It is absolutely essential for a dog to be able to rest. In fact it is vital. Being able to sleep is one of the basic needs that must be covered in order to survive. Did you know that we can survive longer without food than without sleep?
How much does a dog sleep?
How much a dog sleeps a day depends on what we define as sleep. This comes from that the dog is sleeping for about 12 hours a day and is lying down in a state of drowsiness for about five hours a day (average). There is an ongoing debate among researchers about if this drowsiness should be called a light sleep or just a transitory state.
The time a dog actually sleeps, ranges between eight to 16 hours a day. Much of this takes place at night. Here it can be said that large dogs tend to sleep more than small dogs. The drowsiness, which is mostly spent during the day, actually varies very little between individuals and occupies some five hours.
With this it can be concluded that the dog’s rest, either drowsing or sleeping, totals between 13 and 21 hours a day. It should be clarified that the ideal is not sitting in the extremes and therefore a healthy dog rest includes 11 to 13 hours sleeping and five hours a day drowsing. I.E., the dog rests lying down about 16 to 18 hours a day. If the dog does not reach, or exceeds this resting time, we can deduce that the dog’s time of rest is not optimal.
Now, found in studies over the past 40 years, there are clear indications that the dog has sleep homeostasis or self-regulation. This means that if the dog suffers a lack of sleep (for example due to a day of great physical activity) he will sleep more, while an excess reduces the predisposition to sleep.
The dog’s circadian sleep regulation
Sleep with motor inactivity occurs mostly during the night, between nine in the evening until six in the morning. Drowsiness is mostly during the day and especially in the afternoon. The highest quality night sleep is characterized by efficiency and continuity. Day rest is more defined by a state of “wake sleep”.
The domestic dog’s daytime activity is believed to be a reflection of its adaptation to humans. In other canids we see a lot more nocturnal and crepuscular activity. This has reached such a point that circadian variations in cortisol levels are not always detected in the domestic dog. Therefore, the dog has greater flexibility in activity time and adjusts more easily to routine changes. For example, studies with drug-sniffing dogs showed that they had no variations in the awake-sleep cycle when changing from day to night shifts, or vice versa. These changes are quite a bit more difficult for their human guide.
The dog’s ultradian sleep regulation
The dogs ultradian sleep cycles are some 20 minutes, with an average REM sleep of six minutes, keeping in mind that the dog does not reach REM sleep in all cycles. For comparison we see that the same cycle in humans is about 90 minutes long with seven minutes of REM sleep. Also, the dog has a much quicker wake-up and can assume physical activity after REM sleep a lot faster than the human. Therefore they can enter a state of alertness directly after a period of reduced vigilance.
How does sleep affect my dog?
Dogs with good rest have been found to have significantly greater memory and cognitive capacity than dogs with poor rest.
Studies with well-rested dogs compared to poorly-rested dogs clearly teach us that the rested dog has a much shorter learning process (and is more eager to learn). In addition, they have a higher working memory index than dogs with bad rest. These findings can be applied to dogs playing in the same way. From this we can deduce that the dog with a good rest can enjoy a much richer social life.
Therefore, if we know that a dog with better rest is more cognitive and has better memory, we can conclude that the rested dog has a much simpler life and therefore a better life and so lives happier.
Linked to this we have the different behavior problems that a dog can show. If he gets a good rest, my dog is less irritable (just like you and me) and has a better capacity to withstand different stressors that occur during the day.
Ergo – fewer behavior problems.
How can I help my dog rest better?
Leave him be!
Let him rest. That has to be number one. Unfortunately we have our dog as some kind of emotional slave and toy, that has to be at our disposal at all times. If a dog is resting, let him rest as long as he needs. I know he can look like the cuddliest thing we have ever seen, but please let him be.
Many dogs quite simply do not believe they have the right to rest. It is our obligation to give them that right.
Let him choose place
Secondly, I think it is essential to give the dog the chance to choose his preferred resting place. His preferences may vary and so he should also have the right to switch. If for some reason it is necessary for the dog to rest in a unique place, observe him and let him choose his place and make sure it is comfortable. This is something that is almost impossible to fulfil. Comfort depends on a lot of factors that continuously change.
I live in a multi-dog home and my dogs sleep and rest wherever they want to (none have chosen to rest on a table – yet). At night as well. This includes with me in my bed, or on a mattress next to me, in the living room, etc. I do not interfere with their choice of place. If you don’t like having the dog in yuor bed, at least let him be by your side. I find it hard to understand why force a social and gregarious being to sleep away from us.
For the dog to rest well, it is also necessary that he has a rich active time. This does not necessarily mean that he has to be physically exhausted. Physical exercise turns out not to be as important as we have been believing. For the dog, running for the sake of running does not make sense and can even become confusing and tremendously frustrating, and from there lead to behavioral management problems. The exercise that does make sense and turns out to be very important is mental exercise. In this we help him a lot by simply slowing down on our walk and letting him sniff and giving him the time he needs to process the information he is collecting.
Food plays a very important role on the dog’s rest, as in everything else in life. I will not go into detail, but it is clear that the lack of nutrients in the dog’s diet directly influences the state of health, physical and emotional. Just like the lack or excess of food. If the dog is hungry he cannot rest well and dogs with obesity problems cannot either.
Every dog is unique. They are individuals with different habits and routines. If you are attentive and observant, there is no one who knows your dog better than you do. Clear signs that something is not the way it should is if it is difficult for your dog to go to sleep, or the other way around, has waking up difficulties. If anything happens in this regard, first you should take your dog to the vet to discard any physical or neurological problem. For heaven’s sake – DO NOT ask on Facebook and DO NOT consult Dr. Google and if you call me, I will tell you to take him to the vet, as any responsible dog trainer or behaviourist would.
If the veterinary check does not find anything, I recommend looking for a professional canine behaviourist who can advise you on your dog’s emotional state.
When the gender of the dog is unknown it is taken as masculin. I do not like to treat the dog as an “it” and apart from that, I am just lazy – nothing else.