Dogs’ Sleeping Habits

Every pet owner wants to know how much dogs sleep. Puppies, adults, and senior dogs have different sleeping needs.

Getting a dog companion for the first time is a lot like getting a child. You want to raise them the best way possible, and give them as much love and joy as you can. That’s why new dog owners have a lot of questions like: “How many hours does a puppy sleep?”, “Do dogs sleep at night?”, “Why does my dog sleep most of the time?”, after meeting with their dog’s sleeping habits for the first time. But don’t worry, we made this guide to answer all your questions, and give you some useful advice on how to help your dog sleep better without compromising your sleep.


How Much Do Dogs Sleep?

As you have probably noticed so far, dogs sleep differently than humans. We tend to sleep for preferably 7 to 9 hours during the night at once. It is called monophasic sleep pattern, as it happens at once, with a small exception of occasional naps. Unlike us, dogs are a lot more flexible when it comes to sleeping. The adults usually sleep between 12 to 14 hours each day. And unlike our monophasic pattern, they are known to sleep polyphasically, meaning that they rest on several occasions, with considerable wake periods in between.

Their sleeping duration depends on several factors like age, size, breed, and activity levels. Generally, larger breeds like mastiffs and Saint Bernards sleep longer than smaller breeds. They sleep for 16 to 18 hours each day on average.

How long do puppies sleep?

Puppies sleep a lot, so don’t raise your concerns if it seems like yours is overdoing it. They tend to sleep for 18 to 20 hours per day on average. It is entirely normal, just think about human infants and how long they sleep compared to adults.

There is a good reason for this prolonged resting period in puppies; there is a lot going on in their lives. They have a lot to learn and to establish themselves as a part of the family and world. They also develop very quickly physically, so they need extra sleep for growth.

When puppies are awake, they are very energetic. They spend so much energy learning when and where to go to the toilet, and they are getting familiar with their surroundings. They are also continually meeting new dogs and people, and they often come in contact with new, exciting smells that they want to explore. Some of them even spend their time learning new cool tricks, so they can impress their human companions, and to maybe get some extra treats.

Because of all this excitement, some puppies don’t know when the time to go to sleep is, so they’ll continue playing until exhaustion wears them down completely, and then they’ll fall asleep wherever they find themselves. If your puppy wants to sleep, just let them. Even though they get a lot of rest during the day napping, getting them comfortable with a nightly sleep routine will be beneficial for both of you.

Your puppy won’t know to sleep at night right away, so they’ll need some training and adjustment. Ideally, you should keep them in your bedroom during the night so that you can be aware if they need to go, or if there is anything else they need. Keep in mind that puppies still don’t have full control over their bladders, so prepare for some accidents in the first few months. Keep them entertained and active during the evening, and don’t let them nap. Also, if they have to go at night, make it quick and don’t make too much of a deal out of it, let them do it and go straight back to bed. These tips will teach your puppy to sleep at night instead of playing, and it will prevent them from barking and howling during the quiet hours. If you show them this while they are young, your sleep won’t have to suffer later on.

How long do adult dogs sleep?

Adult dogs normally sleep from 12 to 14 hours each day. We usually think of cats as being lazier and spending all the time relaxing, but they spend just a little bit more time sleeping, 12 to 16 hours on average.

It, of course, depends on the breed and the size of a dog, a dog’s personality, and its environment. Larger breeds tend to rest more than smaller ones. Working dogs also sleep less than their non-working relatives, which is a little bit counter-intuitive. Guard, security, support, law enforcement and bomb-sniffing dogs all lead very active and engaging lifestyles with important roles. They adapted to this lifestyle, and for instance, law enforcement German shepherds sleep less when working, compared to the ones without work obligations.

Dogs are flexible when it comes to sleep, so they mostly adjust to their owner’s sleep pattern. When they are bored, they’ll most likely snooze for some time until they have something interesting to do.

How long do senior dogs sleep?

Usually, a dog is considered a senior when he turns 7. Some breeds like poodles, Chihuahuas, and terriers enjoy longer life spans, so they are not regarded as older until they turn 10. However, some others like the great Dane, labradors and golden retrievers reach the more advanced age upon turning 5.

After your canine companion reaches “old age,” you can expect them to wind down a little bit. They won’t need to run and be active as much, and they’ll prefer silence and napping instead. Senior dogs like to sleep more, and they usually spend 16 to 18 hours a day snoozing.

That doesn’t mean that your dog doesn’t need stimulation anymore. You should still walk them, put some time aside for playing and give them physical and mental stimulation regularly. Doing that will make sure that they stay sharp, and live a healthy and happy life.


Do Dogs Experience The Same Sleep Stages as Humans?

Both dogs and we are mammals, meaning that we have a lot of things in common despite our differences. Sleep is one of those similar things, as they also experience sleep cycles with different stages including rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. There are some differences, as dogs sleep less deep than us so that they stay more alert and quick to react if there is any immediate danger around.

The main differences in sleep habits are the different duration of sleep cycles, and dogs’ tendency to sleep in shorter intervals throughout the day. Sleep cycles in dogs tend to last for 16 minutes, with a short wake interval in between cycles. That is entirely different than our 8 hours of sleep and 16 hours of wake time, with an occasional 30-minute nap.

Dogs enter deep stage shortly after falling asleep. Their breathing and heart rate slow down, and their body pressure drops. They stay in this phase for about 10 minutes after which they begin REM sleep. You can notice that as the eyes will roll under their eyelids and their muscles might start twitching, or they can appear to be running, or make some noise.

