How Dogs Choose Where They Sleep

By Jesse Menayan  |  Jun 16, 2017
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When my colleague pitched the idea of us making a mattress for dogs, I was a bit surprised. How do you develop a product for a creature that doesn’t speak?

We started with research. I talked to dog owners, interviewed animal behavior researchers, kept books and articles about how dogs sleep on my bedside table, and watched dogs sleep (it was laborious work). Several months later, I presented a 197-slide research deck on how dogs sleep to the other product designers and engineers on the Casper team. That kicked off our development phase for how we could design a dog mattress that speaks to their natural behaviors. The final product is a dog’s dream sleep spot.

One of the most important things to understand about how dogs pick a place to sleep is that they go through the world nose first. Dogs don’t see colors as vibrantly as we do, but their sense of smell is 10,000 to 100,000 times more acute than ours, according to one study. They often “look” for a resting spot that smells like their owner (or other members of their “pack”). It was a prime sensory experience we’d need to consider in making a mattress for them.

Surroundings are also incredibly important. Mark, a teammate of mine (and former dolphin trainer, but that’s another story), hooked me up with an animal behavior scientist. She walked me through dogs’ wild past and how their ancestors slept in dens, which is partly why you’ll see modern dogs relaxing under a table, tree, or a similar enclosure today. My takeaway was that we’d need to make them a mattress that feels protected.

Once they find a sleep spot, dogs like to prepare their bed. You may notice that dogs sometimes scratch the surface of your couch before taking a nap on it. This adorable bedding-down ritual is another behavior that dates back centuries. Wild dogs scratched away hotter topsoil or wet ground cover to get at the cooler and drier ground beneath. It’s how they get comfortable.

Dogs also have sleep positions, just like their humans. For instance, there is a commonly-known dog posture called “super pup” that comes up in a lot of books and articles. It allows for maximum heat transfer between a dog and the cool ground.

After concluding the research phase, it was time for development. We came up with 8–10 design concepts and 20–30 difference possible constructions for the Casper dog mattress. We started to narrow them down after we tested different techniques for the bolsters around the edges, tinkered with the microfiber covering, and made more optimizations based off the research. We finally had a few prototypes.

Then it all went to the dogs. The team scattered the prototypes around our California workshop and members of Casper Labs came in to provide feedback. We watched how dogs interacted with the dog mattresses, which ones they went back to, how they used them, and more. For several months, it was like working in a posh doggy day care.

Over 700 slides, two decks, countless hours with pups, and many months later, we were finally done. We had a final, user-approved design. The final Casper dog mattress caters to what canines look for most in a sleep spot: a sense of enclosure, the ability to scratch and dig in, and a comfortable bottom layer that allows them to sleep naturally cool. It’s a doggy dream.

Jesse is a design director at Casper and holds patents ranging from bikes to furniture, all products that touch the body.

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