Should Dogs Sleep Inside or Outside?
Getting a dog comes with all sorts of questions, some of which one doesn’t expect until it’s time for an answer. Like this one: where should a dog sleep at night? Should dogs sleep inside or outside? Is it even OK to let a dog sleep outside, even if the dog wants it?
Well, the answers to these questions depend on a lot of factors, including your dog’s breed and age as well as the layout of your home. If we could give a short answer to this question, it would be this: the best place for your dog to sleep is one that both you and your dog are happy with.
But where exactly is that? Today, we’ll go over the most important considerations that will help you ensure your dog has a perfect sleeping spot.
Where Should My Dog Sleep at Night Time?
Did you know that dogs spend about half their lives sleeping? Sleeping 12 out of the 24 hours is totally normal for a dog. Sometimes, they sleep even more and this doesn’t even include the time spent lounging around (1). So, it makes sense to ensure a perfect sleeping spot for your dog(s).
Now, let’s turn to today’s main question - can dogs sleep outdoors? Well, some of them can, but that’s not really what the experts recommend these days (2).
‘Outdoor dogs’ are pretty much a thing of the past, with very few exceptions in specific situations. If you are keeping a dog as a pet, you should understand that dogs are social creatures and want to be part of the family (as you probably do). As such, they generally do well sleeping indoors where everyone else is.
However, some dogs do like sleeping outdoors. While forcing a dog to sleep outside is quite cruel, especially if the dog’s basic needs aren’t met, letting a dog sleep outside is a different story.
From personal experience, I do know that both my Staffie mix and my housemate’s English Setter occasionally insist on sleeping outside, especially on warm summer nights. And they are allowed to do this because they have a safe space available to do so.
And that’s, at least in my opinion, the whole point: there is nothing wrong with dogs sleeping outside if we make sure they are safe and all of their needs are being met.
But, before we delve into the topic of how to make outdoor sleeping safe for your dog, let’s go over all the possible sleeping arrangements different pet parents tend to choose:
Most dogs do sleep indoors. In many homes (such as apartments), that’s pretty much the only option. But, even in these cases, there are decisions to be made. Some places where indoor dogs sleep include:
Some dogs are crate-trained and enjoy sleeping in their crates. While crate training can be effective at keeping dogs calm by giving them a safe space inside the crate (not the same as locking a dog in a crate!), it’s not right for every dog and it’s certainly not the only way to keep a dog indoors.
One would expect that most dogs sleep in dog beds, but, according to a survey done by AKC - as many as 45% of pet parents in their sample let their dogs join them in bed (3). Among other dogs, 17% slept in a dedicated dog bed, while 20% slept in a crate. Only 4% of surveyed dog owners said that their dogs sleep outdoors.
Related: Dog Sleeping Positions & What They Mean.
And the remaining 14%? They slept in random places around the house. Cause that’s just what some dogs love to do. Some like to sneak up onto the furniture, others like to sleep on the floor. Some even like to sleep on the tiles in your kitchen or bathroom.
Related: How To Help Your Dog Sleep.
In the end, there is no right or wrong. The key is in establishing firm boundaries about what’s allowed and what’s not with your dog.
As you can see, dogs can sleep pretty much anywhere while indoors. After all, our homes are usually nice and sheltered places with a nice temperature inside and no intruders from the wild.
Related: Why Won't My Dog Sleep In Their Bed?
If your dog is sleeping outside, things will be a bit different. Namely, we can’t just leave the dog out, lock the door, and hope everything will be fine. Your pup will still need a nice and cozy place to sleep that’s sheltered from the elements and other dangers.
Tips for Having Your Dog Sleep Outside Safely
- Create a safe space for your dog. The exact arrangements might vary depending on your situation, but a dog that sleeps outside should always have a safe and comfortable shelter to sleep in. It could be a dog house or a whole kennel, or simply a shed or a sheltered part of your yard, but in any case, take some time to think through how your dog will feel there.
- Make sure your pup is sufficiently protected from the elements. There should always be a sleeping area available to your dog where they are safe from rain and from cold. A raised bed with lots of cozy blankets can help keep your dog warm. On the other hand, if it’s very hot where you live, make sure there is enough shade.
