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Why does my dog sleep all day?

I have been having, fostering and looking after dogs for longer than I can remember. But since I adopted Harvey I often wonder. Why does my dog sleep all day? The first pups in my life all had access to a garden, so their sleeping pattern wasn’t obvious and easy to track at all. It didn’t even occur to me to question how much sleep a dog needs. Now, however as I mostly work from home I keep questioning if sleeping all day is normal for a pup. So I looked into some research to bring you my findings on the topic.

Why do we sleep?

Believe it or not sleep is a neurological mystery. After countless research carried out on the topic, still no one knows why we sleep. During our sleep our body recharges itself, and refuels one organ after another. Apparently there is a timeline to it, and each body part or organ is recharging in a different phase, one after another. That’s why it is easy to tell what internal problems you may have, if you look at your sleep patterns. The same goes for all mammals. There are approximately 5400 mammal species on Earth, and their patterns of sleep are marked very similarly. On average a dog sleeps 12-14 hours from the 24 hour sleep cycle. Dogs tend to spend 50% of the day sleeping, 30% lying around but awake, and 20% with activity.

“Dogs are flexible sleepers, and can fall asleep out of boredom. Equally, they wake easily and therefore need more sleep to make up for lost REM during their uneven sleep schedule.”

As we go through different stages in our lives, we need different amounts of sleep. It isn’t any different for our pups. Their energy levels and sleep needs vary according to their age. Puppies and senior dogs need more sleep, than healthy adults. Puppies are growing quickly. By the age of 1 they reach the physical maturity level of a 14 year old human kid. It is super fast and very intense, so no wonder that they need to back up and charge their batteries often. After a few hours of eat, play and destroy they snooze off very quickly and the can sleep up to 20 hours a day. Yes, it is normal for your puppy, to sleep throughout almost the entire day. Senior dogs on the other hand are battling a slowing down metabolism. It means they doze off frequently too, simply because they need more sleep. It is important to keep an eye out for overly inactive senior pups too, just to make sure their lack of activity is not due to an underlying condition. Regular health checks will rule out arthiritis or cancer.

Does activity affect the sleep?

Your dog’s breed and size play a big part in their physical activity and sleeping habits too. Large pups seem more inactive and tend to sleep more, than their small counterparts. This is mainly due to their energy demands. They need to put in more energy to activate their muscles to move or simply to have their organs function.

Your pet’s sleep also depends on their breed. Working dogs (Belgian malinoi, Australian shepherd, Vizslas) tend to stay awake a bigger portion of their day. This is simply due to the reason they were bred to be alert, to hunt or herd flock. So these pups are naturally more alert and sleep less. On the other hand pups that were bred to be companions snooze more. Spaniels, French bulldogs or Westies are likely to doze off more often. Another factor affecting your dog’s sleep pattern is their activity level. If you take your dog to work, or expose him to regular exercise or constant new information, then he is less likely to sleep a lot. Those pups however, that are left home alone all day might sleep more simply due to the lack of interaction and exposure.

dog sleep

A little bit of science

Dog’s sleeping pattern are similar to ours. When they dose off their breeding slows and their blood pressure drops, just like ours. After about 10 minutes, they enter a REM (rapid eye movement) phase where their body might react to dreams. It usually lasts shorter than it does to us. Humans spend 25% of their sleep in this phase, while dogs only do 10% That’s why dogs need more sleep during the day, however uneven, to make up for the lost REM phases.

Unfortunately, being thrown from the normal sleeping pattern, or being restless can be a sign of minor or serious health issues. If your dog breaks their sleeping pattern, or looks agitated it can signal physical or mental health issues. These can include infections, epilepsy and even cancer. Surprisingly enough our pets suffer from sleeping disorders too. They can have narcolepsy, insomnia, sleep apnea and REM behaviour disorder. Narcolepsy usually occurs in young dogs, and is caused by a genetic disorder. Insomnia, is quite rare in dogs and it signals another health problem. REM behavior disorder causes movements, and restlessness in your dog’s sleep. for example chasing a bird or barking, jumping.

So how much sleep is normal?

The easy answer is, it depends on your dog. We mentioned three contributing factors to your dog’s sleep needs and they all play a part in their sleep schedule and the Zzzzzzz they need. An average dog can spend anywhere between 48-58% of their time snoozing, and it is totally normal. If your pup has a healthy appetite, is active outdoors and does not sleep out of lethargy then there is probably nothing wring him. Now, that being said regular vet check ups are a must, and always keep an eye out for your pet. Any alteration from their normal pattern can raise health questions, so the best tip is to know your pup and keep an eye out for sudden changes.

Sources: PetMd, Whole Dog Journal, AKC.org