Does your dog spend all day stretched out in the sun – or beneath your feet in the kitchen? They know how to live! But while all dogs sleep for hoooooouuuuurs, it can sometimes be a warning sign. In this article we look at sleep: how much is needed by younger and older dogs, how to encourage a good sleep pattern, and how to spot a health problem in sleepy dogs.
How Much Sleep Does A Puppy Need?
Just like children, young puppies need plenty of sleep. That’s because their bodies are growing, and their brains are processing huge amounts of information. Every tree, rock, and funny face is new to them. So you can expect your puppy to sleep for an incredible 18-20 hours every single day.
If your pup has adopted a peculiar sleeping position, that’s normal too! We’ve known dogs to sleep upside down, legs sprawled, and curled up like a shell. You might also see your pup’s nose and legs twitching while they sleep – that’s REM sleep, which happens when their brains are processing memories of the day.
How Can I Help My Puppy To Sleep Through The Night?
Your puppy has probably spent its first few weeks surrounded by a clamouring litter of lively siblings. It may not have slept all night – and it may be unaccustomed to sleeping alone.
So your pup’s first few nights in a new home, separated from mom and litter, might be challenging. Here are some suggestions to make it work.
- Set up a comfortable bed or crate.
- Try a walk or an outdoor game before bedtime.
- Begin a bedtime routine: let your puppy outside at the same time every night, refill their water bowl, and then say goodnight – and close the door.
- Place puppy pads by the door in case your pup needs to go again.
- Ignore whining or yapping. If you rush down to a yapping puppy, they’re effectively being rewarded.
- Establish a morning routine: get up around the same time to let the puppy outside and give them breakfast.
How Much Sleep Does An Adult Dog Need?
Once they’re an adult, your dog won’t need quite as much sleep: still, it could be around 12-18 hours out of 24.
You’ll notice that dogs sleep in different ways: some is deep sleep, but other periods will be sleepy rest. They usually learn that it’s advantageous to sleep deeply at night, when the house is quiet. They’ll be more inclined to rest or doze during the day, but they’re not fully asleep – this way, they’re ready to jump up and follow you if you move towards their leash!
Very active or working dogs will sleep hard when they’re back at home. Older dogs and larger dogs tend to sleep more, but there is variety across categories: ask your vet about expectations for your own dog. Some dogs were bred to watch herds or homes during the night, and they’re more inclined to be wakeful at night.
Why Does My Dog Walk In Circles Before Lying Down?
Does your dog circle or adjust their bedding before finally settling down for a sleep? We love that little sigh as they relax into position. But what’s it about?
This is thought to be an inherited trait. You might have seen your cat doing it, too – and it’s a curious leftover habit from the days when animals roamed in the wild.
Even though dogs were domesticated thousands and thousands of years ago, they retain some physical patterns that were learned by their ancestors.
Firstly, that circling would have been used to create a flattened area in grass or undergrowth, because smoother is better when it’s time for a nap. Digging or scuffing the ground allowed the dog to access cooler earth, so it was useful on hot days or in warmer climates. Walking around before lying down gave the dog one last look in all directions, and also enabled them to scent the area, marking it out as their night-time territory.
So your dog might do this today, even though there are no predators and they already have a bed with their name on it!
What Kind Of Dog Bed Should I Choose?
The market is awash with dog beds, and it can be confusing – so here are some top tips on choosing a bed for your dog.
- For puppies, be mindful that they might chew at night (or when you’re not looking / entertaining them). Their first bed is not likely to be a long-lasting bed! You will also need time to find out how they like to sleep.
- Puppies seek warmth and comfort, so choose a cosy bed that fits them – or can be adjusted to fit their size (some have a removable ring).
- Choose a washable bed, or a bed with washable cover. You’ll thank yourself later!
- If your dog likes to burrow or wriggle into their bed, choose a beanbag. It will adjust to their shape to provide a snuggly sleeping surface.
- Whippets and Greyhounds have very little body fat, and may need extra blankets for sleeping. You can also buy a bed which is designed to hold a heat-pad.
- Small dogs such as Chihuahuas and Terriers can also get cold and appreciate a warmer place to sleep – you could try a hooded bed (sometimes called a cave or igloo bed).
- For older dogs, memory foam can relieve pressure on joints. It’s a good investment if your dog has started to get a bit stiff. (The same advice applies to humans!)
- If your dog sleeps on the couch, you can buy a couch-topper or throw to protect your upholstery. You can even purchase quilted versions.
Make Your Own Upcycled Dog Bed...
Older dogs benefit from cushions around the house, so that there is always a comfortable place for them to snooze. If their regular bed is looking tired, you could introduce smarter floor-cushions that will suit your décor!
Here is one simple method for making your own dog cushion from an old comforter.
- Fold a single-sized comforter (duvet) into four, so you have a thick rectangle.
- Measure the sides: it will now be around 39” by 26”.
- Add 2” seam allowance to each side and use these measurements to cut two rectangles of upholstery fabric, canvas or denim (41” by 28” each).
- Right sides together, sew the rectangles together around all edges. Leave a gap of around 10” for turning through.
- Turn the case the right side out. Push the comforter inside, making sure the corners are in the right places.
- Close the gap by folding the seam allowances under and pinning together, then topstitch closed.
- Optional, but a good idea: Hand-quilt the cushion at 10” intervals using strong knots.
- The whole thing can go into the washing machine when it starts to look scruffy!
Can Extra Sleeping Be A Sign Of An Underlying Condition?
“Our dog has started barking to go outside at night. He doesn’t need to empty his bladder. He just wanders in the yard, sniffs, and eventually comes back indoors. It’s become quite frequent, usually once each night.”
If your dog’s daily routine has changed suddenly, that can be a sign of a health problem. Here are some reasons that cause dogs to be restless, lethargic, or get up at night:
Joint problems or arthritis:
Lying still can cause joints to become stiff, so dogs with arthritis might move around more – pacing, even at night. Talk to your vet about supplements which can help with stiff joints (Our natural supplement, Move is designed to help with mobility).
Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome is the canine version of dementia. It can disrupt your dog’s usual routine and make them forgetful – trying to leave through the wrong door – and restless at night.
This is a condition which usually affects older dogs too. It’s a deficiency of hormones caused by the thyroid, a gland in the dog’s neck. Hyperthyroidism creates an increased metabolism and symptoms can include anxiety and lethargy. It is usually treatable.
Spotting an infection in your dog can be difficult, but lethargy and dehydration are common symptoms. If your dog has suddenly become sleepy or lost its appetite then go straight to the vet.
Typically accompanied by vomiting and diarrhoea, food poisoning can also cause apathy and lethargy.
Lack of energy is one of the first signs of anaemia, which is a deficiency of red blood cells. It can be caused by a variety of diseases and conditions and should be diagnosed after tests by your vet.
More common among older dogs, diabetes is caused by the dog’s body not producing or utilising insulin properly. You’ll notice other symptoms such as a loss of appetite and increased thirst. As with any sudden changes to your dog’s daily habits, you should go directly to the vet for a medical diagnosis.