You might be surprised to hear that between naps and bedtime, dogs need 12-14 hours of sleep each day. This works out to be about 50% of each 24-hour period sleeping, 30% awake but relaxing, and 20% active. Of course, not all dogs have the same sleep requirements – there are a few different factors that determine how much sleep dogs need.
What Influences Dogs’ Sleep Habits?
- Age – Senior dogs are bound to need more sleep than adult dogs since they get more easily tired out from the day. Puppies are like human babies and need sleep in order to grow. This, in addition to their endless energy means the need for even more sleep to recover from their busy days: try 18-20 hours!
- Size – Larger dogs like Great Danes and Great Pyrenees often need more rest than small breed dogs do. It takes more work to move those big bodies around!
- Lifestyle & Activity Level – Working dogs like police dogs or therapy dogs spend more time awake and productive. If dogs don’t have an activity to keep them busy, they’re more apt to snooze through the afternoon.
- Stressful Life Changes – Whether it’s moving to a new home or the loss of a family member, big life changes may trigger stress for dogs. When this happens, it’s totally normal for dogs to need some extra sleep to get their mood and energy level back to normal.
- Health – While dogs are flexible sleepers and may not have a consistent sleeping schedule, dramatic changes in a dog’s sleeping habits may be a sign of a health issue. Talk to your veterinarian if your dog is suddenly sleeping much more or much less than usual.
Do Dogs Dream?
Signs point to yes. About 20 minutes into falling asleep, dogs enter REM sleep, which is the same cycle humans enter when we dream. You’ve probably seen when this happens – this cycle is marked by minor muscle twitches and eyes moving underneath closed eyelids, especially in puppies and older dogs. (Ever heard someone say about their sleeping dog: “Oh, he’s chasing rabbits!” That’s REM.)
Proof of dreaming goes further than just some twitchy paws. In 2012, MIT researchers recorded the neuron activity patterns in rats’ brains as they learned how to navigate a maze. Those same neuron activity patterns were observed again when the rats were in REM sleep, which suggests that the rats were replaying memories while sleeping. In other words, the rats were dreaming about the maze.
So if rats can dream, dogs likely do too. But what do dogs dream about? In one study, scientists temporarily disabled the pons, the part of the brain that’s responsible for paralyzing large muscle groups during sleep. With the pons no longer inhibiting the dogs’ sleep movements, they were free to act out their dreams. What the researchers found was fascinating:
What we’ve basically found is that dogs dream doggy things . . . Pointers will point at dream birds, and Doberman Pinschers will chase dream burglars. The dream pattern in dogs seems to be very similar to the dream pattern in humans.
Unfortunately, not all dreams are good ones. Since dogs dream about what happens about their everyday lives, even dogs can have nightmares. Heidi L., a Just Right by Purina customer, wrote to us to tell us about her dog, Kolt:
Kolt cries in his sleep and has a whining that breaks your heart. I truly think it has to do with losing his dad this past year. He is 8 years old and has never been away from his dad.
How Can I Help My Dog Get Better Sleep?
- Comfy place to sleep – Pick a dog bed that’s shaped for your dog’s favorite sleeping position and give him an old t-shirt with your smell on it for comfort. If you’re like most dog owners who share the bed with their dogs, make sure the bed is big enough for everyone!
- Exercise during the day, both mentally & physically – Keeping your dog’s brain and body active during the day will help him sleep better each night and not take so many naps out of boredom during the day.
- The right nutrition to keep his energy level up – Even a dog’s food can make a difference in his sleep habits, since the right balance of nutrients and calories can help support a dog’s activity level and keep him alert throughout the day. (Personalized nutrition can help you find that balance.)
- Give him good dreams by giving him good days – If you love on your dog during his waking hours, he’s bound to feel your love even when he’s sleeping. How’s that for sweet dreams?