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Article: How to Choose the Best Dog Bed for Your Dog

German shepherd resting on extra large dog bed

How to Choose the Best Dog Bed for Your Dog

Finding the perfect dog bed is about more than just a place for your dog to sleep; it's about providing comfort, support, and a safe haven where they can truly relax and recharge. Many dog owners seek out a new bed for their furry friend due to common issues such as wear and tear on their current bed, changes in their dog's health or age, or simply because their dog doesn't seem as comfortable or relaxed as they could be. 

This guide aims to navigate the vast array of options available, pinpointing the best choice for your dog's specific needs, including considerations for their size, age, health, and the climate they live in. We'll explore everything from the necessity of dog beds and the various types available to material choices and size recommendations, so that you're well-equipped to make an informed decision for your dog.

Do dogs need dog beds?

Dogs, like humans, greatly benefit from having their own beds. They can sleep up to 18 hours a day depending on their age, health, and lifestyle, making it essential for them to have a place that offers comfort, support, and a sense of security​​.

A good dog bed supports the joints, which is especially important as a dog ages or if they're prone to conditions like arthritis or hip dysplasia. Orthopedic dog beds, often made with memory foam, conform to a dog's body, providing tailored comfort that distributes their weight evenly and relieves pressure, thereby ensuring better sleep quality and joint support throughout their life​​. 

For older dogs in particular, orthopedic dog beds can help ease the transition from lying down to standing (and vice versa), as well as manage arthritis symptoms. Of course, these beds are not exclusively for older dogs; they can also benefit younger, growing dogs by providing the right amount of joint and muscle support​​.

Types of dog beds

Dog beds come in various types to suit different needs, preferences, and sizes of dogs. Here's a rundown of the most common types of dog beds on the market that you’ll expect to come across, along with their relative pros and cons:

Orthopedic dog beds

Orthopedic dog beds are designed for dogs with arthritis, old age, or joint problems–though they can suit younger dogs in healthy conditions too. These beds typically are made with thick, high-density memory foam for maximum support, and sometimes feature bolsters along the side to prop your dog’s head up and provide added stability.

Pros: Excellent support for joints and can help relieve pain. Suitable for senior dogs or dogs with orthopedic issues such as arthritis, hip dysplasia, and spine or disc problems–or who may be recovering from an injury or surgery. Also tends to be well-suited for dogs who may be large or overweight, or lack natural “padding” due to being thin.

Cons: Can be more expensive than other standard dog beds, and may not be ideal for outdoor use depending on the bedding materials.

Donut and bolster dog beds

These types of dog beds are circular in shape and have raised edges or bolsters on all sides, creating a cozy (and sometimes even calming) nest-like environment. 

Pros: Great for dogs that prefer to curl up or lean against something, since the shape and raised sides can provide a sense of security, as well as offer head and neck support.

Cons: Wouldn’t be ideal for dogs that prefer to stretch or sprawl out.

Heated dog beds

As the name might suggest, heated dog beds come equipped with a heating element–most typically either electric (like a standard heating pad) or “self-warming” metalized plastic (similar to a space blanket)–to provide warmth, making it ideal for colder climates. 

Pros: Perfect for dogs that live in cold regions, may have short or sparse fur, or may be thin. Can also offer some levels of soothing for senior or arthritic dogs.

Cons: Depending on the type of heating element, electricity may be required, which may not be great for dogs who like to chew on cords. There is also a risk of overheating, especially for dogs with thick, long coats.

Cooling dog beds

On the flip side, cooling dog beds are designed to help keep dogs cool, especially during hot weather, and typically utilize gel or water as the cooling element.

Pros: Great for preventing overheatings for dogs that live in hotter regions or that may be long-haired and active.

Cons: Beds with water-filled cores may have a risk of leaking, and depending on the type of cooling element, some beds may require freezing or refrigeration. Overall, cooling beds may also not be as comfortable as plusher beds.

Elevated dog beds

These beds are raised off the ground, typically via a metal or plastic frame, and made with a thin, breathable fabric.

Pros: Similar to cooling beds, elevated dog beds can be great for dogs that overheat easily such as large dogs, flat-faced breeds, or active dogs. These beds also tend to be well-suited for outdoor use.

Cons: Because of their structure and material, elevated dog beds typically aren’t ideal for dogs with mobility issues, or for dogs that may enjoy or need more cushioning overall.

Covered dog beds

This style of dog bed tends to have a cover, or an otherwise tent-like structure, in order to provide the feeling of a private, enclosed space for your dog.

Pros: This can be a great option for shy or anxious dogs or dogs who like to burrow. It also helps to retain warmth because of it being covered.

Cons: Depending on the brand and material, these beds can be trickier to clean. Otherwise, it may not be ideal for dogs who prefer to stretch themselves out when they’re resting.

Corner dog beds

Corner dog beds tend to be marketed as a good space-saving option since they are designed to fit into room corners while still providing a comfortable resting area for  your dog.

Pros: Space-saving, can fit neatly into your room, and is a suitable option for most dogs.

Cons: Because of its somewhat triangular design, a common issue is limited size and shape options. It also may not be ideal for larger dogs that need more room to stretch and rest comfortably.

