Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
Sleeping is important to our dogs. Probably a lot more important to them than we as humans realize.
As responsible owners, we often spend a lot of time and money investing in our dogs in terms of food, toys, grooming, trips to the vets and so on.
As responsible owners, we try to ensure that our dogs receive adequate exercise and we try to give them a happy and loving environment to live in.
One aspect of a dog’s life is they really love to rest. Sleep, in fact, is one thing that dogs love to do.
We as humans generally are used to going to bed at night and sleeping. This is a normal pattern of human behavior. Sure, I know that some folk work nights (I used too..it’s a killer on your health by the way) and shift workers will tell you that sleep can be erratic for some professions.
On the whole, though, sleep is vital to our hounds. It is absolutely key to good physical and mental health and it can really play a huge part in the bond you have with your dog, and it has a huge bearing on how well your dog reacts to training too.
Sleep affects every single type of tissue and system in the body from our dog’s brain, heart and lungs right to their immune functions, disease resistance, metabolisms, mood, memory and learning abilities.
How Much Sleep Does Our Dog Need?
It obviously varies from breed to breed, but on average a dog will sleep for a staggering 12-14 hours a day! Just like us though, a dogs sleep can vary depending on many factors.
Puppies and older dogs tend to need more rest, just like babies and older people and some of the larger breeds of dogs (Great Dane’s) tend to sleep more.
Dogs with jobs, specifically sheepdogs, Police dogs, and patrol dogs have a higher exposure to physical and mental activity and this can keep them “on-point” a lot longer.
Generally, our pet dogs at home, the ones without a specific job, will be active for only around 20% of the day. That is including their walks, their play, and their feeding rituals.
The remaining part of their day is around 50% fast asleep and the other part of their day 30% probably dozing or simply resting..awake but inactive…daydreaming if you will. It doesn’t sound too bad, does it?
Lack of sleep in humans can have catastrophic effects. It is exactly the same in dogs and this can cause our dogs to be much grumpier and more likely to revert to more aggressive behavior too.
It can have a poor long term effect on their health and impair the healing ability that dogs need to have, especially if they have an active life.
It is well worth remembering that whoever first coined the phrase, “Let Sleeping Dogs Lie” was saying it based on sound advice.
When a dog is sleeping deeply, there is no way of us knowing what state they are in terms of the actual level of sleep they are experiencing.
It is commonly accepted that dog’s sleep patterns are similar if not the same as humans and they follow the same.
There are two basic types of sleep: rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-REM sleep (which has three different stages).
Each is linked to specific brain waves and neuronal activity and this is widely accepted that dogs follow a similar pattern, however, dogs will wake much quicker and be far more alert than their human counterparts if suddenly startled.
This can have a negative effect as a startled dog can actually react instinctively, most likely in a state of panic, which can result in a bite, or worse.
Sleep-deprived dogs can exhibit man traits including restlessness and hyperactivity. If this progresses, co-ordination and concentration can be impaired and the general behavior of the dog can become unpredictable which can often result in an aggressive dog.
Sleep Disorders In Dogs
Sleep disorders are generally uncommon in dogs, but they do exist. In humans, a Narcolepsy sufferer will suddenly collapse and fall asleep and this can sometimes be triggered after a period of excitement or physical activity. This can happen in dogs too.
Sleep apnea occurs when the airway temporarily narrows, stopping breathing and jolts the dog back awake as they resume breathing.
This can often cause frequently broken sleep patterns that can cause them tired and lethargic. This is particularly common in Brachy Dogs, that have breathing problems.
Insomnia is another issue that humans commonly suffer from. As with humans, anxiety, stress and also pent up energy can cause our dogs to suffer from this.
Physical health issues, pain from an injury or arthritis, itchiness from skin conditions and being constantly bitten by fleas are other causes of our dog not getting the sleep rest they need.
Add to that gastric or urinary issues from poor quality food or stale water and you can see that there many elements that we as humans have to make sure are exactly right in order for our dogs to get the best rest available to them.
Getting Your Dog To Have A Good Nights Sleep
A dog who is restless at night is surely going to make your night a misery too. This way, you both suffer and this has a dramatic and negative effect on the bond you have with them.
People can begin to resent their dog and this is a downward spiral that we want to avoid.
