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How Much Do Dogs Sleep?

Corey Kagan Whelan
June 16, 2017

Make sure your pooch gets the right amount of zzz's, whether he's an up-all-night party animal or a drowsy, deep sleeper.

Is your dog notorious for sleeping the day away, or does he keep you on your toes at all times? If you're concerned that your furry friend is not catching the right amount of shut-eye, you've probably asked yourself at one point or another, "How much do dogs sleep?" Here's everything you need to know about typical canine sleeping behavior.

How Much Do Dogs Sleep?
"All animals have circadian rhythms, and dogs experience slow wave and REM sleep, just like people do," says Dr. Jill Sackman, a behavioral medicine specialist with BluePearl Veterinary Partners. But, unlike humans, dogs go through multiple, short sleep cycles, sometimes as many as 20 per night.

According to Dr. Sackman, "one big difference between dog and human sleep patterns is flexibility. Your dog quiets down because you're signaling him it's sleep time, by turning out the lights and getting ready for bed."

You'll also find that your dog probably sleeps in little bits throughout the day. "People typically spend their daylight hours awake, optimally sleeping from seven to nine hours a night," says Greg Kleva, a dog trainer and behavioral therapist with Bark Busters Home Dog Training. "In contrast, a dog's sleep regimen includes periods of inactivity, rest and plenty of nap time during the day as well as nighttime slumber."

According to Kleva, dogs sleep more than 12 hours a day, on average. "Larger breeds, puppies, and older dogs may even sleep upwards of 18 hours," he adds.

How Can You Help Your Dog Rest Easy?
Working dogs and dogs who are actively engaged all day may sleep significantly less than a dog who lounges around all day, but if your dog seems to be missing out on getting the right amount of zzz's, you should reach out to your veterinarian to rule out any medical issues. The same holds true if you think your dog is sleeping too much.

According to Dr. Sackman, "older dogs sleep more, just like older people do, but so do bored dogs." If you find your young, healthy dog is sleeping too much, she suggests adding more playtime and vigorous walks to his day.

"The best solution to keep your dog calm and guarantee good sleep patterns is plenty of physical and mental stimulation, like a game of fetch or a walk with his friends," says Kleva. "Exercising your dog's brain for mental exhaustion is just as valuable to keep him relaxed, reduce boredom and generate healthy rest."

According to Kleva, "fun obedience exercises like Sit/Stay/Release with treat distractions, 'find the hidden toy' games and problem solving as provided by food dispensing toys are other great ways to engage your dog's brain and assure the level of mental exhaustion that leads to restful sleep."

If you're out all day, Dr. Sackman suggests that you consider hiring a dog walker to break up your pet's time spent time alone. This will keep him engaged and help him to rest better at night. If your dog has difficulty relaxing, which is also associated with his ability to sleep, you should try playing classical music that is specifically geared for canines, like "Through a Dog's Ear," Dr. Sackman adds.

What Does Normal Dog Sleep Look Like?
According to Kleva, "normal dog sleep often begins with the instinctual ritual of digging or scratching and turning in circles several times before plopping down in a heap to snooze." Just like you, your pet may shift around when he is sleeping and even contort himself into strange, uncomfortable-looking positions, adds Kleva. You may even see your dog twitch or hear him whimper in his sleep. According to Kleva, your dog also dreams during his REM cycle.

If you find that your dog's sleep is often disrupted by outside sources, such as other animals, your own nighttime restlessness or external noise, you should try to eliminate those outside sources as much as possible. After all, if your dog isn't sleeping enough, you're probably not getting enough rest, either. And neither of you will feel your best tomorrow if you don't get a good night's sleep tonight.

Wondering where your furry pal should sleep? Check out DIY Dog Bed Ideas for Your Little Friend.

Corey Kagan Whelan is a freelance writer (and animal lover) living in New York.

* This article is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be providing medical advice and is not a substitute for such advice. The reader should always consult a health care provider concerning any medical condition or treatment plan. Neither Care.com nor the author assumes any responsibility or liability with respect to use of any information contained herein.

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