Sleep plays a critical role in your puppy’s health. Dogs sleep an average of 12-14 hours a day, extensive and senior dogs 16-18 hours a day, and puppies 18-20 hours a day. Why do dogs need so much sleep, and how can you make sure your four-legged friend gets the rest he needs?
Like humans, a dog’s sleep cycle includes two phases: light sleep and deep sleep (also known as rapid eye movement or REM sleep). During the REM phase, dogs dream and process the events of their day. Their sleep cycle is shorter than ours and lasts about 20 minutes. Which means they are well rested after just a quick nap. Even after a long, fun walk, half an hour of sleep is all your dog needs to wake up feeling fully rested. Dogs also spend less time in REM sleep than we do, and therefore require more daily naps to get the equivalent ‘working time’.
Dogs dream – most likely the day’s events and emotional experiences: fighting, running away, hunting, defending, guarding, etc. You can tell when your dog is dreaming: his eyes quickly move back and forth under the lids, his paws move, and he may even start barking! Your dog is reliving the excitement of the day ‚Äì for us, an amusing sight that makes the heart melt.
The importance of rest
Sleeping is great for dogs. It maintains their concentration levels, increases their learning ability and allows them to get the most out of their day. Dogs that don’t get enough sleep can quickly become excitable, stressed, lethargic or even depressed. Sleep also impacts your dog’s physical health. Lack of sleep weakens the immune system, which can lead to disease. You must therefore ensure that your faithful friend enjoys sufficient rest between activities.
Quality of sleep
When it comes to sleep: It’s not just about quantity. It’s about quality as well. For example, dogs only sleep soundly if they are completely relaxed. You can observe this from your dog’s position: if he sleeps on his side with his legs stretched out, then his body is completely relaxed, and he is enjoying a sound sleep. If he is lying on his back, then he is even more calm and carefree!
Conversely, a dog sleeping on his stomach or curled up in a ball is adopting a more ‘defensive’ sleeping position that keeps him warm. In this case, his muscles are tighter, resulting in a lighter sleep. This is why dogs are more ‘alert’ and present on short naps throughout the day. Read more about the dog sleeping position.
Dogs sleep more soundly if they get enough physical and mental stimulation – take them for long walks and have them play lots of challenging games. Don’t have enough time for your dog to let off steam properly? Then book a dog sitter who can provide him with the exercise and attention he needs.
A well-deserved nap after a lot of play
Sleep deprivation can occur if the dog cannot go into a deep sleep, due to overstimulation or excessive noise and distraction at home, for example. Incorporate lots of little naps throughout your dog’s day, and make sure he has a cosy place to sleep. Poor sleep quality can also have a physical cause, such as sleep apnea. This typically occurs in dogs with a brachycephalic head and flattened snouts, such as Bulldogs and Pugs. Do you notice that your dog sleeps less frequently and less quietly than before? Keep an eye on his general health (activity, appetite, poo, coat), and if in doubt, visit the vet.
Does the dog sleep too much?
As mentioned, dogs sleep a lot. But can they sleep too much? It is certainly possible. If your dog is sleeping more than average, then this could indicate an emotional or physical problem. Dogs sometimes sleep out of boredom or depression. They don’t know what else to do! Therefore, an excessive amount of sleep can be due to a lack of attention/activity, although possible physical problems should never be ruled out. Again, if in doubt, visit your vet.
Where should your dog sleep?
Varies per dog: Some like to stay in a basket or kennel, others on a soft pillow or elevated bed. And most prefer to have a raised edge to lean on. Despite having a kennel, most dogs love being next to their favourite human, on the sofa or bed. The important thing is that their bed is in a quiet, hidden place, not exposed to drafts or excessive light. Does your spoiled pooch insist on sleeping with you? Are you happy to let them do it? No problem! Dogs often sleep next to their “pack members”. Do you spend a lot of time in a particular place, for example, at your desk in front of your computer? Then put your dog’s bed under your desk and have guaranteed dog companionship all day long!
You’ve probably noticed your dog loitering and digging in his bed before falling asleep. This is nothing more than his way of shaking the surface and inflating the material in preparation for the perfect sleep. So, let your dog get comfortable and prepare for a well-deserved nap.