If you have issues like this with your dog really not sleeping at night, then you need to really do some detective work first. Try to find out why they are not resting.
Sometimes it can be obvious but from time to time it can be worth investigating a little deeper.
Are They Empty?
A very good thing to get into habit wise is a “last-minute walk” before you go to bed. Take the dog out into the garden or around the block where you live to get them to have an empty out before settling down for the night.
It’s part of a routine and your dog will get to understand and look forward to it too.
Have They Had Enough Exercise?
Again, linked into the last minute empty, make sure your dog has had plenty of exercises that day so that you can be sure they have had a good amount of physical burn off for all of that energy they have.
I always find a last-minute walk before you both retire for the night is a great way for both you and your dog to get into yet another routine that they understand and at least you know that you are doing your best to make sure that they can go to sleep safe in the knowledge that you have done your best to ensure they have a restful night.
Outside Lights Can Wake Up Your Dog
A lot of people these days have security lights in their garden or yard. These are often PIR security lights and can go off when activated by any kind of night animal and this can startle your dog too, so try to make sure they sleep where the light won’t bother them otherwise you may get a bark at 3 am..only to find it was a Racoon or Rabbit that triggered them off!
If you an make your dog’s sleeping area darker at night then it’s all the better for them. Dogs know the difference between night and day and it’s much better for both of you if you can keep your dog from slipping from a normal sleeping pattern.
Blackout blinds are best for any room that suffers from early morning sunlight as this will keep your dog from waking too early on summer mornings.
Away From Home?
If you travel with your dog it is always a great idea to take as much of their bedding with you as you can manage.
This normalizes night time and as it is familiar in terms of scent and feels for your dog, they will settle much quicker.
Some dogs can wake if they are cold. This has happened to me when we were away in winter in Northern France.
Our boy Wilson woke up in the early hours as he was cold, so a fire was made and warm blankets were placed on him to keep him warm!
Location, Location, Location
The location of your dog’s bed is also very important.
It needs to be placed somewhere in your home that your dog feels safe and relaxed and also free from any draughts.
Just like us, your dog needs to feel comfortable so make sure the bed you get them is as comfy as you can afford.
A dog that has comfort will sleep better and because of that they will get the right kind of rest and be much happier in their general behavior.
Some dogs feel happier in a crated environment (with a blanket on top to make it darker) or indeed laying on a rug by the fire. It really is up to you so I would advise trying different areas of your home to see which works best for you both.
Giving your dog options to stay in different rooms is also a good idea. A bed in the lounge and one by the foot of your bed or on the landing or the hall can be great for your dog to know they have interesting and differing options.
Again, this adds a bit of variety to your dog’s life and reinforces to them that they belong in the home with you and they have various spots.
Choosing A Bed For Your Dog
Obviously, the bigger the better for your dog is a great rule of thumb. Dogs like to feel safe and warm and even if you have a smaller dog you can always fill the excess space with warm blankets and pillows.
Dogs love that kind of “banking” whereby they build the blankets and pillows around themselves and this helps them settle and feel protected.
Sometimes adding an old piece of your clothing with your scent on can actually make your dog feel a lot more settled in their bed as it makes them feel close to you, even if you are not within eyesight for them.
Again, it’s all about creating a positive and happy environment for them. If you get this right, your dog will love being in their bed/sleep area a lot more than you think.
A few soft toys thrown into the bedding area always helps too!
Sharing Your Bed
Sharing your bed with your dog is a controversial subject. Some people do it and some don’t. It really is up to you.
I have done it with some of my dogs and others simply were not interested.
I have come in from a night shift to find one of my dogs on the bed with the wife and the next night they have been in my chair in the lounge!
Sometimes my dog has barked as I needed to move position in bed and it upset them! This can’t be allowed to happen in all honesty, so from a personal point of view I do tend to avoid sharing my bed with my dog but I think it’s down to you.
It really depends on your situation. Sharing a bed with a big dog has its issues as does sharing one with a small dog.
It can build much stronger bonds between you both but it is important to remember that you both need to be getting a good night’s sleep and if for any reason it causes any kind of issue with this, then it’s probably best avoided.
The most important thing I want you to take from all of this is that your dog needs good sleep, just like you do so if you can make your dogs nights as calm and as relaxed as possible with additional warmth and comfort, then you are setting yourself and your dog up from a great following day.