Start with your dog!
Let's start by measuring your dog - measure the height to the top of the shoulders and the length from the chest bone to the base of the tail. Then add around 15 cm / 6" to these dimensions to give a guide to the best bed size for optimum comfort. If in doubt, always choose a larger bed size.
Do not make the mistake of trying to buy a dog bed that has to fit in a certain space within a room.- It's the comfort of your dog that counts.
Allow for complete freedom of movement during sleep – dogs attempt to maintain a comfortable body temperature and relieve pressure on muscles and exposed joints by regularly changing their sleeping position so give them the space to do this. Round and doughnut shaped beds for instance may look cute and cosy, but would you like to sleep in the foetal position all night?
Unlike humans, dogs can't sweat to regulate their body temperature and certain breeds – particularly those with a long, thick coat can often feel uncomfortably warm– especially in our centrally heated homes - and will often migrate to the floor or cool tiles for relief. Choosing an open design of bed that allows for free air circulation can certainly help.
Don't settle for the first dog bed that you see
Do your research!
Check out the retail stores and the internet to get an idea of what's available and keep your wits about you!
Here are some pointers -
Many manufacturers make dog beds as an afterthought to their core business – usually manufacturing foam-based items such as pillows, cot beds and cheap mattresses. They know virtually nothing about dogs and their needs!
Manufacturers are great at stimulating impulse buying decisions – adding a cute cover with images of bones or pheasants on it does not necessarily make a great dog bed! It's what's inside that counts!
Who made the dog bed? The vast majority of dog beds offered for sale in this country are imported. They travel over 6000 miles in a container which is packed tightly with as many beds as is physically possible to squeeze in using materials and fillings that may not meet UK regulations or guidelines.
Buy from a company that displays it's address and contact details, that has a strong brand to protect, that offers knowledgeable advice and guidance and is independently accredited.
Does the dog bed come with a No Quibble Return Policy and / or a Warranty?
Manufacturers and retailers don't like big dog beds – they are less cost-effective to ship, store, handle and display making sourcing one for your large breed that much harder. Many of the big dog beds on sale are just scaled-up versions of beds designed for small dogs and are simply just not up to the job.
Financial constraints often determine how much we spend but it's worth bearing in mind the following -
Your dog's bed is probably the most hard working and used piece of furniture in your home - Don't skimp on quality.
A £200 dog bed that lasts 5 years is a far sounder investment than having to replace a £50 dog bed 3 times per year.
It's an undisputed fact that investing in a fully supportive dog bed can help to reduce or delay the onset of musculoskeletal conditions such as Arthritis in later life thus reducing veterinary fees and insurance premiums.
Consigning unfit for purpose dog beds to landfill with monotonous regularity is not great for the environment.
Insulation / Cushioning
Insulation ensures that your dog is kept away from cold floors. It needs to be dense, thick and heavy. It needs to raise your dog up away from draughts and to allow for easy access / egress.It also needs to provide a high degree of localised cushioning for exposed joints.In short, this means lots of filling which makes for a heavy, substantial bed.
The correct support to ensure natural spinal alignment is an absolute priority for a restful and regenerative sleep. A good dog bed needs to react immediately to your dog's movement and weight and bounce back as soon as pressure is removed.
Dogs benefit from a helping hand when it comes to regulating their temperature. A dog bed filling and construction which allows for the free movement of air throughout the bed core helps to keep it fresh, dry and free from mould and mildew and maintains a comfortable temperature for sleeping without overheating.
Is it easy to wash / wipe clean?
Are the covers tough and durable, waterproof, removable / replaceable?
It's what's inside that counts!
Regrettably, the main constituent of many dog beds is fresh air. Polyester fibre wadding is used extensively within the industry. This is blown into a suitable cover and then plumped-up to give 'volume' to the bed. Unfortunately, the wadding quickly settles, flattens, becomes lumpy and disperses to the corners and edges of the bed resulting in your dog having virtually zero support, insulation and cushioning for exposed joints and a distorted spine.
To test this, lay the bed on the floor and press down or punch the bed in the centre. If your hand comes within a centimetre or two of the ground the bed should not be considered.Similarly, if the bed feels very light in weight it just isn't going to be up to the job.
As an alternative to polyester fibre, foam and memory foam are often used as a filling. Dog bed manufacturers love foam – it's cheap, light in weight and easy to cut and shape.
There are however, a few caveats that are worth highlighting -
Memory foam is heat sensitive. This makes it stiffer and slow to adjust to your dogs shape if it is cool. Memory foam is also very dense so once it is warm it doesn’t dissipate heat very well which can lead to your dog becoming uncomfortably hot.
It pays to check the thickness of memory foam in a bed. It is expensive compared to regular foam and manufacturers can cut corners whilst benefiting from the ‘Memory Foam’ label.
Similarly, beware of cheaper variants such as egg crate foam, memory foam crumbs, shredded memory foam, and lower density foams these are generally wholly inadequate as an effective filling.
Lastly, and it’s a big one, memory foam can have a distinct chemical smell when purchased. This may be totally innocuous, but unfortunately an alarming amount of foams use potentially toxic chemicals in their manufacture or are subsequently treated with a seriously worrying cocktail of fire retardant chemicals. The foam may contain Volatile Organic Compounds that off-gas over time and / or can be ingested by your dog.The chemicals can result in allergies and skin conditions but have also been shown to contain several known carcinogens.
Be careful of the term – 'orthopaedic' – it's used widely within the industry as a marketing term with questionable scientific veracity and is open to much abuse by some manufacturers and retailers.
Anatomically, we are not built that differently from our canine friends and we have similar requirements and demands from a really great bed.
If you wouldn't like to sleep on a cotton sack filled with blown polyester fibre wadding why would you expect your dog to do so?
It's no surprise that the very best human beds use pocket springs and deep layers of natural fillings to obtain optimum comfort and support and that's why we use the same technology and traditional mattress making techniques in our Orthopaedic Mattress.
Look for a company that specialises in dog beds and includes knowledgeable articles on their website to help you make the right choice.
Depending on your lifestyle, you may need more than one type of bed so it's best to choose to buy from a company that can offer a range of bed types, sizes, colours, spare covers, rugs, throws, blankets and useful accessories to ensure that you meet your dog's needs.