Choosing the Right Type of Dog Bed for Your Pet

Mychelle Blake
Dog Lying in Dog Bed

With so many dog beds on the market, deciding which one is best for your pet can be a real challenge. Different styles fulfill different purposes, and some even provide therapeutic benefits. It's best to take a look at a variety of styles before you invest in a bed that you can be sure will deliver the comfort your pet needs.

Considerations for Choosing a Dog Bed

There are so many options to choose from when looking at dog beds that it can be hard to narrow down what's best for your dog. There are a few factors to focus on that can help you make a good choice.

Your Dog's Size

You'll need to measure the length of your dog's body to get an idea of the best size bed for him. With larger dogs, finding a bed that will fit him if he likes to stretch out may be harder, or at the very least, more expensive.

Your Dog's Breed

Breed is an important consideration when you consider a dog's coat.

  • Dogs with thin coats and short hair will appreciate beds made of softer, cushier material.
  • Depending on their coat, a warming bed may be a good choice for a short-coated dog like a Chihuahua while a thick-coated dog like a St. Bernard may enjoy beds that keep him cooler in warm weather.
  • If your dog sheds, a bed made from fabric that sticks to hair may be undesirable as it will be harder to scrape all the fur off of it.

Your Dog's Sleeping Style

Observe your dog and notice how s/he likes to sleep.

  • If he cuddles into a ball, you won't need as large a bed as you might think from measuring his body length. Good choices for dogs that like to curl up are nesting and donut beds.
  • On the other hand, a dog that loves to stretch out isn't going to be as comfortable in a round, nesting type bed that will constrict his movement. These dogs probably would prefer a pillow or orthopedic type bed.
  • Some dogs need to "nest" and spin around to get comfortable and would appreciate a bed with softer, more pliable fabric and stuffing that will spread around them. These dogs might like the softer type of nesting beds or cave beds.
  • Dogs that like to lean against objects like they're pillows will enjoy any type of orthopedic or furniture bed with a bolster.
  • If your dog enjoys sunning himself, the outdoor type of raised bed is a good choice as it will keep him dry and away from insects and dirt while he enjoys the fresh air.
Dogs Relaxing In Pet Bed At Home

Your Dog's Habits

Some dogs are bed-chewing addicts and can't help but shred their expensive new beds. If your dog is a chewer and destroyer of plush toys, you don't want to bring home a big fluffy bed. Some dogs enjoy getting dirty and playing in the mud and water, in which case you'll want beds that are easy to wash and won't fall apart after repeated turns in the washing machine.

Your Dog's Age and Health

A bed can make a big difference for a dog suffering from medical problems.

  • Older dogs suffering from joint problems like arthritis and hip dysplasia will take comfort in an orthopedic bed designed to support their body.
  • Dogs with a recent injury might do better with a flatter bed, like a crate mat, as they can easily trip and fall over if they have trouble stepping in and out of a big pillow or nesting type bed.
  • If your dog is dealing with incontinence, you'll want a bed made from washable material and ideally one that can trap moisture.
French bulldog lying in his bed shaped like pineapple

The Bed's Location

Where is the bed going to go?

  • If you have a small house, buying a large bolster bed isn't likely to be practical.
  • Some dogs prefer sleeping in their crates and need a bed that can fit inside.
  • If the bed will be outside on a deck for summer naps, you'll need to consider weather-friendly fabrics and even insect control.

Crate Mat/Kennel Pad

These types of dog beds are designed to go inside of a dog's crate and are usually quite simple in design. They are an excellent choice for dogs that sleep in their crates.

  • They are rectangular and come in the most common dimensions that crates are sold in, so you simply choose the size that matches your dog's crate.
  • Kennel pads come in varying thickness and materials including fleece, terrycloth, polyester and even memory foam,
  • Crate mats can be purchased with special features such as self-warming fleece, evaporative cooling fabrics and water-resistant covers for outdoor use.
  • Most kennel pads are designed to be machine washable, either by removing the cover and washing or putting the entire bed in the machine.

Travel Beds

Travel beds are similar to kennel mats in that they're usually simple in design.

  • Most dog travel beds look similar to one side of a human camping sleeping bag.
  • These beds are designed to be easy to lay out in an outdoor situation as well as easily rolled up and be packed away.
  • They're usually made from waterproof fabrics that are sturdy enough to handle rough environments like camping or the floor of an RV.
  • They're also designed to be easy to clean and their waterproof fabric resists stains and messes.

Pillow Beds

This is one of the more common types of dog beds you can find.

  • The bed is shaped like a pillow and can be filled with materials such as foam padding, polyester fill, cedar chips, or bean bag filling.
  • Fabric covering options include flannel, microfiber, teflon, denim and they sometimes will have one side with one type of material and the other side with soft fleece.
  • Some beds come with an outer cover that you can remove and toss in the washing machine which makes cleaning a breeze.
  • Pillows beds are great for dogs that need a soft spot to lay on but don't necessarily need fancy features like temperature changes or orthopedic support.
  • These beds can also be an economical choice and you can find cheap ones as well as more expensive high end options with higher quality fabrics and filling.

