you have a king-size bed. If you have a canine cocktail and aren’t sure how large she will eventually be, it’s a good idea to wait until her puppy growth spurt is over, and see if you’ll have room to share a bed with her.
Even if you do allow your dog to sleep on the bed, there are times when you’ll want her to stay in her crate overnight — after surgery (yours or hers), for instance, or if you’re not sleeping well. And, when she’s not curled up in the crook of your knees, being in a crate or on her own bed, next to yours, can still provide her with quality bonding time — hearing you breathe and drawing in the scent of your presence — while sleeping independently.
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