Web Only Article November 28, 2018

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?

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

Dogs sleep for the same reasons and in the same cycles as people. Let them rest!

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

Giant breeds like Mastiffs may need more sleep on average than small dogs.

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!

dog sleeping in outdoor tub

Getty Images Plus / danaibe12

This dog got comfy enough in an outdoor tub to take a snooze. A good way to keep cool on hot summer days.

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.

Comments (6)

My dogs never seem to sleep. 10 month old chow is rarely still much less asleep. 7 month old Golden is much more relaxed but plays with the chow from morning to late evening.

Posted by: Housefrau99 | December 9, 2018 9:11 PM    Report this comment

and here was i feeling guilty if they get less than an hour! Im coming off injury so I just started this weekend walking them 15-30 minutes...they normally go for 40 in the evening, and they get some walks on weekend mornings... But prior to my injury, I was walking them two hours in the morning, and sometimes a 3-4 km in the evening during winter...I wont feel so bad now lol... I do play with my Standard in the house if he wants to; a little "chasey" or "keepy off/ fetch"...Just have a laugh with them. Some dogs do self occupy. My standard wants my input or he doesnt amuse himself. My dogs are 2 and 14, so they dont really lay together much, but they love eachother. Mind you 14 yo didnt play with him as a pup either lol. putting him on LDN from next week, maybe he will feel different and more playful, though he is on glucosamine/ chondroitin/ msm and greenlipped mussel, fish oil for joints... also on hawthorn berry and oregano oil for his heart (works very well but hoping LDn will supercharge him!)

Posted by: Lisofby | December 9, 2018 6:50 PM    Report this comment

My two 10 year old golden's (littermates) are total opposites. My male likes to go to bed early (like my husband). He mostly stays inside with us & will ask to be let out at 8:30pm to go potty & get his treat/medication when he comes back in. In the morning he is up & ready to go early. The female is a night owl and loves to stay outside as long as possible. In the morning she is sprawled out, half off her bed, dreaming away!

Posted by: CaDreamer | December 3, 2018 2:10 PM    Report this comment

I also think that dogs are naturally 'crepuscular' that is most active at dawn and dusk. My dogs sleep outside and seem to often be active at night. Just as well because that is when the foxes are also active.

Posted by: Jenny H | December 1, 2018 8:37 PM    Report this comment

I think humans need much more than 6 to 8 hours of sleep per 24 hours. In my experience those people, who sleep for this period of time at night, have afternoon sleeps/naps.
Dog also do not have one long sleep per 24 hours but snooze on and off over the full day.

Posted by: Jenny H | December 1, 2018 8:35 PM    Report this comment

Interesting article! My dogs grab 'cat' (dog?)naps throughout the day and then snooze all night long with me. They are all three happy, content pups in perfect condition for their ages and live on 5 rural acres which keeps them busy and active. I estimate they happily sleep 15-20 hrs/day depending on what I'm up to and how long I'm home each day.

Posted by: Lianimals | December 1, 2018 12:52 PM    Report this comment

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