How Much Sleep Do Dogs Need?

Sleep. We all need it, humans and animals alike. Humans need between 6-8 hours per night. But have you ever thought about dogs? How much sleep DOES a dog need? Do they have the same type of sleep as a human or is it different?

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Sleep. We all need it, humans and animals alike. Humans need between 6-8 hours per night. But have you ever thought about dogs? How much sleep DOES a dog need? Do they have the same type of sleep as a human or is it different?

Believe it or not, sleep remains a neurological mystery. No one knows exactly why mammals sleep. What we do know is that sleep is consistent across the mammalian and avian species. Though there are approximately 5,400 mammal species on earth, the patterns of sleep, including rapid eye movement (REM) and slow-phase, are markedly similar amongst them. So too are the patterns noted on an EEG (electroencephalogram)—a machine that records brainwaves.

sleeping daschund
Getty Images Plus / gnome24

Sleep needs change throughout life. This is true for our canine friends, as well. Puppies sleep more than adult dogs. Elderly dogs will also tend to sleep more. Why do these changes occur?

Puppies are growing rapidly. Growth requires intense bursts of energy, after which the body needs to recover. It is normal for puppies to sleep up to 20 hours a day. On the converse, elderly dogs sleep more because of a slowing metabolic rate. This is a normal part of age. However, it is important to note that “slowing down” with old age can also be a sign of underlying conditions like arthritis or cancer. This is why it’s a good idea to have annual examinations (or even every 6 months) with your veterinarian to ensure that your dog doesn’t have any physical problems. Early management of arthritis and other conditions can dramatically improve quality of life for senior dogs.

Activity can also affect sleep time for dogs. Working dogs sleep less than inactive dogs. Inactive dogs also may have unusual sleep/wake cycles. This might be because many dogs are home alone during the daytime, and thus, they sleep. When owners come home, the dog becomes active. This daytime inactivity can lead to wakefulness at night, when the rest of the house is asleep. It’s a good idea to leave interesting toys for your dogs when you are gone for the day. Daily exercise for at least 15-30 minutes also promotes healthy sleep patterns…in everyone!

mastiff sleeping in bed
Getty Images Plus / vitalytitov

Breed and size can affect sleep too, but the reasons are less clear. Large and giant breed dogs in general seem to sleep more than their smaller counterparts (think Chihuahua versus Mastiff). This might be due to higher energy demands for bigger muscles and internal organs.

Much about sleep remains shrouded in mystery, but one thing is clear: we all need it!

Does my dog need a bedtime?

We all know that as humans, if we don’t get enough sleep, our cognition suffers. Here’s the beauty about being a dog—you can sleep anywhere, anytime! Like all animals, dogs do require a certain amount of sleep, but since they aren’t reading, writing, driving, or otherwise operating heavy machinery, you don’t need to worry about setting a bedtime for your canine companion. He will do that for himself. Maybe us humans should take a page from our dog’s playbook and rest when our body demands it!

My dog sleeps all day. Is this normal?

The truth is, sleep varies dramatically between individual canines, just as in humans. There may be correlations between breed and size, but in the end, each dog is unique. Dr William Thomas, a veterinary neurologist at the University of Tennessee, estimates that dogs sleep anywhere from 48-58% of the time. If your dog is active and alert when awake, has a good appetite, and seems otherwise normal, then perhaps your dog just needs the extra Zzzzzzs. On the other hand, if your pup is exhibiting lethargy, decreased appetite, or any other unusual signs, it is time for a check-up.

Here are some recent survey results on over 10,000 dogs’ sleeping habits.

35 COMMENTS

  1. This article never stated exactly how much sleep is needed. Granted there are differences in breeds, activity and such, but still as humans, there should be a guideline. You only stated 48-58% of the time. Day? Their life? Very vague article leaving even more questions with the reader than answers.

  2. 15-30 minutes of exercise? Are you crazy? Maybe that’s enough for a 12 year old Mastiff, but most dogs need at least an hour or two every day.

