A dog bed provides a comfortable sleeping area for a dog, much like a mattress or body pillow provides comfort and support for humans. A typical pet bed elevates the animal above the hard ground, supports essential joints, and provides a degree of warmth. Models run the gamut from simple foam-filled cushions to high-end sofas with heating and cooling elements. A bed may also be filled with cedar chips to discourage flea growth, while machine washable fabric covers make cleaning easier.
Manufacturers often use familiar furniture materials such as rattan, wicker, and plastic to create their products. A wicker or rattan dog bed is usually constructed as a low-profile oval or round basket with a custom-fitted cushion. Plastic models may use the oval or round design as well, but the plastic used must be chew-resistant with no sharp edges or flashing. High end models may actually use stainless steel, which is relatively easy to keep clean.
The cushions used in a pet bed should be made from washable fabrics resistant to scratching and chewing. Some use polyester fiber or foam as filler, which may provide more comfort to the dog but does not discourage flea growth. Others use a zippered outer shell filled with cedar chips to discourage fleas from laying eggs. These cushions can be refilled with clean cedar chips periodically, but might not be as comfortable as foam pillows.
Some models actually offer heating and cooling options. Some dog breeds do not function well in extreme heat, so a dog bed with a cooling element may provide relief. These beds usually have a refrigerated or frozen gel pad that can be placed inside the cushion of the bed, so this type is not recommended for puppies or dogs with habitual chewing issues. Heated beds may also use a heated gel pad or a form of electric blanket placed under the dog. Elderly dogs and those with joint disorders are especially vulnerable to the effects of cold air, so these warmers may be medically necessary.
A dog's sleeping habits are largely instinctual, which means a dog bed should duplicate the animal's natural habitat. The bed should be sized according to the animal's general proportions, and the dog should be able to stretch out completely without hanging over the side. It's best for the pet owner to keep the bed out of the line of human traffic and away from direct heating or cooling sources. Sleeping dogs should feel safe and not threatened. Because they are pack animals, dogs are naturally accustomed to sleeping in close quarters with others, so a single dog may benefit from a style of cushion called a cuddly. A cuddly dog cushion extends the sides to form a protective ring, which simulates the feel of other dogs sleeping in a protective pack arrangement.