Types of bedding material

The choice of bedding material can also significantly impact your dog’s overall well-being and comfort–and factor into the overall longevity and durability of the dog bed in general. Here's a look at some of the most common types of bedding materials that you might come across and their respective advantages:

  • Polyester fiberfill: A commonly used, affordable and lightweight synthetic fill that feels soft and fluffy. Tends to be easily washable and suitable for both cold and warm climates, but can flatten over time, which may require frequent fluffing or replacement–and ultimately may not offer the same level of support as foam dog beds.
  • Cedar shavings: Often mixed with polyester fiberfill to create a stuffing that is naturally flea and pest-repellant, and provides an otherwise rustic scent which can help eliminate odors. This material, however, may not be suitable for all dogs–especially ones that are sensitive to scents or may have respiratory issues.
  • Memory foam: Conforms to the dog's body shape, providing excellent support and relieving pressure points. Good heat retention, and tends to be high in durability. Can be somewhat heavier to move compared to other materials.
  • Orthopedic foam: Similar to memory foam but specifically designed to be firmer for maximum support and comfort, making it especially great for older dogs or dogs with joint issues.
  • Fleece and soft fabrics: Popular dog bed cover material for indoor beds because these fabrics provide great warmth and are otherwise extremely soft to the touch. Check for covers that are removable and machine-washable for easy clean-up, and are naturally hair and odor-resistant.
  • Water-resistant materials: Ideal for outdoor use or for incontinent pets, as it protects the inner bedding material from moisture and tends to be easy to clean. Often made from nylon or polyester with a water-resistant coating.

At the end of the day, choosing the right bedding material for a dog bed depends on a variety of factors including the dog's size, age, health conditions, and the climate. It's also important to consider the ease of cleaning, as dog beds need to be cleaned regularly to ensure they remain hygienic and odor-free.

Ensuring orthopedic bedding material is certified

When it comes to orthopedic dog beds in particular, you should pay special attention to the bedding materials used to ensure that they are properly certified as orthopedic, or otherwise non-hazardous materials.

For example, you’ll want to make sure that an orthopedic dog bed is made with certified orthopedic memory foam such as CertiPUR-US®, and not any ordinary memory foam. The simplest way to check that a dog bed is actually using certified orthopedic materials is to see if the brand is listed on a certification’s official directory.

Determining the best bed size for your dog 

Choosing the right size bed for your dog is another crucial factor to consider. A bed that's too small can lead to cramped, uncomfortable sleep, while a bed that's too large may not provide the cozy, secure feeling many dogs crave. 

To measure your dog, you’ll want to take a tape measure and measure from the base of their neck to the base of their tail. Having your dog in a standing position will make this an easier and more accurate measurement. Add 6 to 12 inches to that number to account for enough space in case your dog likes to stretch or sprawl out to determine the recommended length for your dog bed. To get an idea for the minimum bed width, you’ll also want to measure your dog from shoulder to shoulder at the widest point.

For Bluewater Dog beds, a small dog bed is good for dogs under 20”, a medium dog bed for dogs under 24”, a large dog bed for dogs under 34”, and an extra large dog bed for dogs under 47”.

Some additional considerations you may want to consider as you choose the best bed size for your dog include:

  • Room for growth: For puppies or breeds known to grow the most from puppy to adulthood (golden retrievers, boxers, greyhounds), you may want to consider the adult size of your dog when purchasing a bed. That way it can accommodate your dog’s physical needs–and account for any sentimentality your dog may attach to their beds as puppies–as they grow.
  • Multiple dogs: If you have multiple dogs who prefer to share a bed, measure them together in their typical sleeping arrangement and choose a bed that accommodates the combined length and weight. This ensures everyone has enough space to sleep comfortably without crowding.
  • Different pet species or sizes: If your household has multiple pets that are different species (i.e. dogs and cats) or are significantly varied in sizes, you may want to consider the largest pet's size for shared sleeping areas. Alternatively, you can also provide multiple beds to cater to each pet's individual needs.
  • Sleeping style: Dogs that like to stretch out may benefit from a slightly larger bed than the measurements suggest, while those who curl up can potentially fit into a cozier space.
  • Space in your home: Consider the space where you'll place the bed and ensure there will be enough room for the bed you choose, keeping in mind that it should be placed in a quiet, low-traffic area where your dog feels safe and comfortable.

Choosing a dog bed based on your dog’s age and health needs

Arguably the most important factors to think about when choosing a dog bed are your dog’s age and health needs. For example, puppies have different requirements compared to senior dogs or those with specific health conditions, so catering to those unique needs is essential to ensure they get the best possible rest.

