Written by Toni Shelbourne
Sleep depravity in dogs can cause as many problems as it does in humans. Dogs get cranky and that can lead to miscommunication and mishaps with those around them. Various sources disagreed on the amount of sleep dogs should have but on average adult dogs need around 12 to 14 hours of sleep per day from frequent naps and night time sleep, and puppies 17 to 20 hours. Lack of sleep can cause restlessness or hyperactivity, lack of motor skills; basically they get clumsy, they have less concentration and can become irritable and even aggressive. Continual lack of sleep is also bad for their long term health and increases stress levels.
Dogs love to nap but in busy households not having a safe quiet place to retreat to can be difficult for some dogs to cope with. Dogs with introvert personalities find it even harder to deal with constant activity around them and need extra time to recover from social interactions.
The kind of things that upset a dogs daily REM time are young children, other playful dogs, visitors to the house, loud and busy activities within the home, noises in or outside, wildlife disturbing dogs in the night, bright lights that shine in the room they sleep in, being too cold, the wrong shape or style of bed, humans who continually fuss them, and fast exercise which promotes adrenaline so they become even more restless and hyped up on return from a walk.
Over exercise can also cause soreness in the body which effects a good nap or night’s sleep. Have one or several of these occurrences happen on a regular bases and you have one very tired dog.
What can you do about it?
Implementing just a few changes can make the world of difference, try:
- Locating a comfy bed in a quiet area or give your dog a den to curl up in or a room to escape to.
- Have a slightly raised soft sided bed so he is out of drafts and can also stretch out fully. It needs to be big enough that he can lay flat on this side.
- Separate boisterous younger dogs from your older dog for periods of the day.
- Teach a self-settle so busy dogs learn to have quiet time.
- Encourage slow sniffy walks to promote calming endorphins.
- Make sure windows are covered with blackout blinds so you can cut down on light and shadow coming in to the room at night, or views of nocturnal wildlife being seen through a low window. It will also encourage your dog to sleep in past dawn if he is an early riser.
- Turn off security lights with sensors so it doesn’t wake your dog by coming on all night.
- Locate your dog’s bed in a room away from road noise, footpaths, gravel paths etc. where your dog might be disturbed.
- If your dog has had a busy day with lots of visitors and activity have a quiet day the following day to aid recovery.
- Be aware of changes to routine like at Christmas and in holidays and how that might affect your dogs sleep routine.
- If your dog is a poor traveller, car journeys will be very tiring; consider breaking up your trip over a couple of days or stop for an hour or two so he can rest.
- Educate children and adults to leave dogs to sleep.
- Play calming music to encourage rest. You can get music specifically designed to calm dogs down.
- Make sure the ambient temperature is just right. If you think your dog might get cold at night get him a warm fleecy coat or leave the heating on.
- Monitor your dog’s sleep patterns and know when he prefers to sleep. You can then build a routine around these naturally restful times. There are also lots of activity trackers for dogs on the market now if you want to gather some serious data and make big improvements. Above all though be aware how sleep depravity will affect your dogs overall behaviour; we aren’t the only species who doesn’t function well on lack of sleep!
About the Author:
Toni is a certified behaviourist, a Tellington TTouch Practitioner, Real Dog Yoga Instructor and author. She is a full member of INTODogs and ICAN. She lives in Oxfordshire where she works with clients and writes the ‘HELP! My Dog book series’ with co-author Karen Bush.