- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
My dog sleeps all day. He’s 12 years old, with a bad back, and he just doesn’t have the get-up-and-go that he used to. But in his younger years, it seemed like he was always awake. In fact, I used to say he was spring-loaded because he bounced around the house so much.
Much like humans, dogs’ sleep needs change as they age. All mammals sleep, but how much they sleep differs from species to species. Dogs and humans have one thing in common: their sleep needs change as they age and through different health and lifestyle stages.
Read on to learn all about how much sleep your dog needs to thrive.
Dogs sleep a lot, but not all at once
Compared to humans, dogs sleep a lot. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the average human adult does best with 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Dogs, on the other hand, sleep for an average of 12-14 hour in each 24-hour sleep cycle (source). In other words, dogs spend 50% of the day asleep.
Now, if you have a dog that wakes you up in the middle of the night, it may be hard to believe they sleep for 12 hours. But dogs don’t sleep as we do. Most humans operate on a diurnal sleep schedule—asleep at night, and awake and active during the day. If you’re lucky, you’re sleeping 7-9 hours in a row at night. But dogs rarely get all of their sleep at once.
Many dogs do sleep through the night with their people, but that’s not the only time they sleep. Instead, they tend to sleep on and off as it suits them. One vet, in an interview with PetMD, describes dogs as “social sleepers” because they adjust their sleep needs to their environment. They may get 7 hours of sleep by your side at night, and the rest in naps throughout the day while you’re at work.
Puppies and seniors sleep more
As anyone currently raising a puppy knows, puppies can sleep a lot. One reason your pup is so sleepy? She’s working hard to grow up! Puppies grow fast, and that takes a lot of energy. Their adorable puppy bodies need plenty of time to recover from all the hard work they’re doing. That’s why puppies can sleep up to 20 hours per day (source).
Of course, puppies aren’t sleeping for 20 hours straight. They’re pros at napping. Conversely, they’re not pros at sleeping through the night. If you’re a new puppy parent, take heart: it gets better. Click here for tips on how to teach your puppy to sleep through the night.
Senior dogs sleep more because of their slowing metabolism. Just like humans, dogs slow down as they age, and tend to need more rest to recover their energy. It’s normal for an older dog (like mine) to sleep more than they used to. However, if your senior dog seems to lack energy and be a lot slower than they used to be, it can be a sign of underlying conditions like arthritis or disease.
That’s why it’s important to maintain biannual wellness checks with the vet. Your older dog may need more sleep, but you can still help them enjoy a modified active lifestyle as they age.
Sleep needs vary by breed
Breed is another factor in how much sleep dogs need. In general, large dogs sleep more than small dogs. So, your St. Bernard is probably snoozing more than your Chihuahua! Big dogs may need more sleep because they tire out more quickly; after all, they have more weight to haul around.
Of course, we all know some lazy dogs of all sizes (pugs, anyone?). Some of the least active dog breeds are big-time sleepers. But it’s actually more active dog breeds who are more likely to sleep through the night. According to one study, some of the sleepiest dog breeds include:
- Labrador retrievers
- German shepherd
- Golden retriever
Working breeds—even big ones—sleep less during the day. For example, service dogs have to stay awake and alert during the day, so they get most of their sleep at night. The same goes for police dogs on duty, who are active at work and then sleep in bigger chunks after their shift. But dogs that don’t have a job may nap a lot more during the day simply because they can.
Is my dog sleeping too much?
Dogs sleep a lot. But can they sleep too much? If your dog’s sleep habits suddenly and noticeably change, it’s worth taking them to the vet for a check-up. Some conditions like hyperthyroidism and diabetes can impact sleep habits.
Other signs that your dogs’ sleep patterns are disrupted may include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sleeping a lot more or a lot less than usual
When in doubt, call the vet. But in general, trust that your dog sleeps when they need to. And, lucky for them, they sleep a lot!