  3. This article lost me when they actually suggested taking your dog in for a vet check every 6 months. No and thanks. There’s a reason dogs are all dying of cancer, and vets is one of them. Just like humans, animals are being OVER medicated, and over vaccinated. Healthy humans AND animals don’t need to see a doctor. $$$$.

    • Then you are being an irresponsible pet owner if you are not taking your dog for annual or biannual checkups (especially if the dog is elderly). Checkups are proactive! Taking your dog to a vet does *not* always mean he/she will be prescribed meds or vaccinations! And if you can’t afford to take your dog to a vet, then you probably shouldn’t have one!

      • Susan agree w/everything u said. They can’t tell us something is wrong until it’s too late. And, yes u need to be able to afford the expense that goes w/having a pet.

    • I am a retired medical professional . know 100% that our vets are over-vacicinating our pets. Especially the older vets who refuse to look at the facts and don’t want to lose the $$$ Vaccinations are a big part of their income. Estimated about 16% of most vet practices.
      Look at the website for Drs. Ronald Shultz and Jeanne Dodds for the real skinny on vaccinations.
      Tick borne diseases can hide until they cause huge problems if not detected early. Heart worm as well. Anyone advising against annual vet visits is totally wrong and I would not want any of my pups to be part of their life.

      When’s the last time you got yaccinated? And you live for 70-80 years. Most pups for about 15 . Wish it was the other way. Maybe we’d be kinder to each other.

      • HI Ronald. I too am a retired medical professional & agree with you. As a pet owner I think you have to stay informed & agree that some vets do over prescribe vaccinations. My vet has always worked with me & I was titering before it became popular.

        I test my dogs for HW & tick panel every year & give them preventative. Yes, ALL medications have side effects but you have to balance the benefit vs side effects. I have seen dogs with HW (not mine). The worse case was a dog with adult worms in the pulmonary artery. The dog was treated with toxic medication & ended up with pulmonary emboli. It was a difficult, expensive & long process for a very sweet dog.

        I do full blood work on my dogs every year. Having the blood work as a young dog gives me & the vet a basis for comparison as the dog ages. You can pick up health trends & problems that are just starting & can be managed & treated more easily. e.g. I changed food on an older dog that was starting to show some kidney function changes.

        I do some field work & have had 2 dogs with lepto. Even though I had vaccinated them they came up positive for strains not in the vaccine. One dog started drinking more but the other was totally asymptomatic. It was picked up very early & fortunately easily treated. I also have a dog that has had Rocky Mt. Spotted Fever. So getting blood work & using preventative is not a guarantee that your dog will never get sick but I am doing everything I can to keep my dogs healthy.

    • Ever hear of heartworm? Undetectable unless you get your pet tested. They look healthy until they drop dead from heart failure. Shame on you for not taking your pup for checkups.

      • Never treat my dogs for HW and never had a dog with HW, nor has anyone in my family and we have multiple dog households! Our dogs live well into their teens! Those drugs are toxic producing severe reactions including seizures and paralysis!! #whitefeetdonttreat

    • I had a dog for 21 years growing up , only went to vet when rabies shot due. She ate table scraps, kennel ration can dog food ,survived flea powder and was DEARLY LOVED!!!!! Bless Rosie’s little heart!!!! LOVED HER SO MUCH!!!!

      21 YEAR SURVIVOR OF
      NONE OF THESE HORRIBLE
      DRUGS

    • Agree 100%!! Vets putting profits before animal safety and health. They should have been testing with titers instead of redundant vaccines.

  4. I am disappointed at some of these articles. Vague. BUT somehow Important Things End Up In A “booklet” We have to pay $.9.99 for. WHY is this???

    • I have noticed the same thing; I thought I was just being overly critical. It seems like the 2019 strategic plan called for making the articles in the Journal teases for the plethora of eBooks drowning our emails. Thanks for saying something. I need to loom back at the subscription cost and reassess. I realize that they are running a business but the subscription used to cover articles that had answers. I do believe however, they continue to provide though-provoking information that makes me a better pet owner.

  5. WDJ, not a good article. Expect better from you.. Superficial w no real information. And oh so wrong on exercise suggestion.

