Sleep – is your dog getting enough?

Did you know dogs who get less than 11 hours of sleep per 24 hours have significantly more behavioural problems?

I know I do not function well when I haven’t slept enough. Worse still, if I have a challenging situation and I am tired, I am much more likely to react in an emotional way rather than logical. Sound familiar?

It is the same for our dogs. 

Dogs need around 14-18 hours of sleep per 24 hours.

Dr Woods

Often, we think our dogs get this amount, but a significant proportion is resting, not sleeping. 

For example, do you see your dog twitching in their sleep during the day? (Indicating deeper levels of sleep). Or, do they have their head down, but their ears are moving in response to noises; they put their head up as soon as you move? 

Top 6 tips for improving your dog’s sleep. 

1. Let sleeping dogs lie – this may sound obvious, but we often think our dogs are bored and need to get them doing more activities. However, many dogs are over-tired, contributing to their problem behaviours. 

2. Create a quiet space for them to sleep – somewhere out of the main thoroughfare of the house—close curtains or blinds so that they aren’t distracted by people or animals going past the window. Creating the right environment will encourage the right frame of mind for deeper sleep. 

3. Never approach your dog while resting – if you need to interact with them, call their name and call them to you. 

4. Smells, pheromones, and music – Many scientific studies show that adding these to your dog’s environment can increase rest. 

  1. Music – classical piano music or the album “Through a Dog’s Ear” 
  2. Audiobooks
  3. Smells – Lavender, ginger, coconut and valerian – diffused out for a few hours at a time 
  4. Adaptil© (e.g. a plugin near their bed; this needs to be switched on continually to have an effect)
  5. Except for Adaptil©, use each of these for an hour or so with breaks to help create a sense of calm and relaxation. 

5. If you have one dog or your dogs are comfortable with separation – use food to help transition them from activity to rest. 

  1. Use chews or a stuffed Kong© to help transition from activity to rest, like we might read our children a book to help them transition to sleep. 
  2. Drop treats in their bed regularly for them to find in their own time – this helps create positive associations needed for relaxed sleep.

When to seek help:

Despite your efforts to get your dog to sleep more, it may be time to seek further guidance from your vet if: 

We know that in people, reduced sleep can be caused by physical illness, chronic discomfort (e.g. back pain) and anxiety. These all apply to our dogs, and correcting these can dramatically improve your dog’s health and behaviour. 

There is so much information about how important sleep is for us and how a chronic lack of sleep affects our mental and physical health – it’s time to start applying this to our dogs. 

Please remember that this is generic advice. It does not constitute specific medical or behavioural advice. It is aimed at providing clear and accurate information in a general manner. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions. Need support? Let us know about the challenges you are facing with your pet.

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