How to choose the best dog bed, according to experts

Shopping for a new dog bed? Find the best option for your dog — size, age, needs and more — with tips from experts and veterinarians.
Image: Tired little shih tzu after a day on the beach.
Keep your pet safe, comfortable and well-rested with dog beds from Casper, Big Barker, PetFusion and more.steverymill / Getty Images/iStockphoto
By Marissa Miller

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Proper sleep hygiene is the one of latest trends to sweep the human health world, from weighted blankets and weighted comforters to mattresses. Given the extra time many are spending with their pets, it might be a good time to offer them that same luxury. If you belong to one of the approximately 48 million American households to already own a dog, you know just how crucial it is to ensure their health and safety. And if you’re planning on an adoption, it’s best to arm yourself with comfortable options once you welcome them into their forever home.

While it can be tempting to let them sleep in your bed with you, a recent study from the Mayo Clinic found you might be better off if they're on their own turf (even if it's in your bedroom). Unlike sleeping in a bed with another person, the study found, having a dog in your bed is linked to reduced sleep “efficiency.” If you're looking to give your dog some additional sleeping surfaces, you'll come across many options online and in stores. We consulted experts on how to go about shopping for a dog bed, and pulled together some of the best dog beds around to consider.

In this article

  1. Should you get a dog bed?
  2. How to shop for the best dog bed
  3. The best dog beds for every dog

Should you get a dog bed?

Getting a dog bed is by no means necessary or critical for most dogs. "I'm not sure if [a dog bed] is so integral for their health," says Ian Sandler, DVM, who serves on the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association’s national issues committee. Getting a dog bed is more about improving your dog's comfort and enjoyment of their living space.

Does your pet regularly sleep in your bed? According to Dana Varble, DVM, dogs that sleep in their own spaces may have specific needs. “Since dogs [and cats] get far more sleep than we do, providing a good bed can be very important to improve their quality of life,” says Varble, the chief veterinary officer for nonprofit North American Veterinary Community. She added that spending too much time laying on and sleeping on hard or rough surfaces can lead to pressure sores on elbows, knees and feet.

How to shop for the best dog bed

Sandler told NBC News anyone shopping for a dog bed should keep in mind some basic numbers:

  1. The size of your dog
  2. How old it is
  3. How many other dogs might it compete with for the bed

Buying the right dog bed can seem like a gamble, but don’t stress about it too much — after all, no one is more familiar with your dog than you are. "Pet parents know their dogs the best and can experiment with different options to see what they prefer,” says Virginia Corrigan, DVM, MPH, assistant professor of community practice at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech.

What dogs want

Though dogs can’t communicate with us directly about the types of materials and surfaces they prefer, we can watch for tell-tale signs. For example, you can place several dog beds throughout the house in different locations or rotate the bed towards different directions to see where they gravitate, Corrigan explained.

Remember dogs and cats spend up to 14 to 16 hours of their day sleeping, so make sure they have a good spot to dream.

Dana Varble, DVM, Chief Veterinary Officer, North American Veterinary Community

But keep an open mind: Dogs may prefer to sleep in cooler areas of the house during the day but may also like to sleep in the comfort of your bedroom at night. Or they may prefer quiet and secluded areas in a chaotic home environment full of other pets and children — during the current stay-at-home reality many are facing, that might be more applicable than otherwise.

“It's important to remember that even if they like their bed, they may still sleep in other places, such as on the floor, depending on factors such as temperature, hair coat and underlying medical conditions that may cause them to prefer warmth or cold temperatures when they’re resting,” says Corrigan. “If they just don't like the bed at all, they won't sleep on it, regardless of the location.”

Dog beds aren’t forever

Your dog’s bed is likely to deteriorate over time so it helps to know when it needs replacing. Here are some basics to help out with that calculation:

  • Consider how frequently your dog will use their dog bed
  • Does the dog bed get dirty or soiled often?
  • Does the dog bed emanate a foul odor that doesn’t subside even after a thorough cleaning?
  • Have you noticed deterioration or damage to the integrity of the dog bedcover or stuffing?

Exposed stuffing won’t only reduce the support and comfort of the bed, but might be easy for your dog to chew or swallow, which can become a potential foreign body hazard, Corrigan notes. (Not to mention, it could mean a messy space if your dog decides to eat its way through the dog bed). Varble recommends inspecting your dog’s bed at least once a month — especially if your dog is on the heavier side and “can break down even the best of materials.”

The best dog beds for every dog

Based on the guidance we got from experts, as well as our own research, we compiled below some of the best dog beds to keep your pet safe, comfortable and well-rested, including options for larger dogs, orthopedic-first designs, outdoor-ready dog beds and more.