Donut Beds

If you like the idea of a soft cuddly area for your dog to sleep in but want to go an extra step past the traditional pillow bed, a donut bed is an excellent choice.

  • Donut beds look exactly like their name, with a round raised area circling the bed and a circular area inside that's lower.
  • The raised area is usually filled with sturdy material such as foam to keep it from collapsing under a dog's weight.
  • Donut beds are a good choice for dogs that don't have specific needs but might enjoy a bit more support than a regular pillow bed. They also look incredibly cozy!

Nesting Beds

A nesting bed is another option that can be cuddlier than your standard pillow bed.

  • Like the donut bed, it has a raised area on the sides so the dog can cuddle in the lower area inside.
  • Nesting beds come in different shapes such as squares and ovals compared to a donut bed.
  • Some nesting beds have sides made of sturdy foam or egg crates while others have sides made of less sturdy material like simple fabric.
  • Some nesting beds are made with an orthopedic foam base and are good for seniors and dogs with physical issues that need more support.

Cave Beds

Cave-style beds are a great choice for dogs that love moving the blankets around on your bed to make their own little nest or "cave."

  • Some cave beds are "igloo" style with sturdy sides and a base made from foam.
  • Other cave beds have a round or oval soft base with a cover that dogs will need to nudge their way into (just like they would to get under your bed covers).
  • Cave beds are an excellent choice for dogs that have less fur, like a Chihuahua, who want an extra warm spot to sleep in.
  • They also are a nice choice for shyer dogs that may enjoy a quieter area they can rest in and feel safe.

Heating and Cooling Beds

These types of beds are great for dogs that need to have some extra heat or cooling to keep them comfortable.

Benefits of Heated Beds

Consider a heated bed in several circumstances.

  • Heated dog beds are a good option for older dogs or dogs suffering from medical and physical conditions where heat would be beneficial.
  • Heated beds are also appreciated by any type of dog during the winter when some extra heat in the house will increase their feeling of coziness.
  • Heating pads work like an electric heater that you buy for yourself and are plugged in so you'll need to place them close to an outlet and be sure the cord is safe from puppy chewing.
  • There are some heating pads that are "self heating" and warm up by the materials retaining your dog's body heat, although they will not be as warm as a bed heated with electricity.

Reasons to Select Cooling Beds

On the other hand, cooling beds are good for dogs in the summer or especially hot climates. These are often used outside, such as on a deck or porch, to allow your dog to lay out and enjoy some fresh air without overheating.

  • Cooling beds can also be used for dogs with a joint injury or ailment where your veterinarian recommends cooling the affected area for pain management.
  • Cooling beds are also particularly useful for dog breeds that are prone to overheating, such as brachycephalic dogs like English Bulldogs and French Bulldogs, or dogs with a lot of fur such as a Chow.
  • Cooling beds are either filled with a gel that retains the cold or are filled with water, although the water-filled ones are not as effective.

Raised Dog Beds

Also known as hammock beds, a raised bed keeps the dog away from floor drafts and cold, damp surfaces.

  • Some styles even let air circulate beneath the bed so they're a good option for outdoor use since they can help dogs cool off, and they dry more quickly if they get wet.
  • These beds are suitable for most dogs, but they may not be the ideal choice for pets with joint problems as they're harder to get on and off for a dog with mobility issues.
  • Raised dog beds tend to be made from wood, metal, or PVC or other materials to make the frame sturdy. The bedding is usually canvas or teflon or other types of strong, weatherproof fabrics.
  • Some brands of raised dog beds like Kuranda are popular with animal shelters because their durability and design make them a good choice for dogs that are destructive.

Orthopedic Beds

Any type of dog will enjoy the supportive cushioning of an orthopedic bed, but they're definitely desirable for senior dogs and dogs with physical pain.

  • Orthopedic beds are also good for dogs that need extra cushioning because they have thin, slender frames, such as Greyhounds. Pregnant moms may also appreciate the extra support on their aching joints.
  • A good orthopedic bed should be filled with heavy foam to support a dog's weight. Some are even filled with the same type of memory foam used in human beds.
  • Some orthopedic beds also have sturdy pillow or foam filled bolsters along the sides, which provides your dog an extra area they can lie down against and feel supported.

Furniture Style Beds

The last type of bed can have a variety of fabrics and levels of support. The key is that furniture style beds are designed to look like miniature versions of your own favorite couch.

  • They can run from simple to elaborate and pricing can be high for some of the more elegant options.
  • The main reason for getting a furniture style bed is the look and style of it and how it complements your home's decor.
  • Of course, you do want to make sure your dog enjoys the comfort level of the bed and materials as well!

The Right Bed For Your Dog

Before you purchase any bed, take time to evaluate your pet's needs, and compare them to the various beds available. There's bound to be a match that finds the happy medium between style, quality and price. Speak to your veterinarian as well if you are looking to buy a bed to accommodate your dog's physical issues to make sure your purchase will keep him healthy as well as happy.

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Choosing the Right Type of Dog Bed for Your Pet