Normal Sleep Habits
While we, the average human, need about 8 hours of sleep a day to function properly, our dogs will sleep between 12-14 hours in a day. Usually this time will be split up so that they are sleeping roughly 8 hours a night (when we do) and the other 4-6 hours will come in the form of napping. This time frame can vary greatly depending on the type of dog that you have. The normal sleep habits of your pet will depend on things like:
- Working dogs. Police or service dogs will likely sleep less during the day because they are much more active, and usually work the same “shift” that their human works. Dogs that are frequently bred to be working dogs, such as Labs or German Shepherds, may sleep less naturally even if they are not trained as service dogs.
- Puppies. Puppies, like babies, will need more naps during the day than an adult dog would. Just like regular babies, puppies need more sleep for development and growth, and because they are likely to wake up during the night in need of a bathroom break which interrupts their sleep.
- Older dogs. The older a dog gets, the more they will sleep. This is a natural part of aging for dogs, and is nothing to be concerned about.
Making sure your pet gets exercise throughout the day is one of the most critical ways to ensure that they have consistent, healthy sleep habits. If your dog does not engage in exercise throughout the day, they will likely sleep far longer than a dog that is exercised during the day. Inactive dogs are also more likely to suffer from insomnia than pets that are kept active. The reason for this is that they have more time to sleep during the day and nothing to wear them down, so they are less likely to go to sleep when everyone else in the house does.
It is important to commit to exercising your pet for at least 30 minutes during the day – more if you have a larger breed or a dog bred for “work”. A morning and evening walk and stimulating play (such as fetch or tug-of-war) is a great way to not only bond with your pet but to also make sure that they are developing the types of good habits to ensure that they are getting the proper sleep at night.
Another good way to keep your dog stimulated throughout the day for good sleep habits is to give them something that will keep them engaged during the day. If your pet is being left alone for the day, it is important to make sure that they have something that interests them to keep their bodies and minds stimulated so they don’t sleep the day away. Other types of good sleep habits to encourage include:
- Giving your pet a task. Things like food puzzles that require your pet to problem solve and that take time are a great way to exercise their minds, keeping them awake and alert as they attempt to resolve the puzzle given to them.
- Chewing. Not only will chew toys keep your pet awake and engaged, this has the added bonus of helping them maintain a strong jaw and clean teeth.
- Having a play date. This is especially important if your pet is an only pet in the household. Most animals, dogs in particular, are social creatures. Taking your dog to the dog park for even half an hour during the week will help them get that interaction they crave.
What Are Bad Habits?
If you are away at work for a large part of the day (as most of us are), leaving your pet alone and bored can become a problem when it comes to their nighttime routine. A bored dog will typically fill that empty time with sleep, which can contribute to trouble sleeping at night. Additional concerns with this sedentary behavior would be obesity and behavioral issues. It is also important to make sure that your pet has time to wind down in the evening before bed. Engaging in an exciting, stimulating game late into the evening will get your pet worked up and less likely to settle in for sleep when everyone else is ready for bed.
Just like people, pets can become grumpy, stressed and more susceptible to infection when they are not well rested. It is important to try to minimize any bad habits when it comes to sleep to ensure that your furry family member is well rested and ready for each day.