Dog sleeping patterns are important for their health, both physical and mental.
It’s not just human sleep patterns that have been affected by COVID-19, dogs are also feeling the strain, resulting in a 250%+ surge of pet sleep related searches.
Lockdown has affected human sleep patterns according to King’s College London who has stated nearly two-thirds of the public reported some negative-impact on their sleep, and in some cases, created vivid dreams, longer lie-ins and a change to our sleeping patterns.
The question has been raised to whether this is the same for our pets.
Since March 2020 there has been a +250% increase in organic Google searches for ‘dogs twitching in sleep’ during lockdown, and a +40% increase in people enquiring why their ‘dog is sleeping a lot’ (Google Trends, 2020).
Dr Louisa Graham, a prominent veterinary surgeon specialising in Small Animal Medicine, has partnered with premium dog food brand Laughing Dog, to provide advice and support for pet owners on the importance of sleep for your pooch as lockdown eases.
1. Dog sleeping patterns – how much sleep should dogs get?
How much sleep our dogs need depends on a variety of factors including age, breed, activity levels, diet, environmental conditions and underlying health conditions. It is not unusual for adult dogs to sleep for 12-14 hours throughout the day but due to these variations there isn’t a ‘set amount’ of sleep all dogs should have.
Large breed dogs can sleep for longer than small breeds and sedentary dogs may sleep for longer than active working dogs! What isn’t normal is if you notice a change to their ‘normal’ sleeping routine for example suddenly sleeping more or struggling to fall asleep, as this could indicate health issues.
2. Puppy sleeping patterns - how much should puppies sleep for?
It’s not unusual for puppies to sleep for up to 20 hours throughout the day; sleep is essential for their development and learning. They’re processing so much; new smells, new commands, new routines! You must factor in ‘downtime’ to enable them to recover, process and consolidate their memory.
Most puppies will want to doze after a spate of playing so they must be allowed the time and space to have undisturbed sleep.
3. Do dogs dream?
Dogs share similar sleeping cycle to humans; they have slow wave sleep and deep sleep (also known as REM - rapid eye movement sleep). Because of their sleeping similarities to humans it’s fair to conclude that dogs do actually dream – they just can’t tell us about it!
Dogs enter the deep sleep phase quicker than humans, but they spend less time in it. So, they have to doze more often to compensate which is why dogs can sleep for longer.
During their deep sleep or REM sleep, this is when you can see your dog’s twitching, barking or even chasing things in their sleep. It’s totally normal and its likely in this phase they’re dreaming or reliving their days experiences.
4. Environmental conditions related to dog sleeping patterns
We must be mindful that spending more time at home during COVID-19 we may have interrupted our dog’s sleeping patterns. It’s important we always try and mimic their ‘normal routine’ which may include leaving them alone for parts of the day if that’s what they’re used to. Hot weather can make our pets seem more lethargic/dozy and that’s normal. Keep them cool, out of direct sunlight, never leave them in a hot car, don’t exercise them in the heat and keep them hydrated at all times. Dog sleeping patterns are vitally important for their health and well-being, so maintaining routine is vital.
Cooling mats are useful if it gets too hot. Dogs can snooze at any time of day, but at night-time it is advisable to turn off all gadgets, blue lights and nearby electronic equipment like televisions.
5. Health conditions
Older dogs naturally sleep more, however pain, obesity, osteoarthritis, hypothyroidism, heart and lung issues, and anaemia are just some of the conditions that can make our pets seemingly more ‘tired’. If you are noticing a change in your pets sleeping habits that you cannot explain, discuss this with your vet.
6. Diet is key
It’s important to stick to a diet that suits your dog’s natural activity pattern – so there is no requirement, for example, for ‘working dog food’ in your non-working companion. Feed a good quality, balanced diet in the correct proportion; poor quality food or too many calories can be linked to health conditions which will have a knock-on effect to sleeping patterns.
Some adult dogs are fed once daily, some twice daily; it is thought that dogs fed twice daily nap less but for longer, fall asleep earlier and wake up earlier.
A little snack is likely to be fine before bed, such as Laughing Dog’s new Sleep Tight Treats, which contain natural ingredients like Chamomile and Linseed to help with digestion and to make sure your dog gets a good night’s sleep, however I would avoid a full meal.