Watching a dog take a nap can be an entertaining experience. Their legs twitch as if they are running. They yip, they snore and sometimes they even growl. Dogs have far different sleeping patterns than humans do, and understanding the way dogs sleep can help pet owners keep their dogs happy and healthy for a lifetime.
How Much Sleep Do Dogs Need?
Cats are famous for sleeping the day away, but dogs sleep quite a bit, as well. While owners are away at work all day and a pet’s stimulation is quite low, odds are the dog will sleep. Puppies sleep far more than adult dogs, as sleep is an important factor for raising a happy, well-adjusted dog. Owners of growing pups must balance out stimulation and exercise with plenty of rest.
The sleep patterns of adult dogs depend upon the age of the pet, the daily activities of the pet, and even the size of the pet. Large breeds sleep far more than small breeds. It’s not uncommon for owners of Saint Bernards and Mastiffs to believe their dogs spend more time sleeping than they do in wakeful activities. A simple walk for a large dog can be enough to send the pooch into a two-hour nap.
As a dog matures, he will sleep a bit less, but once a dog reaches its golden years, it’s likely that the dog will sleep early and often. As the body slows down and conditions like arthritis and hip dysplasia set in, dogs are far less apt to romp around the house or the yard. Typically, puppies sleep anywhere from 12-18 hours a day, adult dogs can sleep around 14 hours per day, large breeds may sleep up to 18, and elderly dogs can sleep even more.
Do Dogs Dream?
The noises and movements that dogs make during a nap seem to be clear indications that dogs do, in fact, dream. Why animals dream has long been a topic of scientific debate, but one of the most widely accepted theories is that dreams are a vehicle for processing all of the data that the brain takes in throughout the day. Just as a computer needs to reboot from time to time, so does the brain.
Researchers have studied the brain waves of dogs during the sleep cycle and compared them to human brains, and they have discovered similar results, further strengthening the theory that dogs dream. Dogs experience two stages of sleep, the stage knows as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, and slow wave sleep (SWS). SWS is the early stage of sleep; the “dozing off” period. Mental functions are slowed down, but the body is still engaged.
REM sleep is the deeper stage of sleep, at it is recognizable from eye-darting movements, body twitches, and noise. Fast brain wave patterns recorded during dogs’ REM sleep cycles indicate that the physical activity is a manifestation of a dream state. While all dogs experience these two stages of the sleep cycle, the amount of sleep that a dog requires depends on several variables including breed, size, age and lifestyle.
Exercise is Critical for Managing Sleep
Dogs that do not engage in exercise and mentally stimulating play throughout the day will sleep far longer than their active counterparts. And while it may seem counterintuitive, inactive may also suffer from insomnia. If a dog sleeps all day, it’s likely he won’t be ready to turn in for a long night with the rest of the family. Insomnia from inactivity is especially common in small breeds or among dogs that live an urban lifestyle, where they don’t get out and run regularly.
Owners should commit to exercising their dogs at least 30 minutes a day, though large breeds and working breeds will require much more. Walking a dog before and after work can help significantly manage sleep, and scheduling some one-on-one play time is also good for developing healthy sleep patterns. When a dog is left alone during the day, owners should leave behind interesting, puzzle-like toys – the kind where a dog must work to find a treat, for example – in order to keep their bodies and minds stimulated when they are left alone.
Dogs are creatures that like to play hard and sleep hard. Having a dog that sleeps the day away is perfectly normal, as long as his activities are balanced to include proper physical and mental stimulation.