Sleeping with My Greyhound

Today I thought I'd do a fun, off-topic post.

I adopted my greyhound more than three years ago, but it wasn't until just a few months ago that he started sleeping in bed with me. At the track, the bigger dogs (usually the males) are in bottom crates, while the smaller dogs (usually the females) are in crates stacked on top of the bottom crates. The smaller dogs learn to jump into their crates, but the bigger dogs never learn to jump. So when Django came to live with us, he did not know that jumping on the couch or onto the bed was even a possibility. We tried to teach him to jump into the car, but after two years I just gave up and always had to hoist him in. It wasn't until my friend who watched him while we were on vacation reported to me that he jumps into her car just fine and I realized he could jump but just preferred that I lift him in! Now, he does jump into the car. He still does not know that jumping on the couch is possible.

I had to hoist him onto the bed, too, but a few months ago he started jumping on his own though will only jump onto the bed when we invite him. The cats are sometimes on the bed, so I think he's afraid of jumping on the bed when the cats are there since he's afraid of the cats. When he does jump on the bed, he gets really excited and seems proud of himself!

He's so big and his legs are so long that he takes up three-quarters of the bed (he's more like a small horse than a dog!), so he can only sleep in bed with either me or my husband, but not both of us. (Because I go to bed before my husband, Django will sometimes sleep with me before my husband comes to bed.) He loves sleeping in bed with us. Most times, he will cuddle up close to us and put his paws or head on us. He is not a very affectionate dog--his personality is more silly than sweet--so I love when he cuddles like that. But, it comes with a risk.
A photo posted by Jennifer Kent (@jennifer_kent) on
Some greyhounds, including Django, come from the track with sleep aggression. They are used to sleeping alone in their crates, where they are woken out of sleep by people coming into the room or other dogs barking. They are never startled out of sleep, and they are never touched while they're sleeping. You probably see where this is going...

On the very first night we had him, my husband tried to cuddle with him while Django was dead alseep on his bed. Django got startled awake and was so afraid that he bit my husband! This was the very first night we had him, and with blood streaming down my husband's face from the bite, we were completely in shock and scared of our new dog.

We then learned all about sleep aggression, and it was one of the things we worked on with a positive reinforcement trainer. The training was basically to lightly toss treats at him when he's deep asleep so that when he's startled awake, he gets a treat and starts associating being touched while sleeping with good things. Over time, his sleep aggression faded, though I should note that we always make sure he's awake before we pet him. We mainly did the training to avoid the chance of him biting the cats if one of the cats should jump on him while he's sleeping.

And then he started sleeping in bed with us. If he's deeply asleep in bed and he gets nudged, he will sometimes growl. And because he's so big and takes up so much of the bed, it's hard not to nudge him. When I am asleep myself and am woken by a dog growling right beside me, it's definitely scary!

Two things happened recently. First, I must have nudged him while I was sleeping and he growled at me and startled me awake, causing me to jump up and fall out of bed! Second, just this past weekend, he came to sleep with me after I'd fallen asleep, so I didn't even know he was there. I must have really shoved him in my sleep, because not only did he growl at me but he also barked at me! I was so startled that I woke up screaming!

On top of him growling and barking when being nudged while he's sleeping, he will also yelp, growl, and wag his tail in general while he's sleeping. This does not make for a restful sleep for the humans!

Is there a chance he could be startled enough out of sleep that he'd bite instead of growl? Yes. But it's not a good chance. Usually his head isn't near us. Also, one time he was deep asleep when I was in bed reading. One of the cats jumped on the bed and landing right by Django's mouth. Django was very startled and growled but didn't do anything else. I think the early desensitization training we did really helped. But, I do accept that it's a risk and am willing to take it because I love him so much and love cuddling with him.
I usually don't lie with him face-to-face like this and wouldn't if I were sleeping too!
I love him even though he's sometimes like this--eyes rolled back in his head and teeth showing. What's not to love?!

Do you sleep with your dog? Does your dog growl, yelp, or wag its tail in its sleep? Please tell me yes so that I don't think I have the only weirdo dog!