Understanding Your Dog’s Sleep Requirements and Co-Sleeping Guidelines – By Dr Claire Stevens
Yes, our furry companions sleep more than us and understanding your dog’s sleep patterns and sleep requirements will help you spot excessive sleeping or abnormal sleeping patterns.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) notes that dogs tend to sleep as much as 12-14 hours, with bigger breeds needing more sleep time than smaller breeds. Large breeds like Mastiffs and St. Bernards can sleep as much as 18 hours per day. When awake, dogs spend 30 per cent of that time in a relaxed mode, while the remaining 20 per cent is spent being alert and active.
Remember that canine sleeping habits can vary depending on factors like breed, age, activity level, health issues and environmental factors.
Common causes of abnormal sleeping patterns
If you notice your dog dozing more or less than usual, don’t panic. There could be factors disrupting their sleep cycle that are not necessarily serious.
Consider the age of your dog. Puppies sleep more than adult dogs, usually between 15-20 hours, because their body is still developing, and they also tend to be more active when they are awake. Senior dogs are also likely to sleep more because although they are less active, they need more rest to recover. Older dogs also urinate more often which can disrupt their sleep schedule.
Adopting a new pup or getting a new pet can change the dynamics in your household. An excitable new pet could keep your dog up or tire them out from too much play. Your dog will need time to adjust to a new family member that’s why it’s important to introduce a new pet properly.
Increased activity level
If your dog is more active, say from training sessions or playtime, then they will naturally sleep more to recharge.
Warm summer months can be uncomfortable for your dog. If you see them dozing more often in the daytime, it’s likely because they are not getting much sleep at night. You can try elevating their bed for more airflow or use cooling mats to provide relief from the heat.
Dogs produce more melatonin in colder months which could make them sleep more and appear lethargic. Although winters are relatively mild in Australia, make sure your dog always has a dry and warm place to slumber. Making sure your dog gets enough exercise will also help regulate their sleep.
Any drastic change to their routine can affect their sleep cycle, such as moving to a new place or going on a long trip. Once you get settled, your dog’s sleep should return to normal.
Putting your dog on a sleep schedule
Dogs tend to adjust to your routine which means they are usually awake when you are. This means it’s important to put them on a sleep schedule. This is not just beneficial for you and your family, it will also lead to a better quality of life for your furry friend.
To get them on a regular bedtime, make sure you make it conducive for sleeping. Turn off the television and other possible sources of noise and distraction, dim the lights, and ensure they have a comfy bed.
Some of you might be thinking, can a ‘comfy bed’ be my bed?
Pros and cons of co-sleeping with your dogs
In a 2020 Australian study, about 50 per cent reported sharing their bed with their dog while 20 per cent let their dogs sleep in their bedroom but not on their bed. While there are many benefits to co-sleeping, there are also some downsides to consider.
- Dogs are less stressed when they are in the same room as you leading to better sleep quality.
- The feeling of security from co-sleeping with your dog can help you sleep better.
- It creates a stronger bond between you and your dog.
- Numerous studies have shown multiple health benefits to co-sleeping with dogs, including lower cortisol levels, heart rate, and blood pressure. Dogs can also help boost your mental health.
- This can be a cause of conflict if your partner disagrees with co-sleeping, especially if they have allergies.
- If your dog is not house-trained, they can disrupt your sleep or cause accidents in your bedroom.
- On rare occasions, dogs can spread parasites and illness.
So, is it a good idea to let your dog sleep with you? Here are some things to consider:
- Bed size. It should comfortably fit you and your canine companion.
- Dog size. A large dog can cause discomfort especially if they lay on you and vice versa if you have a small dog.
- Health condition. You and your dog’s health condition will also dictate sleeping arrangements. A senior dog may benefit from sleeping in your bedroom so you can monitor them for any unusual behaviour.
- Dog’s hygiene. With a clean and well-groomed dog, co-sleeping should not be an issue.
As their owner, it is your responsibility to gauge whether a dog is best suited to your bedroom, on your bed or on your bedroom floor, in the living area or in outdoor kennels. Bottom line: The best place for them to sleep is where you and your doggy can snooze in peace.
Signs of disease
If your dog exhibits other symptoms aside from sleep disturbances, like excessive thirst, lethargy or disorientation, then there might be underlying health issues. Common ailments which can disrupt sleep patterns include hypothyroidism, arthritis and dementia. Consult your veterinarian as soon as possible if you have any concerns.