Dogs and Sleep
6th February 2019
You may be surprised to learn that your new little family member may be asleep for up to 20 hours in any 24 hour period. All this rest is essential to enable your puppy to develop properly. Just like in human babies, good sleeping habits are important for their learning process. Puppies use a huge amount of energy in simply exploring, learning commands, checking out smells, the people around them and their routines, so rest and sleep are essential.
Sleep allows your puppy to process and make sense of all the information gathering that they did when they were awake. They may even dream about that great chase game and twitch and “run” in their sleep. So, like us, their brains are sorting out useful information and material to remember.
Different breeds may need different amounts of sleep, bigger puppies, that are growing quickly, may need more than smaller breeds.
Too much sleep?
If your puppy is sleeping longer than 20 hours a day or if he is lethargic when awake, you would be wise to get your vet to check him out. Sleeping more than expected can be due to not drinking enough water or due to lack of correct nutrition. Dry food can play a part in your puppies drinking habits too. It could also be that they are ill or have a worm burden, so your vet should be able to diagnose and help.
Create good sleeping habits
Before you bring your puppy home, think about how he should spend his day and have an idea of a suitable schedule to fit in with your human family. Having a puppy in the house can be exhausting! Don’t forget to schedule in lots of toilet trips to the garden during the day and night.
Give your puppy a safe place to sleep. A cosy covered crate, big enough to lie down, stand up and turn around is great, with a cosy bed or lots of comfy bedding. Some puppies can sleep through normal household activities, so the kitchen is often best, but be prepared to adapt to the needs of your individual puppy. Also, a play pen is useful for your pup’s security and the security of your possessions.
After about an hour awake, playing and learning from you, a sleep period will be needed. Plan your games as training should be fun for both of you. Their concentration levels are very low so if it seems they are not understanding something, change the activity or let him have a rest/sleep.
Some puppies don’t seem to have an “off” switch, so you may need to encourage a sleep period. Tired pups can be irritable, fractious and very naughty!
You should never wake a sleeping puppy, so children especially should understand this, and they will benefit from a happy puppy when he is awake.
Be aware that if you allow your puppy to sleep on or in your own bed, this may create a big problem when your cute little puppy grows up! Make your rules early and stick to them as it can be difficult to change habits once they are convinced your bed is their bed and the best place!
Most adult dogs will sleep/rest for roughly 14+ hours per 24 hours. Unlike us humans who are normally awake during the day and sleep around 6-8 hours a night, dogs don’t have the same regime. They will have several short sleeps during the day and hopefully plenty at night to allow their humans to rest. So, 50% or more of a dog’s day is spent resting, but they don’t sleep as soundly as we do. Their natural instinct is to keep somewhat alert for the dangers that may threaten their pack!
Sleep, rest and relaxation are important for the management of various biological functions and emotional stress; it allows the body to recover and prevent a build up from the release of the naturally occurring “stress” hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. During sleep the hormone melatonin is released which protects the body’s cells and strengthens the immune system.
It is important to provide a comfortable resting place in a quiet area of the house during the day and at night. Often a puppy is accustomed to a crate they will still enjoy that safe place as an adult.
As with pups, do not disturb a sleeping adult dog, it may be startled and believe it’s being attacked and react as such. Let sleeping dogs lie is one to remember!
Changes in a dog’s sleep pattern, may have a variety of causes.
- A very active working dog may need more sleep.
- Change of environment, holidays, more walks, kennels or extra visitors.
- Some ingredients in processed foods or a poor-quality diet may not provide enough nutrition for lively activities. They can be hard for a dog to digest causing him to use his energy to process the food through his system, making for a lethargic dog with less energy to play or explore on walks with you.
- Various illnesses or pain may be causing your dog to sleep less or even more than normal.
- An elderly dog will undoubtedly want to sleep more.
- If you have any concerns, do discuss them with your vet who may be able to reassure you or investigate any concerns.