Dogs’ intelligence benefits from a good night’s sleep too!

Do dogs really need dog beds?

Most dogs sleep for 12 to 18 hours a day, and just like us a good night’s sleep helps maintain health and comfort, especially in older animals.

Aging animals often experience pain causing issues such as arthritis, hip and elbow dysplasia, cervical instability and loss of muscle tone and strength. Basically just like us their older body is stiffer, has more aches and pains and is not as robust as it was in our younger years, making the style, comfort and quality of bed chosen, vital for their wellbeing and quality of life.

A study published in a 2017 edition of Scientific Reports, showed that a good night’s rest improves your dog’s memory, and can even make them smarter. Meaning that when dogs learnt new commands or tricks, they did better in repeating the responses when they had slept well.

Scientific American

Fill Materials

Younger and smaller dogs often prefer to sleep curled up and tend to choose softer materials (if given the option), think of the pillow thief, who likes nothing more than to curl up snuggled into your pillow. They are able to stand easier so a deeper, “looser” cushion does not cause any problems for them.

Older dogs, whilst they have aches and pains, may battle to stand up from an unstable surface, or a surface that has dropped their center of gravity below the level of their legs, purely because they do not have the muscle strength to do so. This is particularly noticeable in giant breeds such as the Great Dane, Boerboel, St Bernard and Newfoundland.

Cushions and beds suitable for them often have a firmer fill material, and / or compartmented cushions, so that the fill material can not shift too much, you are aiming to provide a soft but supportive cushion. A good quality memory foam is also a wonderful alternative, it provides the body with comfort and support whilst remaining firm enough for an older dog to push up off.

Fabric Choice

The stitch lines in the quilting, provide traction for older dogs who battle to get up

Seasonal temperatures are the first reason that we think of to choose fabrics, we all know that cotton, linen and a variety of blends can be “cool” fabrics, whereas fleece, velvet and blanketing are referred to as “warm” fabrics.

An often forgotten factor is that of grip or “slipability”, some fabrics are just naturally more slippery, this will not worry a young fit and strong dog when bounding out of bed, for the day’s adventures. It could however prove to be dangerous for an older dog, who could slip and injure themselves.

Stitching patterns or lines, such as quilting assist with providing “traction”, and fabrics such as fleece, denim, velvet and a washed polycotton tend to allow dogs to maintain their footing on standing.

Bed Style

No one knows your dog like you do, but our years of experience may be able to give you some insight into what design choices would best suit your special senior. Small breed dogs tend to prefer to sleep curled up and do very well with round beds and don’t seem to choose or need much neck support. As breeds become larger, they tend to choose to sleep more sprawled out and often prefer to have their head up supported on a cushion or the side of their bed.

Depending on your dog’s size and length of neck, a bed or basket can be chosen for the height and depth of the side “wall”. A perfect example of this is our RDD Jake’s Sleeper Couch, Jake is not a youngster anymore and whilst he loves all of our baskets, his namesake is his preferred choice of bed, always with his head supported on a side “wall”.

Senior citizen, Jake enjoying his Sleeper Couch, designed specifically to support the larger or senior pooch

Another consideration is the height of the sleeping surface off the floor, a tiny senior pooch is going to be less able to jump up into their bed, likewise the older a tall and big dog gets, the harder it is for them to stand up from a lower sleeping height. Look at beds that allow them to be higher off he floor, so the heave-ho to their feet is not quite so challenging.

Breed specific Health Challenges

Typical sleeping posture for a brachycephalic breed

In addition to the benefits mentioned previously, man has created a plethora of health issues by exaggerating certain traits in some breeds. Think of the brachycephalic breeds such as the Boston Terrier, Pug, Pekingese and probably the most famous or is that infamous the English Bulldog.

With our interference, we have created breeds who battle to breathe due to their shortened noses, resulting in flatter faces and often more acute angles in the nasal passages with narrower nostrils, all of this resulting in dogs who breathe harder to get in the required amount of oxygen.

Brachycephalic breeds battle to sleep and find a position which allows them to breathe the easiest.

Most brachycephalic breeds will sleep with their heads held or propped against something to keep it in a raised position, providing the best alignment, for easiest breathing.

Abnormal sleep patterns is another symptom that you can observe in a struggling brachycephalic dog.

Most of the brachycephalic dogs find it difficult to sleep and more importantly a good position that lets in more air through their nostrils while sleeping.

This is why most of such breeds tend to keep their heads in an upright position while sleeping. Such breeds can limit their sleeping duration as they wake up due to lack of breath.

Richmond Valley Vet


Older dogs, often become the manky mutts that only a mother can love. Old age means poorer grooming habits due to stiffness and pain and loss of energy.

This can mean that your older dog ends up with a musty odour, not really enjoyed inside most homes. Added to this, loss of muscle tone, can mean urine leakage, which can burn the skin and create a hotspot for bacterial growth both on the dog and in his bedding.

Choose fabrics which are washable and consider having a few sets that you can wash and change out the covers, so that they can be properly dried in the sun and fresh air.

More Durable Dog Beds Equals Cost saving

Everyone is feeling the economic pinch, and as such it is tempting to buy a mass produced cheap dog bed. There are a few hidden risks which can have a serious impact on your pet’s health. The fabrics are often exposed to all sorts of undisclosed chemicals in their manufacturing process, many of which leave a lingering odour. This can be detrimental to your dog’s skin and breathing and sensitive structures such as the eyes and mucosal membranes of their nose.

Often mass production, does not equate to the best quality materials, so you will often find that the cushions collapse and thin out rapidly, seams tear as stitching comes undone, foam disintegrates and covers are not removable or easy to wash, disinfect or replace.

Puppies and active breed dogs, can go through seriously destructive stages in their lives, chewing, bed dragging and even bed burying (yes it has happened, for real). A bed made from good quality fabric and fill is made with this in mind. For bed chewers it is advisable to look at the simplest options made from the most durable fabrics, such as canvas, cardura and denim and only provide a more luxurious bed once they show their appreciation and maturity.

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