DOG SLEEPING HABITS: WHAT'S NORMAL AND WHAT'S NOT

Sleep is important for all dogs, but especially for puppies. Sleep helps puppies grow up healthy by helping develop their central nervous system, brain, immune system, and muscles. Plus, sleep will recharge them during their growth spurts. After all, they have to recharge so they can be bundles of energy for the hours they are awake for!


How much do puppies sleep? 

A lot! On average, puppies that are more than 4 weeks old will sleep 18 to 20 hours a day. This will come down as they get older and settle down around 12 to 14 hours of sleep per day when they enter adulthood. The amount your dog sleeps will vary depending on a number of factors including breed, size, diet, health and the amount of activity they get. According to The American Kennel Club, older dogs require more sleep just because they tire out more easily and, as a general rule, bigger breeds also spend more time dozing.


Do dogs have REM cycles too?

Similar to humans, your dog will also go through Rapid Eye Movement (REM) cycles. The main distinction is that while humans sleep in one long stretch at night, dogs will sleep in short bursts throughout their day. During these short bursts, they are DEEP asleep. When they fall asleep, their breathing will slow down and their heart rate will drop. Shortly after that they will go into REM. That’s when you see their eyes roll back into their heads and hear them dream (and even move their paws while dreaming!). This is all a part of healthy sleeping for dogs. Lastly, even though they are in deep sleep, they will wake up much more easily than us humans. 


Does my dog sleep too much?

As your puppy develops and matures into an adult, you should have a handle on their sleeping patterns so that you know what “normal” looks like for them. Changes in their sleeping patterns coupled with other symptoms, such as a change in appetite or lethargy, could be indicative of a medical condition and should be assessed by a vet. 


Similar to us, major life changes will impact your dog’s sleeping habits. Events like moving to a new home or recovering from a surgery will likely have your dog sleeping longer. When it’s driven by an external change, it’s likely that their sleeping patterns will return to normal on their own. However, pet parents should note that dogs can suffer depression too so any sustained changes should be assessed by a vet. 


Is my dog tired or lethargic?

Lethargy and tiredness are often used interchangeably to describe a dog that is sleeping a lot, but they have very different implications so it’s important to know the difference. A lethargic dog will not be able to complete their normal tasks for the day. Perhaps your dog is usually excited to go on walks and one day they simply don’t want to go, or perhaps a usually food motivated dog is disinterested in treats or any food. Instead they just want to sleep. 


According to the AKC, if this behavior persists for more than two days then it’s time to take a trip to the vet and check for an underlying condition. Common conditions include heart disease, canine diabetes, heartworm, parvovirus, dog flu, or ingesting a toxic substance. On the other hand, a tired dog might just be in need of a recharge from a long day of playing or going on errands with you. If this is the case, their behavior should be back to normal after a good nap, and certainly by the following day. 


One simple reason for lethargy dogs is warm temperatures. If you suspect this is the case, move your dog to a controlled climate and give them plenty of access to fresh water. 


Scheduling your puppy’s sleep

Similar to children, puppies get excited by the world around them so they don’t always have an internal clock that tells them what is sleeping versus awake time. That’s a key part of your pet parenting role. At first, their sleep schedule will be dictated by their bladder (they can’t go potty while sleeping!). Plan their day so that they have time to nap right after any activity time. 


We love this typical day schedule proposed by the AKC. It allows enough time for sleep and potty breaks, and ensures that your dog adjusts well to living with you. In general, dogs love schedules, regularity and familiarity are must-haves, so why not start as a puppy?


Morning Puppy Schedule
  • In the morning when the puppy wakes up, quickly take him outside to relieve himself..
  • Feed him breakfast.
  • Puppies usually need to relieve themselves after eating, so give him another potty break.
  • Spend 30-60 minutes of playing with him, socializing, and taking a walk.
  • Nap time. He may sleep from 30 minutes to two hours.
  • Give him another potty break as soon as he wakes up.
  • Feed him lunch.
Afternoon Puppy Schedule
  • After lunch, give him a potty break.
  • For up to one hour, play with him and allow him to explore.
  • It’s nap time again.
  • Take him outside for a bathroom break when he wakes up.
  • And then it's playtime again.
  • Chances are pretty good he’ll settle in for a nap after he plays.
  • Potty break.
Evening Puppy Schedule
  • Feed your pup dinner before you sit down, or give him a stuffed Kong to work on in the crate while you eat.
  • After dinner, take a walk.
  • Let him spend time playing and interacting with family members.
  • Give him  a quick bathroom trip before bed, and then settling him down in his crate for nighttime sleep.