Best overall dog bed

1. Casper Dog Bed

If you’re not quite sure where you or your dog fit into any of the above categories, a safe bet is Casper’s dog bed. It features both pressure-relieving and supportive foam technology to help even the pickiest of pups rest easy. What’s more is that it works double time as an activity: Its extra layer of (washable) bonded microfiber material is designed to mimic the feel of sand, so they can sink their paws into it without the mess of going outside. When they’ve tuckered themselves out, foam bolsters lining its sides operate as supportive pillows. “Remember dogs and cats spend up to 14 to 16 hours of their day sleeping, so make sure they have a good spot to dream,” says Varble.

Best orthopedic dog bed: PetFusion

2. PetFusion Ultimate Orthopedic Memory Foam Dog Bed

Older, large breed dogs, which Varble defines as five to seven years old and weighing anywhere from 75 to 100 pounds, are more prone to developing arthritis and may benefit from extra padding and support, which you’ll get from this PetFusion orthopedic bed. It’s made out of durable polyester, cotton and generously filled support pillars. While Corrigan says dogs with arthritis or other types of chronic pain sometimes prefer to sleep on a cold, hard surface like the floor, it’s helpful to give them comfortable options that are designed to react to and support their joints better than a standard dog bed.

Best dog bed for large dogs: Big Barker

3. Big Barker 7-Inch Pillow Top Orthopedic Dog Bed

The right size will allow your dog to lie sideways and stretch their legs out fully without their legs falling over the side of the bed, according to Corrigan. In this Big Barker dog bed, seven inches of therapeutic foam (the same used in human mattresses that won’t flatten over time, according to the brand), allow your dog to feel supported, while taking pressure off of their joints.

Best dog bed for small dogs: Best Friends

4. Best Friends by Sheri Cozy Cuddler

Small dogs, which weigh under 30 pounds, and toy breeds, which weigh under 20 pounds, “need an option that makes them feel safe and often that means one that has sides or comes up around them to make them feel secure and less anxious while they relax,” says Varble.

With its built-in blanket and flexible faux-fur walls, the Cozy Cuddler allows your dog to both burrow or stretch out. Lighter dogs might also prefer a softer feel that they can sink into, which its plush cushioned interior provides.

Best flat dog bed for older dogs: MidWest

5. MidWest Bolster Pet Bed

Older dogs may have more difficulty getting up and down from high areas like a couch or human bed, so Sandler recommends an option that’s lower to the floor. At 36 inches long, this model is best suited for dogs that prefer to sleep in their kennel, but it also works as a standalone place to rest. “[A flat bed] can provide support without being bulky and many are also washable,” Varble says. Additionally, Corrigan says this type of flat pad is convenient because you can easily move it around to different spots around the home or you could take it with you when you travel, leaving your dog with a comfortable bed they’re used to.

Best outdoors dog bed: Floppy Dawg

6. Floppy Dawg Just Chillin’ Elevated Dog Bed

Backyard activities or hiking adventures call for a bed that isn’t just waterproof, but that can stand up to the elements and keep your dog safe — this washable, portable and waterproof bed checks those boxes. “If you’re going to be camping or allowing your dog to sleep outside where you are, that may be a situation for an outdoor-friendly dog bed,” says Corrigan. Access to shade is equally as important as comfort when your dog is outside, and this dog bed’s removable canopy gives you the flexibility to handle both shaded and unshaded spaces. Whether you live in a warmer climate or your dog gets overheated quickly, Corrigan says a raised bed like this one — its mesh cover allowing air to circulate underneath — is a good option. “It’s basically a hammock,” says Varble. “It keeps them off the grass, cement or patio. Plus, if it gets wet or dirty, it can be easily cleaned with some dishwashing soap and the hose.”

Best dog bed for dogs with anxiety: K&H

7. K&H Pet Products Self-Warming Lounge Sleeper Pet Bed

Dogs can experience anxiety for all sorts of reasons — from an owner’s departure to loud, overwhelming noises. While it’s important to talk to your vet about identifying and treating the exact cause of anxiety, the right bed — featuring elevated walls or an enclosed enclave — can go a long way in helping them self-soothe, according to Varble. Made with warming materials that don’t require the use of electricity, this bed features a first layer that traps heat and a second layer that relays it back to your dog for an added feeling of security.

Best dog bed fused into furniture: Winston Porter

8. Winston Porter Iolanthe End Table (Out of Stock)

If saving space while keeping your dog comfortable is a priority, this end table or nightstand with a built-in dog bed meets Varble’s criteria for a sensible addition to your living space. “Picture a curled-up pet with at least three sides of the bed gently touching them in that position,” she says. “Not too small that they can't stretch out, but not so big that they have to retreat to a corner to feel safe. Some pets will like a roof on their bed.” With a weight capacity of 80 pounds, the Iolanthe End Table is also suitable for larger dogs.

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