Cave Beds Are All the Rage for Little Pups—But Would Your Big Dog Benefit?


The cold weather is here, and so are cave beds for dogs. They’re taking over the pet bed market, and if you’ve seen one, it’s not hard to understand why: they’re the warmest, snuggliest covered burrows known to pupkind. At their most structured, they look like small tents or covered donuts. At their softest and floppiest, they’re like fur-lined dog sleeping bags.

Traditional thinking says these dens of coziness are meant for small dogs—the famous burrowing breeds like Dachshunds, Chihuahuas, and Terriers. But all dogs have denning in their DNA. So why not let the larger pups in on the fun? Wouldn’t they like a deliciously soft and secure cave bed too?

For help investigating, I knew just where to go. Meet Big Boy.

Introducing Big Boy, Cave-Bed Tester and All-Around Good Dog

On any given night, Big Boy, my 70-pound Staffordshire Terrier, has turned my bed into his very own slumber palace. This was cute for a while, even encouraged, but now I’m wondering why I let this beloved guy take over a once human-only space.

Despite being a large dog, Big Boy loves to create Staffy-sized caves under the bed covers, only coming up for air when he’s suddenly awakened himself from his own snoring. While he has his own bed, he’s never really taken to it. He seems to prefer snoozing in places where he can transform into a furry donut undetected.

Big Boy goes to great lengths to achieve full-blown hygge status. He’ll pull a throw blanket to the couch or wedge himself in places too small for his thick body.

A dog burrowing under a blanket

Big Boy in his ideal state.

Despite his size, he seemed like a perfect candidate for a cave bed. But there aren’t a lot of options for dogs over 50 pounds. Why? Is it because big dogs don’t have the same burrowing instincts? The Chamber-of-Secrets-level tunnels in my bed would say otherwise—and so do researchers, I discovered.

Why Do Some Dogs Burrow Under the Covers?

Small dogs are the famous burrowers—and some of them are so effective at it that it’s no wonder they have a rep.

For many little pups, it’s an instinct born of hundreds of years of breeding. Dachshunds and Terriers, for example, are traditional hunters taught to flush prey like foxes and badgers from burrows (“Dachshund” means “badger dog”). They’re naturally at home in warm, cramped spaces (and if one isn’t available, they’ll make their own).

Other small pups with more distant hunting ancestors might burrow for the feeling of security it offers. The littler you are, the more vulnerable you are to predators—so it’s deep in the blood to hunt for a shelter that offers a safe, hidden place to snooze.

Warmth is another reason you might find a dog burrowing. A chilly Husky, for example, might dig himself a hole in the dirt and hunker down in it, much as he would have done in the snowy climes his forebears inhabited. But Huskies aren’t small dogs—and neither are many burrowers.

The fact is all dogs historically practiced burrowing or “denning” behavior. Just like today’s wild dogs, their ancestors were born in maternal dens. That cramped, warm, dark space with their mom and siblings would have been the safest spot there was. And that’s what security still looks like to lots of pups big and small: a covered burrow, blanket . . . or human bed.

So theoretically, big dogs should like cave beds too—but does Big Boy?

Big Boy Tests a Cave Beds for Large Dogs

After some investigation, I found a few cave beds available in sizes big enough for dogs over 50 pounds. Among the most popular was the Snoozer Orthopedic Cozy Cave Bed, which, as of writing this, has 4.5 stars on Amazon and over 500 reviews. I specifically looked for reviews by pet parents with larger dogs like mine. One review in particular stuck out to me:

“This is the BEST and most amazing solution! At first she wasn’t sure and thought it was a toy, but as I had done crate training with her as a puppy, I put her toys inside and she quickly caught on. Because she’s so big (100 pounds, got the XL), I still had to lift up the arch, but she loved snuggling up and snoozing in there during the cold months.”

A cozy place for snuggling up and snoozing is exactly what I was looking for: a Big Boy-suitable alternative to my bed. This review also gave me hope that with a little time and training—especially as a natural burrower—he’d probably get it.

So I set about finding the right size for Big Boy. Something to note about these cave beds for big dogs is that in order to get a large enough clamshell-like opening, the bed itself has to be kind of massive. I live in a 900 square-foot condo, but to heck with it! Anything for my prince!

A Staffordshire Terrier sitting on a green velvet couch

Skills include burrowing, modeling, and snoozing.

The package arrived from Amazon, and while Big Boy is delighted every time the door buzzer goes off, it’s like he knew this one was for him. We both skipped to the door and I dragged the big box into the living room.

This particular cave bed has a microsuede exterior (which is machine washable), sherpa interior, and an orthopedic pad to fit inside. I assembled it, took a step back, and patiently waited for him to dive in nose first and nestle into his new luxury. Of course, I had already forgotten the pep talk I’d given myself about training him how to use it.

Learning How to Use the Dog Cave Bed

Like the reviewer that inspired me, I lifted up the hood of the cave and let Big Boy sniff around a little. He almost immediately fell in love with the sherpa material (he has trendy taste, what can I say) and rolled around on the exposed furry sliver.

A Staffordshire Terrier sniffing and rolling on a new cozy cave bed

The first sniff!

Over the course of the day, I put his toys in it, lifting the lid for an extended period of time for him to get curious. I also, well, got in with him.

A person showing a dog how to get inside a cozy cave bed

Showing him how to use the cozy cave.

A few hours later, he’d been in there head first a few times (chasing the treats I tossed in) and gotten spooked by the hood over him. I imagine this could feel like waking up from a nap with your head in the wrong side of a sleeping bag. Nevertheless, it felt like progress.

A large dog burrowing in a big cave bed

Looking for the treats.

The biggest barrier was that he could not figure out how to turn himself around and would instead back out cautiously. I was convinced that if he would turn himself around and relax a little, he’d absolutely love being inside the cave.

A large dog on a large dog bed napping

Is…this…how you use it?

Three weeks later, he still does not burrow on his own, but he loves the orthopedic bed and now spends more time on it than on the couch or my bed, which is still a win! He curls up on the crescent of exposed sherpa material and sleeps for hours. And unlike so many other large dog beds, I love the aesthetic of this one in particular.

Besides Big Boy’s adoration of it, the biggest plus is the machine-washable cover. He can be a very stinky man, and we like to keep it fresh over here.

Though Big Boy hasn’t yet figured out how to dig himself into the cave bed, other dogs of noble size have. Big Boy’s friend, another large pup, gave the bed a shot too—and happily burrowed in immediately, with no training or preparation. Go figure.

What’s great:

  • Nice looking, high-quality material
  • The sherpa interior is so cozy
  • Machine washable exterior
  • Big enough for a large dog
  • Comfortable orthopedic insert

What’s meh:

  • Takes up a lot of space
  • Not all dogs figure out the cave
  • May require training, which is okay!

After reading this review, you may decide that YOU are actually the one who needs the cozy cave, and we’re here for that also. Big Boy approves.

A dog sleeping on a bed in a living room

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