How much do dogs sleep?
Sleep plays an extremely important role in the health of your pooch. Dogs sleep an average of 12-14 hours a day, large and senior dogs 16-18 hours per day and young puppies a whopping 18 to 20 hours per day. So, why do dogs need so much sleep and how can you ensure that your four-legged friend gets the shut-eye he needs?
Like that of humans, a dog’s sleep cycle comprises two phases: light and deep sleep (also known as Rapid Eye Movement or REM sleep). During REM sleep, dogs dream and process the events of their day. Their sleep cycle is shorter than ours and lasts approximately 20 minutes. Which means that they’re well rested after only a short slumber. Even after a long, fun-filled walk, half an hour of sleep is all that your dog needs to wake up feeling fully refreshed. Dogs also spend less time in REM sleep than we do, and therefore require a greater number of naps in order to obtain the equivalent 'processing time'.
Dogs do dream – most likely about the day’s events and emotional experiences: fighting, fleeing, hunting, defending, guarding etc. You can tell when your dog is dreaming: his eyes flicker backwards and forwards under his eyelids, his paws twitch and he might start peeping or even barking! Your dog is effectively reliving the day’s ‘excitement’ – a thoroughly entertaining sight and one that’s guaranteed to pull at your heart strings.
The importance of rest
Sleeping is extremely good for dogs. It maintains their concentration levels, boosts their capacity for learning and enables them to get the most out of their day. Dogs that don’t get enough sleep may become excitable, stressed, lethargic or even depressed. Sleep also has an impact on your dog’s physical health. A lack of sleep weakens the immune system, which can lead to disease. You must therefore ensure that your faithful friend enjoys sufficient rest between bouts of activity.
Quality of sleep
When it comes to sleep: it’s not just about the quantity; but also the quality. Dogs only enter a deep sleep if they’re completely relaxed. You can observe this from your dog’s sleeping position: if he’s sleeping on his side with his legs outstretched, then his body is fully relaxed and he’s enjoying a sound sleep. If he’s lying on his back, then he’s even more calm and carefree! In contrast, a dog that’s sleeping on his belly or curled up in a ball is adopting a more 'defensive' sleeping position that also keeps him warm. In this case his muscles are more tense, inducing a lighter snooze. That’s why dogs are more 'alert' during brief naps throughout the day. Read more about dog sleeping positions.
Dogs sleep the most soundly if they receive sufficient physical and mental stimulation: so go for plenty of long walks and indulge your little tail-wagger in lots of challenging play. Don’t have sufficient time to put your dog through his paces? Then book a dog sitter who can provide him with the exercise and attention he needs.
A well-earned nap after play time
Sleep deprivation can occur if your dog has insufficient opportunity to enter a deep sleep, due to overstimulation or excessive noise and distraction at home for example. Incorporate plenty of rest periods throughout your dog’s day, and ensure that he has a cosy place to bed down. Poor sleep can also have a physical cause, such as sleep apnea. This typically occurs in dogs with short snouts, such as Bulldogs and Pugs. Have you noticed that your dog is sleeping less frequently and more restlessly than before? Then keep a close eye on his general health (activity, appetite, poop, coat) and visit your vet if in any doubt.
Too much sleep?
As already mentioned, dogs sleep a lot. But can they ever have too much sleep? It’s certainly possible. If your dog is sleeping more than average, then it might indicate an emotional or physical problem. Dogs sometimes sleep out of boredom or depression. They simply don’t know what else to do! Excessive sleep can therefore be due to a lack of attention/activity, although you should never rule out underlying physical problems. Again, when in doubt, visit your veterinarian.
Where should your dog sleep?
It varies per dog: some like to get their forty winks in a basket, others a plush cushion or elevated bed. And most prefer a raised edge that they can snuggle up to. Left to their own devices the majority of dogs will plump for a prized place on your sofa or bed. What’s important, is that their bed is in a quiet, tucked away spot that isn’t exposed to drafts or excessive light. Does your pampered pooch insist on joining you in bed? And are you happy to let allow it? No problem! Dogs often sleep close to their 'pack members'. Do you spend a significant amount of time in one particular place, such as behind your computer for example? Then put your dog’s basket under your desk for guaranteed canine company throughout the day!
You’ve likely noticed your dog circling and digging at his bed before finally settling down to sleep. This is nothing more than his equivalent of shaking the duvet and plumping up the cushions in preparation for the perfect slumber. So, let your dog get comfortable and cosy and allow him to catch up on some well-earned zzzzzzzs.