Dog Sleeping Guide | Pupford
March 14th, 2023
Filed under Health + Wellness
Have you ever looked at your dog while they were curled up fast asleep while you were in the middle of some super boring chore or in the midst of a hectic day and think: why can’t I be you?
Why can’t I sleep whenever I want, for however long I want?
If you’ve put thought into your dog’s sleeping habits, you’re not alone. We get asked questions about dog sleep all the time, so we thought we’d put together this guide to help answer common questions.
Here’s what we’ll be covering:
- How long should puppies sleep each day?
- Tips to help puppies get enough sleep
- How long should dogs sleep each day?
- Why do dogs walk in circles before they lay down to sleep?
- Why do dogs try to “fluff” up their beds before they sleep?
- Why do dogs bark, twitch, etc. in their sleep?
Before we get into the questions, let’s start with a fun poll (you can guess if you aren't sure) ⤵️
Also, a very quick disclaimer – The information in this article is not a replacement for visiting your vet if you think your dog is displaying abnormal sleeping habits.
How Long Should Puppies Sleep Each Day?
While puppies are generally known for being little balls of energy, they do sleep quite a bit. Typically, puppies should sleep about 18-20 hours a day.
That might sound like a lot but think of all the things your puppy does while awake.
They are constantly exploring, learning, growing, and developing, which uses a lot of energy. Sleep is essential to both their physical and psychological development.
Unfortunately, puppies haven’t yet gotten the hang of their internal clock so they might now know the concept of days and nights. So if you find your puppy zooming around one minute then out cold the next, it’s perfectly normal.
Tips to Help Puppies Get Enough Sleep
If you want to make sure your puppy is getting enough sleep to support healthy growth, there are things you can do to help:
For daytime sleeping:
- Leave your puppy alone while they sleep. We know it’s hard to resist how cute they are when they snuggle up with you to nap, but it’s important that they sleep independently.
- Have a dedicated sleeping space, like a crate, where your puppy can rest undisturbed.
- Keep to a schedule for feeding, walks, bathroom trips, and training sessions so the puppy can nap after moments of activity.
For nighttime sleeping:
- Line puppy’s crate with soft blankets and include their favorite items so they see it as inviting and reward with a treat when they go in.
- Create a bedtime routine so the puppy can learn that nighttime is for sleeping.
- Try not to give in. In the first few weeks, barking, crying, or howling may happen as your puppy gets used to not being around you at night. This should subside as the puppy learns the routine!
How Long Should Dogs Sleep Each Day?
While puppies need a substantial amount of sleep, adult dogs typically only sleep 12 to 14 hours per day.
While it’s less than a puppy, at least 50% of a dog’s day is spent snoozing for the most part -- we’re jealous.
If your dog seems like an outlier to this norm, don’t worry. There are a few factors to keep in mind:
- Older adult dogs will need more sleep than younger adult dogs.
- Working dogs or dogs who spend most of their days being active will sleep less during the day.
- Large breeds like Newfoundlands, mastiffs, and St. Bernards are known to sleep more than small or medium breeds.
In general, all dogs are different. There’s no need to be concerned about your dog’s sleeping patterns unless they suddenly and dramatically change.
If your usually active dog is now sleeping so much that they ignore the mailman, you should talk to your vet. While it’s possible it could be a serious health condition, it could also be something as simple as making a diet or nutrient adjustment.
Why Do Dogs Walk in Circles Before They Lay Down to Sleep?
One of the most common questions we’ve gotten about dog sleeping is why they walk in circles on their spot before laying down to sleep.
Not only is it a peculiar little behavior, but it’s also pretty puzzling -- there seems to not be a reason for it yet every dog does it.
There have been a number of theories as to why dogs do this. Some people believe it was an evolutionary behavior that allowed a dog to fully check its surroundings before settling down while also releasing scent from their paws to mark the territory.
Other theories claim it’s a way for dogs to make their surroundings more comfortable. Walking over the area would flatten grass and brush, reveal any stones or twigs, and chase away unwanted critters.
Essentially, it’s their way to build a comfy little nest.
Stanley Coren PhD, DSc, FRSC decided to put that last theory to the test. They set up a simple experiment where 62 pet dogs were placed in a pen that either had a flat, densely woven carpet or loosely woven shag carpet that had lumps, wrinkles, and uneven surfaces.
The dogs were observed to see if they circled before laying down, and if so, how many times.
The results were as follows:
- 19% of dogs placed on the smooth surface turned at least one full circle before lying down, while
- 55% of dogs placed on the uneven surface turned at least one full circle before lying down
- Only 1 dog placed on the smooth surface circled more than once, while
- 19% of the dogs placed on the uneven surface turned more than once
So there you have it -- dogs turn in circles to make themselves a nice little comfy spot to sleep in!
Why Do Dogs Try to “Fluff” Up Their Beds Before They Sleep?
Spoiler alert: it’s not because they watch us fluff our pillows and try to do the same. It’s still pretty cute and funny though.
So why do dogs fluff up their beds by digging and pawing at them? The answer here is two-fold.
First, they want to make themselves a comfortable spot to lay down and mark as their own. That’s understandable, as people do the same thing.
But the second side of it is very much unlike human behavior.
Dogs have very few ways to regulate their own body temperature with the exception of panting. They dig at their surface in an attempt to find a cooler layer underneath.
This is why it’s so common to see and laying in it during a hot summer day.
If your dog fluffs excessively, you might want to consider lowering the room temperature or replacing their bedding with a lighter material.
Why Do Dogs Bark, Twitch, etc. in Their Sleep?
One moment, your dog is peaceful and still, the next moment, they’re twitching and barking as if they’re going to run to the door any moment.
These movements, known as myoclonic twitches, occur in most animal species, usually while sleeping. They’re seen more often in puppies and senior dogs because their brains are unfamiliar or inefficient when communicating with muscle groups.
These twitches have been associated with dreams.
Without getting too deep into the science, a 2001 study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that animals in fact do have complex dreams during their REM cycle and can retain and recall events while they sleep.
In other words, if your dog had a puppy play date earlier that day, there’s a good chance they will dream about it!
While it has yet to be discovered exactly what dogs dream about, current research supports that dogs will dream about both general and breed-specific activities.
While there’s no way to be sure what your dog is dreaming about at any moment, it’s pretty obvious when they are having a nightmare. They may whine more and twitch frantically.
As much as you want to save them from a bad dream, waking your dog during a REM cycle can disorient them and possibly scare them causing them to bite.
If your dog seems to be twitching or kicking violently with stiff limbs, urinates or defecates during twitching, or drools and pants upon waking, contact your vet right away as this could indicate a seizure rather than normal twitching. Here’s more info on the difference.
Dog Sleeping Recap
So there you have it -- the ins and outs of dog sleeping.
All of that info has us pretty tired, so we’re going to go circle our beds a few times, paw at our bedding, and take a nap… oh wait, that’s our dogs!
Do you have any other questions about dog sleeping? If so, drop them in the comments below!