Dogs are always on alert for intruders, and outside danger, so they can quickly wake up from any stage of sleep. That’s why it might be harder for them to reach REM sleep, and because of that, they need to make up for that by snoozing more often during the day.


Do Dogs Dream?

Dreams are such unordinary experiences, but they are not reserved just for humans. Most of the mammals experience REM sleep, and that is when most of the dreams occur. Dogs are no exceptions. Scientists have studied brain waves in dogs, and other animals as well. They have found that a REM state brain waves when sleep should occur, look similar to the ones that appear in humans. When you see your canine friend with their eyes rolled under the eyelids, moving their paws like they are running, or merely howling, you have most likely come to the same conclusion that dogs do in fact dream.

The function of dreams has been debated for long between scientists. It is accepted that dreams serve a purpose in memory making, learning, and emotional processing. And it is most likely the same with dogs. Their brains strengthen the neural signals while sleeping, the stuff they experienced and learned is stored into the long-term storage.

What exactly they are dreaming about is hard to tell. It is most likely that they are experiencing things that are important to them, such as protecting you from danger, getting along with other puppies in the park, or chasing squirrels and pigeons. However, it is hard to say this for sure as we can’t ask them to describe their doggy dreams to us, so we are taking an educated guess.


What Can You Learn From Your Dog’s Sleeping Position?

Dogs usually spend around half of their time sleeping, 20 percent on daily activities such as playing, eating, going to the toilet, and socializing, and the other 30 percent awake but in a resting, inactive state.

You might have noticed that your dog has a particular routine when it comes to sleeping. There are few positions that dogs most commonly sleep in, and they might depend on the time of the day, tiredness, and other environmental conditions.

  • If you find your dog sleeping on its back, with all the four paws raised in the air, it usually means that they are feeling comfortable and secure. This position exposes their neck and belly and makes it harder for them to react if something dangerous occurs, so when you see them like this, they feel completely safe and at home. Exposing their belly could also indicate that they are hot, and this pose is excellent for thermoregulation and cooling down.
  • Sleeping on their side with all the legs outstretched also means that your puppy is feeling safe and comfortable. It exposes the belly, and air flowing around it allows extra cooling effect as well.
  • If your dog is sleeping on his stomach, it may not be able to enter REM sleep. That is because muscles are not fully relaxed in this position. Even though this might not be the most comfortable position, your dog can get some extra rest while staying alert and jumping right up if the opportunity arrives.
  • Sleeping curled up in a ball is the least comfortable position as they require muscle involvement to stay in that position. However, this position allows them to get up within a second if the danger arrives. Dogs who were abused or are unsure of their environments might sleep in this position until they get comfortable enough. But it’s not all negative; sometimes a dog will simply curl up in a bowl to preserve heat because it is feeling cold.

A survey of dog sleeping habits revealed that around 45% sleep in their human’s bed, 17% sleep in a doggy bed, 20% find snoozing in a crate most comfortable, 14% find some other indoor resting place, while 4% of the dogs sleep outside.

If your dog sleeps with its back next to you, or it likes snoozing between your legs, it means that they think of you as a part of the pack and that you should feel honored. In the wild, dogs usually sleep back to back to strengthen social bonds and to literally “keep each other’s backs.” Also, wolves and wild dogs tend to sleep more than their domesticated relatives, probably because they need to hunt for food, so they use the rest of the time to conserve energy.


How to Help Your Dog Sleep Better?

There are several things you can do to improve your best friend’s sleep:

    • Develop routines, as dogs love them. It doesn’t mean that you have to do the same thing every single day, but try to keep playing, eating, sleeping, and walks continuously.
    • Stimulate them daily. Walk your dog and play with it every day. It will make them tired and help them to sleep better at night. Thirty minutes a day of exercise is a minimum for all dogs, but working breeds require a lot more than that. Invest in some puzzle-like toys to keep their minds occupied as well. Remember that dogs are social creatures, so a daily walk to the park where they can play with their canine friends goes a long way. If you spend a lot of time away from home, leave them toys that will stimulate them to play, so that they don’t get bored and sleep for the whole day.
    • Make sure that they are getting proper nutrients and that they have fresh water at all times.
    • Have regular check-ups with your vet. Even if nothing is wrong, regular check-ups are useful, and you can ask your veterinarian anything that you want to know about your canine best friend.
    • Lastly, create an inviting sleep space. If you are sharing a bed with your dog, make sure that there is enough space for everybody, and consider getting a comfortable mattress, like a memory-foam or a latex one. If your dog sleeps in its bed or a kennel, make it as comforting as you can, and also give your dog an old t-shirt or a blanket. An item that has your smell provides pets with feelings of security and comfort.

Sleep disorders in dogs are uncommon, but they do exist. They can have narcolepsy when they involuntarily fall asleep during the day. Your dog can also suffer from insomnia, which is often due to some other problems such as arthritis, kidney problems, allergies, hypothyroidism, Lyme disease, or some other condition. Sleep apnea can also occur when the breathing tends to stop for a few moments during sleep. Snoring is the most common sign of sleep apnea, and breeds with shorter snouts are more at danger of developing it.

You should be worried if your dog suddenly changes its sleeping habits, or if it no longer wants to participate in its previously favorite activity. These are warning signs that something is wrong, and you should take them to a vet immediately.


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