CHOOSING A BED FOR YOUR DOG - WHAT YOU NEED TO CONSIDER

A good night’s sleep is not a luxury;
it is essential to the health and wellbeing of your dog

A good night’s sleep is not a luxury;
it is essential to the health and wellbeing of your dog

A good night’s sleep is not a luxury;
it is essential to the health and wellbeing of your dog

How do I choose a good bed?

How much thought do you put into buying a bed for a family member? Hopefully, quite a lot, given that they will typically spend 8 hours a day in it, and if it is for a teenager, then even more time (if they are allowed!). Your dog is a member of the family too and the same consideration should be given to your dog’s bed and how it impacts on them.

Sleep is important to our health and it has effects on our ability to function, including our sociability, concentration, attention span, and so on. If your sleep has been disturbed, it can leave you feeling crotchety in the morning, ‘out of sorts’ and functioning poorly. This also applies to your dog. A dog that sleeps well will often be better behaved because they are in a better mood and are not fatigued, just like you!

Oh, and by the way, a dog should have at least two beds around the house, one in every space that you spend a significant amount of time. Though, that is not to say that there should be one in your bedroom, which is a matter of personal choice. 

This section is not about how to choose one of our beds. Rather, we’d like to help you decide what is the best bed for your dogs’ specific requirements. We are mainly focused on larger dogs because they are generally less well catered for in the dog bed arena. It is after all why BDBCo was established. However, when it comes to beds, all dogs need appropriate beds. 

My dog sleeps on the sofa - does he still need a bed?

 Even if your dogs sleep on the sofa, they must also have their own bed, as there are always circumstances when they will need their own space.

Dogs without beds can become protective of their sofa space, which you certainly want to avoid when visitors arrive. A dog will use a bed if it is comfortable and in a position that keeps them involved in family life, while also being way from heavily trafficked areas which they won’t find restful.

My dog won't use a bed

 Many large, heavy coated dogs tend to seek out cold floors to lie on to counter the effects of central heating or summer weather. We all know that this is not good for their joints and elbow calluses almost inevitably form. Elevating your dog’s bed off the floor will increase air flow and help keep them cool. A hammock bed is one option, though it must be big enough to minimise the spine curve caused by the shape of the suspended canvas. Making a low level stable platform to put their bed on or using a frame is another option.

If you have a heavy coated dog, avoid memory foam in any form as it retains heat and will exacerbate the problem. Also avoid a soft bed that they sink into as that will also cause them to overheat. Position a bed in the coolest place in the house and make sure they have access to it so they can choose to lie there in preference to the floor. It is important to get you big dog to use a bed for their long term physical health. 

My dog can't have a decent bed as she just destroys them

The destruction of beds or other soft furnishings is not a natural activity for dogs. It is a strong indicator of unhappiness of some sort. With the exception of puppies, who will chew when they are teething and should be given plenty of items they can safely chew to relieve the discomfort, the reasons why a dog regularly destroys their bed should be examined.

This is a topic in itself and can’t be fully covered here. However, exercise alone is not the answer. Dogs need mental stimulus as well.
If your dog is content and comfortable, it is very unlikely to chew its bed.

What is the best bed if your dog has joint problems?

For dogs with arthritis or other orthopaedic or neurological issues you may want to consider an orthopaedic bed. However, no dog beds have ever undergone any research to establish whether they have orthopaedic benefits. So, take all orthopaedic claims with a large pinch of salt.

Remember, memory foam is not an orthopaedic product in itself and there are a wide range of foam qualities. If you are looking for a bed for a dog suffering with arthritis or similar issues, you may want to talk to the company making the bed you are considering. As this is a big topic, we’ve separated it out to a page on its own. Read about choosing a bed for a dog with joint issues here.  Our Active Recovery® range is designed for dogs with arthritis and other joint problems.

Take time to do research before buying a bed - you are investing in your dog's health 

Take time to do research before buying a bed - you are investing in your dog's health 

What to look for in a dog bed

Your dog's bed should :

  • Deliver the right amount of support for their weight
  • Enable  them to stretch out fully when they want to
  • Be easily accessible if they are wobbly on their feet, ie not too deep
  • Allow them to step in and out, not jump - even for small dogs
  • Be easy care
  • Stay in good conditoin for several years

Support

Your dog will easily spend 16 hours a day on his/her bed, so it typically gets the same use as your sofa and bed put together. This means it needs to be comfortable and support your dog’s frame properly.