- Ensure that drinking water is available at all times. This goes for any situation when your dog is alone - water should always be available.
- Keep the kennel/dog house in a quiet area. Your pup needs peace too. To ensure they get good sleep, make sure their sleeping spot is as hidden away from traffic and general commotion as possible.
- Chains and tethers are a bad idea. Tethering your dog might feel safer, but this is only OK for short periods and under supervision. Restraining a dog in this way overnight is very dangerous. It can lead to injuries and cause unnecessary stress to your dog. Simply don’t do it.
- But do ensure your yard is properly fenced. The proper way to keep your dog safe is to ensure that the area where your dog sleeps is protected by a fence.
- Consider a doggie door. If your dog prefers to sleep outside, perhaps the best option is to install a dog door (if feasible) so your pup can have access to your home if needed.
How Cold is Too Cold for a Dog to Sleep Outside?
This might not surprise you, but there is no one-size-fits-all rule in this regard. If there should be one, it’s that when temperatures get below 0, it’s downright dangerous for your dog to sleep outside (4). In such conditions, hypothermia and even frostbite are real concerns.
But of course, there is more to it than that. So asking how cold is too cold for a dog to sleep in Australia is also a sensible question to ask.
Most dogs will be fine being outdoors while the temperatures are above 10 degrees Celsius, but that doesn’t mean it’s fine for them to sleep outside. Obviously, dogs with short, thin coats will be much more susceptible to cold weather than dogs with thick fluffy coats.
Moreover, small breeds tend to get cold much more easily:
In the end, it’s all about observing your dog and understanding their needs. A dog that is shivering is not fine sleeping outside. But even before it comes to that, there will probably be signs your pup is cold, like a hunched posture, trying to snuggle up extra tight in the bed, or asking to go inside, in which case, you should allow it.
Related: Why Won't My Dog Sleep at Night?
Can Puppies Sleep Outside?
No! Puppies are a special category, and for them, it’s not ok to sleep outside. There are many reasons for that. First of all, puppies are small, and they do not regulate their body temperature as well as adult dogs.
Moreover, puppies get used to sleeping with their littermates and the warmth of their mom’s body during the first weeks of their lives, so you can imagine how sleeping outside alone after that could be too much of a change. Puppies need warmth and socialisation.
Finally, puppies are curious and clumsy. Some of them don’t yet know what they can eat and not eat, and they can get into all kinds of mischief out of sheer curiosity. For this reason, it’s not safe to leave puppies unsupervised for long periods.
As for when can puppies sleep outside? Well, there is no easy answer, but you should always wait until your pup approaches full body size, which can take more than a year, depending on the breed. The bottom line, wait until your puppy is at least 6 months old before even considering letting them sleep outside.
My Final Thoughts
We could say that dogs should sleep indoors, but that would be a generalisation. Some dogs who like to sleep outside. This is especially common among breeds that were bred to be resistant to the weather, like the Great Pyrenees and Huskies but also various shepherds and herding dogs.
Provided that there is a safe space for a dog to be outside, and the dog enjoys it, outdoor sleeping could be the perfect arrangement. However, it’s impossible to deny that sleeping inside is safer and more comfortable for most dogs, and they should have a right to share a home with the rest of the family.
- Mitchell, S. C. October 4, 2021. “How Many Hours Does a Dog Sleep in a Day?”. PetMD. Retrieved September 19, 2022. https://www.petmd.com/dog/general-health/how-many-hours-does-dog-sleep-day
- “Concerned about a dog being kept outside?”. RSPCA. Retrieved September 19, 2022. https://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/dogs/environment/livingoutside
- Mansourian, E. August 6, 2015. “Where Do Dogs Sleep at Night?”. AKC. Retrieved September 19, 2022. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/lifestyle/where-dogs-sleep-night/
- Coates, J. November 3, 2016. “How Cold Is Too Cold for Your Dog?”. PetMD. Retrieved September 19, 2022. https://www.petmd.com/dog/care/how-cold-too-cold-dog