Dogs seem to live a truly fabulous life, especially when you watch how they sleep. It doesn’t take much to make pups happy, oftentimes just a comfortable place to lie down in front of a warm fire (or, more commonly, a nice heating vent).
Many dogs follow a relatively simple schedule: They wake up, eat, go for a walk, sleep, play some more, and then go back to sleep. There’s definitely a reason why the phrase “It’s a dog’s life” exists — and it isn’t to point out any difficulties.
Still, as simple as a dog’s schedule seems, many pup owners have questions:
- How often should a dog sleep?
- How much sleep is too much?
- Are there valid health concerns when your dog sleeps a lot during the day?
Fortunately, there are some scientific reasons why dogs do what they do, and there are rarely serious reasons to worry about your dog’s sleeping schedule. Here are some answers to those burning questions to put your mind at ease.
1. Why do dogs sleep so much?
As every dog owner knows, their canine companions can expend a lot of energy during the day. Even the most low-energy breeds need exercise and a way to burn off some steam. Dogs can burn energy throughout the day by:
- Playing fetch
- Going on a walk (for working or sporting breeds, going on a run)
- Playing with other dogs
- Herding/working in the field
Dogs use up energy in short bursts, and replenish throughout the day as needed. They thus might be very worn out after doing any one of these activities and will need to catch some Zs. Unlike people — who tend to follow pretty set sleep schedules — however, dogs sleep when they feel they need to. That means they have no problem catching a daily nap (or two or three).
2. How many hours do dogs typically sleep?
A dog will spend 12 to 14 hours sleeping each day, on average, depending on his or her age, breed, and personality. They can sleep more or less than that, but here is a quick primer on just how much sleep you can expect your dog to need each day:
Large dog breeds tend to sleep more.
Generally speaking, the larger the dog, the more sleep they need. If you have a great dane or a newfoundland, for example, odds are that your lovable giant will need more than the average amount of sleep each day. Larger breeds expend more energy throughout the day simply by moving their heavy bodies around. They tend to take longer naps as well, and it is not uncommon for a large breed dog to conk out in the middle of the day for several hours.
Toy dogs sleep in shorter increments.
Smaller breeds usually take shorter naps than large dogs. It takes less energy to move around, so while toy dogs like Maltese, chihuahuas, and Japanese chin might seem to have a boundless supply of energy to burn, they still are likely to take shorter naps than their large-breed cousins.
Senior dogs need more sleep.
It’s no big leap to assume that as dogs get older, they need more rest. Regardless of the breed, older dogs tire out more easily and need plenty of rest to do the activities they once did effortlessly. Many times, there’s nothing wrong with your senior dog — just make sure that you make their nap spot extra cozy so that they can get their rest in style.
Puppies usually need extra sleep.
It’s a lot of work to explore and make mischief all day. Therefore, puppies usually need extra rest and can spend up to 20 hours each day sleeping. Puppies (much like human babies) often sleep more deeply than their adult counterparts, too — and are known for their habit of snoring adorably.
3. How much sleep do dogs need?
While the average amount of canine sleep is 12 to 14 hours each day, there is a lot of wiggle room to that based on your dog’s breed and activity level. Many working dogs — like border collies who herd sheep, or German shepherds who patrol airports — have very structured days, and typically get less sleep than dogs who live more sedentary lives. If you own a service dog or a pup who works hard performing tasks during the day, you can likely count on your pet to sleep hard when they are home. There is a caveat to this; high-energy breeds who are forced to live without their required daily activities can often become destructive without the proper outlet for their energetic natures. You’ll want to consider this if you’re planning to leave such a breed at home while you’re at work, for example.
How to Tell if Your Dog is Sleeping Too Much
A dog’s sleep pattern often naturally changes as he or she ages, which means there really isn’t a reason to be concerned if the shift is gradual. There are certain things to watch out for, however, and you’ll want to contact your veterinarian if you notice one of them. Any of these might be a sign of a health issue:
- If your senior dog is sleeping more and isn’t eating or drinking normally
- If your dog (of any age) rapidly changes a sleep pattern for no apparent reason
- Sudden, unexplained changes to an existing sleep pattern (which could be a sign of diabetes or kidney failure)
- More naps combined with vomiting or diarrhea
- More naps combined with whimpering or excessive licking (which could be a sign that your dog is in pain)
Finally, keep an eye on your dog’s response to being woken up from a nap. Most tend to wake up very quickly, ready to take on their day right away. If your dog is especially slow to wake and doesn’t seem to be motivated by the normal stimulus, there could be a reason to be concerned.
Owning a dog is truly an adventure. Though there is a lot to learn about how and why dogs behave the way they do, the rewards are innumerable.
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You may also be interested in 6 Indoor Games for Dogs That Are Great for Rainy Days.
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