Buying dog beds for puppies

Puppies are energetic, curious, and, at times, quite the little destroyers–especially during their teething phase. Here's what to keep in mind when choosing a bed for them:

  • Durability of material: Opt for beds made of durable, chew-resistant materials to withstand teething and playful behavior. Some beds are specifically designed to be more resilient against chewing and digging, which can save you from needing to replace them frequently.
  • Accounting for puppy growth: While it might seem economical to buy a small bed for a puppy, choosing one that they can grow into (without it being excessively large) can be more cost-effective in the long run. It can also potentially help make it easier for your dog to acclimate to their bed if they start with a bed size that they can grow into adulthood, especially if they already tend to attach sentimentality towards their beds. However, if you're attached to the idea of your dog having a bed that fits just right during their puppyhood, be prepared for potential upgrades as they grow.
  • Ease of cleaning: Puppies are prone to accidents as they're still learning house training. Look for beds with removable, machine-washable covers to simplify cleaning and maintain hygiene (and an odor-free house!).
  • Comfort and security: Soft beds with raised edges can help puppies feel secure and cozy, simulating the warmth and snugness of lying with their littermates.

Buying dog beds for senior dogs or dogs with joint problems

Older dogs and those with joint issues such as arthritis or hip dysplasia require beds that offer enhanced support and comfort. Consider the following when choosing a bed for them:

  • Memory foam: Beds made of orthopedic or memory foam provide the best support for aching joints, reducing pressure points and helping to alleviate discomfort. These materials conform to the dog's body, offering tailored support that can significantly improve their quality of sleep.
  • Bolster for added support: Beds with bolster sides offer additional support for the head, neck, and back, allowing senior dogs to find a comfortable position easily. This is especially helpful for dogs who like to rest their head on an elevated surface.
  • Low entry point: Choose a bed with a low entry point for easy access, which can be especially important for dogs with mobility issues. This ensures they can get in and out of bed without additional strain on their joints.
  • Washability: With age, some dogs may experience incontinence issues. A bed with a waterproof liner and a washable cover is essential for keeping the sleeping area clean and odor-free.
  • Size and thickness: Ensure the bed is spacious enough for your dog to stretch out without being cramped and thick enough to prevent your dog from feeling the hard floor beneath.

Other factors to think about

While the size, material, and specific needs of your dog are primary considerations in choosing a bed, you may want to factor in additional considerations such as design, ease of assembly, and overall longevity.

Design and special features

You may want to consider how the bed's design and color fit with your home decor to ensure that there is aesthetic compatibility. A wide variety of designs are available in the market, allowing you to choose one that best complements your living space.

Special features such as bed handles for easy transportation, waterproof liners, and removable bed covers may also be something to factor in when searching for a dog bed.

Ease of assembly

Check if the bed requires assembly and, if so, how complex it is. Some beds are ready to use straight out of the box, while others (like elevated beds) might need some setup that could range from simple to challenging.

Maintenance and longevity

It’s always a good idea to check verified customer reviews or product information for any mention of the bed's condition after washing. Some materials may lose their softness or become less comfortable after repeated washes, or may be harder to spot-clean. 

Look for beds that offer machine-washable replacement covers, extending the life of the bed and ensuring it remains comfortable and attractive even with heavy use.

How to acclimate your dog to a new bed

Introducing your dog to a new bed may sometimes be met with hesitation or indifference, as dogs can be creatures of habit, and a new bed represents a change in their environment. However, you can make this transition smoother and help your dog embrace their new sleeping spot with patience and a few strategies:

  • Make it smell like home: Familiar scents–like placing an old blanket or a favorite toy–on the new bed can help make it more inviting to your dog.
  • Place it near their old sleeping area: At least initially, placing the new bed in the same spot as where their old one used to be can be helpful, since your dog most likely has associated that spot with feelings of comfort and rest.
  • Encourage, but don’t force: Leading your dog to the bed with a cheerful voice and perhaps a treat can help create and reinforce positive associations to the new bed. If they choose to get on it, offer plenty of praise; however, if they’re not ready, don’t force them–it’s important for your dog to choose the new bed on their own time.

During this transitional time, you may also notice your dog exhibiting behaviors such as sniffing, circling, or pawing their new bed as they investigate it, alternating between their old and new sleeping spots, or avoiding the new bed entirely. These behaviors are common and should gradually go away by themselves as your dog fully adjusts to their new bed.

Where should the dog bed go?

Generally speaking, it’s recommended that your dog’s bed should be in a low-traffic, draft-free, and quiet room so that they can sleep soundly at night. However, there may be other contextual situations where you may want to consider a different bed placement. 

For example, you may want to consider placing an additional bed in your office (or another room that you’re frequently in during the day), so your dog has a place close to you to relax or nap. Or if your home spans multiple floors, it may make sense to have more than one bed so that your dog has a comfortable spot no matter what floor they choose to spend their time on.

Key takeaways

Choosing the perfect dog bed involves considering a variety of factors, from your dog’s age, size, and specific health needs, to the types of bed and bedding material. 

Bluewater Dog’s luxury orthopedic beds are thoughtfully designed with high-density, layered orthopedic CertiPUR-US® certified memory foam, ultra-soft, washable OEKO-TEX 100 bouclé fabric, and subtly raised bolsters to give your furry companion the restful sleep they deserve.

At the end of the day though, the goal in choosing a bed for your dog is to provide a comfortable, supportive space that meets your dog’s unique needs and enables them to feel safe, comfortable, and part of the family while they’re resting.

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