Is it a good idea to share my bed with my dog?

Answer by Oliver Starr:

In the bed or not in the bed – that is the question.  While some of the other answers are cute I'm not sure they address your primary concern – that allowing your canine to share your bed might provoke problems when this request is subsequently rejected. I feel your pain.

First let me address the cleanliness aspect:  dogs should not be bathed every day or even very often.  Especially with soap.  Doing so actually causes them to become dirtier because even mild soaps strip natural oils from the dog's coat that actually allows it to be self cleaning.  The oils don't allow dirt to stick and they prevent the coat from becoming overly tangled or matted.  Better to keep your dog well brushed and then use a damp or dry towel to remove dirt. (unless the animal has rolled in something foul in which case a night (or three) outdoors, or a bath might be in order.  Wiping the feet is an especially good idea since that's the part of a dog that is most likely to track things you don't want into your bed. If you are one of those people that's obsessed with cleanliness, if you carry a lint brush in your purse and know where every cleaning attachment for your vacuum cleaner is located, a dog in the bed is probably not for you!

Second issue is pests:  do you live in an area where fleas or ticks are endemic?  Does your dog tend to get fleas or ticks?  Are you using a flea or tick preventative like Frontline Plus (or in serious cases a Preventic collar)? Is Lyme disease prevalent in your area?  Do you sleep sans clothing?  If you answered yes to the pests (as opposed to the dress) you might want fido to stay in his or her own bed.  Waking up flea bit or carrying a few embedded passengers is the cost of a cozy canine should pest issues be part of your equation.

Third others in the bed: do you live alone? do you have guests that come and might share your bed?  Does your dog think that you're his or her human?  All these factors should also guide you in your decision, and depending upon the size of your canine they might be the most important of all.  Here's why: dogs are territorial.  One of the reasons dogs circle and scratch before they lay down is to put their scent into their bedding – in effect, claiming it.  If you make your bed, your dogs bed, don't be surprised if they become possessive over it.  If you usually sleep alone and bring a stranger into your bed and therefore want it to be "dogless" at least for the night, don't be surprised if your pooch is none too pleased.

This could mean on the spot bad behavior (like a night spent howling, scratching at the door, marking around the house, etc) or even overt hostility to your guest.  You might even have the dog decide to reinforce his or her claim to the bed by urinating or defecating in it since that's how dogs mark their territory. They're not being dirty, They're saying MINE! (and they're also removing the offensive scent of the interloper in the process — dogs are no dummies!)

On the balance these are a lot of drawbacks in order to be cozy with your canine.  That said, the warmth, companionship and bond you can achieve by allowing your animal to share your bed can be well worth it if your a real "dog" person.

Now for a personal anecdote: as those of your that have read my profile heading and some of my posts know, I live a rather unique lifestyle in that I actually do frequently sleep next to a wolf.  This is not an exaggeration as you can see from the photo above.  When I say it's wild kingdom in my bed almost every night, I'm being literal and I'm really not bragging 😉

While I dearly love sleeping sandwiched between my wife and my wolf there's a price.  Of course my wife doesn't mind because the chances of another woman sharing this bed are pretty much nil.  As it stands I think the only reason Aqutaq lets Thanya (my wife) in the bed is because she also raised her, but she definitely wants to share the bed with me.  In hotels it's even worse. Since Aqutaq doesn't have her own bed, we share the bed. Motel 6 (which is spectacularly dog-friendly) considers double beds adequate.  Aqutaq does too, but only because I get all of 8 inches and a foot in my face most of the night!  If there's only one bed in a room, guess who gets the floor? No, not Aqutaq.  It's a good thing I married an understanding woman.

So… if you love canines, don't mind the hair, some dirt and the occasional trespassing critter, snuggle up.  Otherwise make fido a comfy place he or she can call their own.

Me and 200 plus pounds of canine cozy in bed at a Motel 6

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Are wolves a danger to humans?

Answer by Oliver Starr:

(the myth)

As someone that has raised, studied and work with wolves for the over a quarter of a century, I get asked this question a lot.  The numbers speak for themselves.  In modern history in North America there are 2 fatalities that were possibly caused by wolves.  During this period humans have killed between 500,000 and 2,000,000 wolves!

The two recent attacks were:

Kenton Joel Carnegie and Candice Berner ( http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/stati… )

The first of these, Kenton Joel Carnegie has not been ruled conclusively to be the result of wolves. In fact,  the two biologists that actually investigated the scene both came to the conclusion that a black bear was responsible.  One of these two biologists, Paul Paquet is someone I know and whom I have every confidence would make a correct evaluation.  Regardless, the circumstances were peculiar and included the fact that wolves in the area had become somewhat more habituated to people than typical wolves as a result of their access to garbage dump that was accessible to wolves and other predators.

In the case of Candice Berner, wolves are considered the most likely predators responsible, but this attack too had certain elements that made it odd. Namely that Ms. Berner was a very petite woman (somewhere around 5 feet tall) and she was running alone, at dusk and apparently wearing headphones.

I shouldn't have to tell you how foolish it is for anyone, least of all a person of diminutive stature to go running alone at dusk in an area frequented by large predators, and while intentionally hearing impaired due to the use of a headset. Her death is tremendously unfortunate, but it was likely the most unintentionally provoked wolf-related death ever.

Overall, wolves are vanishingly shy animals.  Even those raised by people and heavily socialized are typically quite timid (as anyone that has met our current animal will attest).

For the last several hundred years, humans have actually been intensively engaged in a program of selective breeding to keep wild wolves shy.  How? Because wolves that come near people are frequently killed.  In the general scheme of things, when wolves and humans mix, wolves die.

When you are outdoors in a truly wild place such as those where you'd be likely to encounter wolves, chances are you might hear them but not see them.  In fact it is only in the most unusual places (like Yellowstone National Park or Denali National Park) where wolves live free from the impact of human hunting and trapping that they can generally be seen and photographed in the wild.  Even then, it is usually with enormous telephoto lenses from a good distance away.

In fact, there's a joke among wolf watchers that you know wolves are around because people are praying to Manfrotto (http://www.manfrotto.us/ )- a  reference to the fact that folks are bent over cameras or spotting scopes on tripods and they look as if they are bent in prayer.

That said, wolves are large wild animals and because they make their living bringing down animals much larger than themselves they must be regarded with respect.  They are incredibly strong and highly intelligent.  If they were bent on killing a person, your chances of surviving, particularly if a pack were attacking you are very slim.  As someone that has actually experienced a wolf attack (I have written extensively about this experience here: Animal Behavior (Ethology): Would a lone adult wolf be able to take down an unarmed, athletic adult human? I can tell you more about this than you ever wanted to know.

I have also provided advice on how to prevent an attack from occurring, here:  Wolves: What should you do if you are attacked by a pack of wolves?

Overall, the chances of being attacked by wild wolves are incredibly small.  You're more likely to be killed by a bee sting, lightning, or trampled by cows but as with all large wild animals, being alert while in their domain, and having some familiarity with their behavior will make even this very small possibility one that cannot even be reasonably calculated.

(the sad reality) (Please note this gruesome picture can be found by typing  "wolf kill hero shot" into Google, though I see absolutely nothing heroic about this grinning idiot myself)

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