Sleep Behavior of Dogs
Some dogs are particular about where they sleep!
There’s no doubt about it: dogs sure know how to sleep.
The amount of time spent napping varies from dog to dog and
depends on the dog’s age and personality. Counting little
naps and longer snoozes, most dogs sleep about fourteen hours
Nobody is sure why dogs sleep so much. The amount of sleep that
an animal needs depends upon its species. Horses and cows may
sleep only three or four hours daily, because they require long
hours of grazing to supply their bodies with sufficient food.
Bats and opossums may sleep closer to 20 hours.
The various breeds of dogs also seem to have different sleep
requirements. Some very large breeds of dogs, like Newfoundland's,
Saint Bernards, and mastiffs, often spend a great deal of their
lives sleeping – perhaps up to sixteen or even eighteen
hours a day. For this reason they were often referred to as
"mat dogs," because they could always be found lying in front
of the fireplace, much like a giant, furry hearth mat.
Dogs sleep more than us, but they wake more frequently than
we do. How much and when they sleep depends on the level of
activity in their environment. A dog living as a pet in the
home is likely to sleep more than a dog that works for a living,
like a search and rescue dog or a dog working on a farm. Dogs
are lucky – they are able to adjust their sleep pattern
so that they can be awake when there is something to do, and
asleep the rest of the time.
Of course, today’s modern indoor dog sometimes sleeps
out of boredom. You can help your pet by providing plenty of
stimulation during the day – this can be in the form of
toys, a companion, or plenty of walks and playtime with you.
If he has enough to do during the day, he may stay awake when
the sun is up and sleep at night when you do.
Dogs have the same sleep patterns as humans. When your dog first
goes to sleep, he enters the slow wave or quiet phase of sleep.
He lies still and is oblivious to his surroundings. His breathing
slows, his blood pressure and body temperature drop, and his
heart rate decreases.
After about ten minutes, your dog enters the rapid eye movement
(REM) or active stage of sleep. He rolls his eyes under his
closed lids, he may bark or whine, or may jerk his legs. During
this stage, the brain activity is similar to that seen during
the dreaming sleep of humans, and is evidence that dogs have
Incidentally, adult dogs spend about 10 to 12 percent of their
sleeping time in REM sleep. Puppies spend a much greater proportion
of their sleep time in this type of sleep, no doubt compacting
huge quantities of newly acquired data.
Where Dogs Sleep
You may think your dog will sleep anywhere, but some dogs are
very particular about where they sleep. In the wild, dogs sleep
in dens, and your dog may seek out a sheltered place in your
home, such as under a bed or in a closet. You may notice your
dog circling or pawing at his sleeping place before he settles.
This is to make a comfortable, den-like depression in which
to sleep (even though it doesn’t have much impact on a
short pile rug).
You can make a comfortable bed for your dog or choose from the
variety of plush beds at your pet store. Some people love snuggling
up to their dogs at night and there is no question dogs love
sharing their owners' bed. Advocates of this method say it strengthens
the human-canine bond – not to mention the comfort and
warmth your dog can provide for you. However, some animal behaviorists
say this can upset the sometimes precarious hierarchy, because
the dog may get delusions of grandeur. In other words, he may
think he is higher on your household's social scale than some
other members of the family. Four-on-the-floor may be the order
of the day for some of these characters.