 Check your dog’s current bed by sitting or kneeling on it. If you can feel the floor through your dog’s bed, it is unlikely to be thick enough to ensure that they are comfortable and it may exacerbate joint problems. Elbow calluses can be avoided or at least reduced by getting your dog a decent quality bed. You can also use this test to assess a shop bed too. Kneel on the bed for at least a slow count of five and if your knees begin to feel the floor - then put it back on the shelf and look for something else.

Long legged dogs tend to like a firm surface as a soft one makes them feel unstable. Likewise, heavier dogs need something that gives back when they go to stand up. Something very squashy is both difficult for them to move about on and can cause them to overheat. 

Let’s compare dogs with people as we are both mammals with very similar requirements. A two year old child will typically weight 10 to 12 kgs. A 12 year old will be between 38 to 42 kgs. Let’s translate that to dogs. French Bulldogs are around 10-12 kg, as are Beagles, Dachshunds, Whippet, Shelties and so on. Hence, dogs of this sort of size should be on a bed that is at least as supportive as you would use for a two year old child. If this is true of small dogs, consider the weight of dogs such as you’re average German Shepherd, Doberman, Pointer, Labrador, etc and the level of support they will require.

Size

Do not compromise on size. Buy a bed that fits the dog, not the space. In life, we have to compromise, but get a smaller coffee table, or move the bookcase, rather than get a bed that is too small.

The bed should be big enough for them to stretch out or curl up on, as the mood takes them. Sleeping in one position continuously will not be good for your dog’s anatomy. Their bed should not force them to lie is a particular way because of its size or shape. Even if your dog likes to curl, to always have to do so is equivalent to you or I sleeping in an armchair – comfortable for a while, but stay there too long and you sure do wake up stiff and sore.

If you want the bed to have sides so that your dog can snuggle into it, make sure the flat centre of the bed is large enough for them also to be able to lie completely flat. Positioning their bed so they can feel enclosed is better than getting a bed with bolsters all round that is too small. When about to make a purchase, make sure that you know the interior dimensions of a bed with bolster edges, not just the external ones. 

Fillings

Loose fillings such as polyester fibre, polystyrene beads or foam chips must be contained in chambers or channels that minimise their movement within the cushion otherwise, they will separate, and the dog will be lying on the floor. Soft fibre and chip fillings need to be deeper to provide the equivalent level of support to a good quality foam.
Foams come in a wide variety of grades. To compensate for a low density foam, some beds are very deep. Bed depth is not a good indication of the level of support it will provide. Look closely at photos on websites to check for the level of compression round a large dog - does look like it is providing the right level of support? Make sure the manufacturer provides sufficient detail about the materials used in the construction of their products. Ignore words like luxury, they tell you nothing. 

Covers

A waterproof cover has the advantage of helping to minimise dog bed odours as they keep moisture out of the cushion. Without a waterproof cover liquid will carry odour generating elements into the cushion and no amount of washing the cover will eliminate that smell. Small beds can be popped into the washing machine, though goodness knows what’s they’ll be like when they come out again, but big beds can’t. Many waterproof covers are a slippery canvas-type similar to that used for outdoor clothing. These can be noisy when the dog moves about and can make dogs nervous of the surface. Ask for a sample of cover fabric to be certain it is right for you. A quilted cover will not be waterproof because the stitching has penetrated the fabric and will allow water in.

The cover should be removeable for washing or have an appropriate easy clean surface with stain proofing. They should also be hard wearing. There are many measures of the durability of fabrics, but the easiest to understand and the one most quoted is the Martindale test. The absolute minimum level of Martindale test for a fabric used as a dog bed cover should be >40,000. Is this information provided?

Price

Ah yes, how much to spend. Repeatedly buying dog beds because they have collapsed or smell is expensive and not sustainable, even if you are buying ‘cheap as chips’ beds. You wouldn’t expect to change your own mattress every couple of years, changing your dog’s bed every few months is the equivalent to this. If something is describing itself as luxury, is designed for a dog the size of a Labrador, and costs £35, do you think it is going to do a good job?

Read up on the beds you are considering and decide whether you are getting value for money. Is it guaranteed beyond the minimum one year that sales regulations require? Read reviews and what do they say about the purchase and any after sales follow up. It is better to buy once and buy well. When you invest in your dog’s bed you are investing in their health.