  6. A healthy person should have their labs checked yearly. Diabetes, hypertension hypothyroidism are “silent killers.” As an RN I’ve seen supposedly “healthy” people with full blown untreated diabetes that didn’t know they had it. By the time they find out they have irreversible kidney failure, diabetic retinopathy, diabetic neuropathy. They usually say, “I’ve been healthy all my life and didn’t need to go to the doctor.” They are usually shocked to find out they are actually not so healthy. If they had gone for checkups and yearly labs they would have found out they had a blood sugar problem before they ruined some of their organs. I’ve also seen people that never got a colonoscopy that had advanced colon cancer and by the time they got treatment it was too late. You need to be informed and do your research but you also need your checkups and labs routinely performed by a good physician.

  7. This was a ‘puff’ piece article to get clicks to your website. I would never take my dog to a vet every 6 months for a check up and am surprised that a holistic website would suggest this practice. I have a 95 lb. GSD and 15-30 minutes would barely get him winded. WOW! I expected more in-depth writing and research.

  8. I always have taken my dog every 6 months for an exam and blood work. It’s a good way to check on what’s happening to them. You can catch a lot of things through blood work and if there’s a problem start treatment before things progress.

  9. I’ve never been a fan of 6 month visits. Now I am. I lost a dog a couple of years ago @ 6 months of age. One morning he was fine. When I returned home from work, he was upside down. I ran him to my Vet to find his liver readings were off. They treated him and kept him over night. 18 hrs. later he was gone. Testing showed a cancerous growth on one of his lungs, size of half a baseball, which had spread to his liver. He went into cardiac arrest and died suddenly. I was shocked. I live on a farm and he was all about running, up to the day before he died. MAYBE having him checked every 6 months might have caught this. He was 3 months from his annual physical. WHAT I DON’T LIKE is injections that are pushed. I do some traveling. No boarding facility here will board a dog that has not had flu shots, though there has been no dog flu issues in this area. I hear mixed reviews on multiple injections for dogs.

  10. Like the majority of articles with Dog Journal, very vague, no answers. They hook you with the headline; you spend several minutes or more reading it; then wonder why you wasted the time (or you need to download another
    article at a cost or purchase a book).

  11. Who can afford today’s vets
    Your dog can be healthy, you take it for check to the vet and they start to sale you whatever can get. Just add and add more. .Discussing.
    I have 3 dogs and they are 16 ,16 and half and one 17. I still didn’t find one vet to really want to help my dogs in need, just look at them like $$$$$…
    I learned myself how to feet them the best, no vaccines!
    Vets just stress my dogs with over tests 🐾❤️🐾

  12. ALL THE ABOVE COMMENTS DO NOT TAKE INTO CONSIDERATION THAT MAMMELS– NOT JUST THE ABOVE OWNERS RECIOUS CANINES– ARE TOTALLY DIFFERENT THATN ONE ANOTHER.

    NO STANDARDS CAN BE SET WITH PUNCTUALITY AS PEOPLE THINK.

    ARE ANY OF THE ABOVE HUMANS EXACTLY ALIKE?

    GIVE IT UP FOLKS, STOP BEING SO ANAL ABOUT LIFE & YOUR DESIRES.

    MOST COMMENTS ARE HERE JUST BECAUSE MANY PEOPLE LIKE TO DISAGREE WITH ANYONE.
    CORRECT THE EXPERTS ! GET A LIFE. THEY ALL ARE VERY LIMITED.

  13. I would like to see something about canine dreams, with all the twitches and leg jerking that goes on. My boy is 11 years old Australian Shepherd and as a baby or young lad, he didn’t do much twitching. But now as a gracefully graying male, he does it a lot. I get a lot of back thumps during the night 🙂

  14. Regarding the comment about heartworm..I never heard of HW in California. I and 4 dogs lived there for about 50 years. When I moved to TN,the vet explained that different areas have HW. Some do and some don’t.

  15. I am a firm believer in Titer tests – as does my vet. If your pet has enough of the antibodies, then they don’t need the vaccine injection. Blindly vaccinating can cause issues, especially with older pets. Unfortunately, Michigan doesn’t accept a Titer test for Rabies – perhaps someday they will!

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