Dog beds: 10 tips for buying your pet's bed

Browsing dog beds? Time was you hit up the pet shop for the only bed they had and pooch had to put up with it. Now, there's all sorts of things to consider, as our expert guide shows...

Choosing dog beds: dog in a pet bed by fireplace
(Image credit: Jeremy Phillips)

If you're looking at dog beds online, you might be surprised by the sheer wealth of choice. They come in all sorts of materials, varying price points and styles. So it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when trying to pick the right bed for your dog. 

And while you obviously want to consider your pet's comfort (after all, they can spend 12 to 14 hours asleep each day), there are tons of other things to bear in mind: what will it look like in the living room; can it be washed/ how much will it cost; and how long will it last? 

We asked British company Charley Chau for their top tips, whether you've got a dinky Dachshund or a whopping Great Dane. Once you're done, shop for the best pet beds in our buyer's guide; there are beds there for cats, too, although we all know they prefer your bed... And find everything pet-related on our dedicated hub page.

1. How big should a dog bed be?

Whether you have a gigantic great big dog or a tiny little pooch, size matters. Just as we humans appreciate a little more space, so do our dogs. Select a bed that will give them enough space to curl up or stretch out as the mood takes them. 

A bed that’s too small for your dog forces them to curl up small, whether they want to or not, and may not do your dog’s joints any good in the long run. 

So, before you shop, measure your dog when standing from the tip of their nose to base of tail, and from top of skull to the floor. The sleeping area of their bed should be at least the size of your dog’s measurements but ideally around 25 per cent bigger to allow for space to move around comfortably, especially if the bed has firm or solid sides.

You could try to do the same for your cat, if they'll stand still to be measured. Good luck with that.

2. What shape should a dog's bed be?

Observe how your dog likes to sleep and choose a bed shaped to suit their preferred sleeping style. Dogs that love to sprawl often prefer simple flat, mattress style beds. Dogs that curl up into tiny little balls usually love round or oval beds – bear in mind also that some dogs curl up because they are cold, or as a way of shutting out the noise and buzz in a busy household. If you have a dog that likes to stretch and curl depending on how they’re feeling then a rectangular bed with sides usually does the job, or a larger round bed with enough space to stretch. 

3. Orthopedic dog beds: worth the hype?

Some dogs may need a specialist bed to suit particular needs or a particular environment. Older dogs with stiff joints may require the support of an orthopedic mattress such as a memory foam mattress – make sure you choose a solid memory foam, not a 'memory foam crumb' made up of left over bits of foam. 

4. Are elevated dog beds better?

Raised dog beds can help to keep your dog out of cold draughts (even warm rooms can be draughty) and prevent damp mattresses, as well as being a good solution for older dogs who are finding it difficult to get in and out of beds at floor level.

5. Dog crates: for cars and as dog beds

Some dogs love the safety of a crate, especially when travelling in the car, and dog crates can be dressed with bumpers and a comfy mattress to increase the cosy factor. 

6. Dog cave beds

If your dog is a burrower and loves to snuggle under blankets consider a Snuggle Bed style bed with a stitched in blanket top for them to climb under. You can find plenty of burrow beds online.

7. Washable dog beds

An average dog spends 12 to 14 hours asleep each day, and most dogs spend even longer in their beds just hanging out watching the world go by. A dog picks up a lot of muckiness through the day, and much of it goes with them back to their beds, so it’s really important that your dog’s bed is fully machine washable – both the outer covers and the mattress inners. 

Look for dog beds that are available with spare covers (like Charley Chau's) to make wash day less of a rush. Use our tips to find out the best ways to clean up after dogs.

8. Waterproof dog beds: what's the deal?

Waterproof Bed Liners are available as an option to help maintain a cleaner dog bed for longer – the liners act as a barrier to help keep dust, dirt and animal dander out of your dog’s mattress and are particularly important for beds that are too big to fit in a domestic washing machine. Blankets dropped into your dog’s bed can also help to keep your dog’s bed cleaner for longer providing you wash the blankets regularly. Charley Chau sells replaceable waterproof dog bedliners, too. Waterproof Bed Liners can also help protect mattresses in wet weather as wet dog coats can take some time to dry out properly. 

9. Add a blanket to your dog's bed

Managing your dog’s bedding for different seasons can help keep your dog more comfortable throughout the year and can also help minimise the amount of washing that you need to do. In cold weather a soft, cosy blanket is a welcome addition for most dogs as they will dig a little nest and curl up in the blankets if they are cold. In wet seasons, darker coloured fabrics on your dog’s bed will be more forgiving of wet paws and damp coats. In warmer weather make sure that your dog bed is made with a breathable fabric, and bear in mind that pale colours absorb and radiate less heat so they tend to be more comfortable in hot weather.

10. Dog bed quality

Spend wisely. When it comes to purchasing a bed for your dog, always buy the best you can afford otherwise you might fall quickly into the ‘pay half price, spend twice’ trap. Most dog owners have experienced buying a cheap dog bed that has gone lumpy and bumpy after its first wash and thrown it out after just a few months’ use so buying cheap is often a false economy. 

Also beware that a luxury' label and price tag to match, sadly, are not guarantees of quality – some brands simply put smart looking fabrics onto a dog bed made in the same way as a cheap, poor quality dog bed. Always read up on a dog bed and make sure that any claims about comfort and quality are substantiated in terms of the way that the bed is designed and constructed, the fillings used, and the quality of the fabrics used to finish the beds.