Sleep deprivation 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 nighttime 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 dog's 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 upon return from a walk.
Over exercise can also cause soreness in the body which affects a good nap or night’s sleep. Have one or several of these occurrences happen on a regular basis and you have one very tired dog.
What can you do about it? Implementing just a few changes can make a 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. Tired of smelly, hard to wash dog beds? Check out 4Knines Dog Bed Covers.
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 into 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 traveler, 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 deprivation will affect your dog’s overall behaviour; we aren’t the only species who don’t function well on lack of sleep!
Animal Behaviourist, Tellington TTouch Practitioner, Real Dog Yoga Instructor & Author
Toni has worked with domesticated and wild canids since 1989. After a long and successful career with the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, she started her own business as a Tellington TTouch Companion Animal Practitioner. She is now one of the highest qualified Practitioners in the UK.
In 2001 her skills in TTouch took Toni to the UK Wolf Conservation Trust were she meet a pack of socialised wolves. She went on to work with them for over a decade as a Senior Wolf Handler and Education Officer for the organisation. In more recent years, Toni has gone on to become a Real Dog Yoga Instructor, (Visit www.therealdogyoga.co.uk to find out more) and updated her qualifications in behaviour with the International School of Psychology and Behaviour, for which she is also an affiliate. She is now a full member of The Association of INTO Dogs as a certified canine behaviourist. She teaches all over the UK and abroad, works with clients' one to one, and writes. Toni lives in Oxfordshire, England with her husband and their dog MrP.
In more recent years, Toni has gone on to become a Real Dog Yoga Instructor, (Visit www.therealdogyoga.co.uk to find out more) and updated her qualifications in behaviour with the International School of Psychology and Behaviour, for which she is also an affiliate. She is now a full member of The Association of INTO Dogs as a certified canine behaviourist. She teaches all over the UK and abroad, works with clients' one to one, and writes. Toni lives in Oxfordshire, England with her husband and their dog MrP.
Over the last two decades, Toni has been developing her writing. She spent two years editing and writing features for Wolf Print, the UK Wolf Conservation Trust's international magazine. She went on to write for national dog magazines, rescue society newsletters and blogs. Her first and second book, The Truth about Wolves & Dogs, (Hubble and Hattie 2012) and Among the Wolves (Hubble and Hattie 2015) have been a great success. Her latest writing collaboration with co-author Karen Bush sees a series of books entitled HELP! My Dog is…. Titles include, HELP! My Dog's Scared of Fireworks, HELP! My Dog doesn't Travel Well in the Car, HELP! My Dog is Destroying the Garden and HELP! My Dog has a Canine Compulsive Disorder. All are available in paperback and eBook format on Amazon. Toni and Karen have many more titles planned under the banner of Skinny Dog Books – named as they both own sighthounds and the books are small and concise.