Let Sleeping Dogs Lie, They’re Cute and Learning

sleeping dog

For many pooches in today’s contemporary world, leading a dog’s life is all about going to the coffee shop with your owner and licking a puppuchino away while someone Instagrams your outfit. 

After that, a fluff may have to get busy on some urgent toy chewing, some meet-and-greet belly tickling here and there, and after that they’ll definitely need to catch up on their snoozes. 

But what is going on while a dog sleeps? Should we always let sleeping dogs lie, or can there be too much of a good thing when it comes to our fluffy slumbies?

Is there something we as dog owners should be aware of when it comes to sleep and our dearest furriests?

Sleep and Dogs

Sleeping is a big part of a dog’s life. Veterinarian Nicole Savageau stated in this article for USA TODAY that most dogs sleep about half a day. This corresponds to approximately 12 to 14 hours of sleep per day. 

The amount of sleep hours strung-in by a pooch can, however, depend on their age. Puppies and senior dogs will sleep longer than middle aged dogs. 

Similar to what happens with human babies, puppy newborns will spend around 90% percent of their day sleeping, 10% percent eating and 100% being adorable. 

As they quickly go from newborn to toddler puppies, they’ll spend more and more time playing before napping. The more they grow, the more they play, the less they sleep and the more you have to look after them. 

But sleep remains an important ally for a dog parent, and something every pet owner should look into. 

Even if dogs sleep less as they go from being a puppy to an adult, they will still require much more sleep than humans. There are also some underlying conditions that may cause an excess of sleep, and some possible drawbacks if a dog sleeps less than recommended. 

Read on to find out more about dogs and sleep.

How Much Should a Dog Sleep?

Despite their open schedule and laid-back lifestyle, dogs require much more sleep than humans. As carnivores, sleep is more important to them as they need to gather energy for hunting, and less important to us herbivores, as we’re considered “prey animals” and we need wakefulness to avoid becoming “prey” (it’s a dog eat dog world after all).

The amount of sleep that a dog will get depends on many factors such as breed, schedule, lifestyle, personality, diet and age. But to paint a wide picture, we can divide it into three phases: puppyhood, adulthood and senior-hood.

  • Puppies. Puppies should get all the sleep they can. As what happens with most mammals, during sleep important parts of their structure are still developing. They may sleep at least 11 hours per day. They sleep most during the day and less at night.
  • Adult Dogs. With adult dogs there may be variations depending on a variety of factors. They may sleep anywhere between eight and 13.5 hours. As puppies become adults they begin sleeping more at night and taking shorter daytime naps. They may spend between 60% and 80% of their sleeping hours between 8 pm and 8 am.
  • Senior Dogs. Middle aged and senior dogs will sleep slightly longer than adult dogs, waking up less at night and later in the morning. They’ll also take more naps during the day.

Sleeping and Learning

We’ve all heard that sleep is good for memory. The same goes for dogs. Similar to what happens with the human brain, the canine brain consolidates new information during sleep. This makes sleeping a great aid for dogs who are learning. 

When a dog learns a new command, their brain activity during REM and Non-REM stage is affected. Recent tests done by Anna Kis of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences proved that there’s a definite link between sleep and memory. 

In the experiment two groups of dogs were taught the commands to “sit” and “lie down” in a language that was foreign to them (English). After the language lesson, one group of dogs took a nap while having their brain activity monitored in a non-invasive manner. 

Upon waking up, to the surprise of the scientist, the dogs who napped were now bilingual (good dogs!!). Meaning, they understood the commands in the acquired foreign language.

Sleep Quality Improves After Learning

What’s even more remarkable about this study is that it revealed that not only does sleep improve learning, learning improves sleep. 

While studying the brain activity of the fluffies as they napped after their ESL lesson, two notable waves stood out during the non-REM phase. There was an increase in Delta power and a decrease in the Alpha power, which indicates a better quality of sleep.

So, the team in the Hungarian Academy of Sciences determined that “there’s an increase in sleep depth after learning.”

Common Signs of Lack of Sleep

Sleep patterns in dogs vary according to breed, schedule, lifestyle, age and personality. But on average, a dog should get at least 11 hours of sleep. A lack of sleep may cause many unfavorable reactions such as:

  • Intense reaction to stressful stimuli
  • Irritability and mood sways
  • Poor memory

Is Poochie Sleeping Too Much?

As dogs age it’s normal for them to sleep longer. But any sudden change in their sleeping pattern should be of concern. It could indicate an underlying condition such as diabetes, arthritis, hypothyroidism, and heart disease.

If you notice your dog’s sleeping schedule has changed dramatically, contact your vet.

Is Fur Ball Sleeping Too Little?

Likewise, if you notice your dog is restless at night and won’t sleep, you should look into it. When dogs are restless and have trouble going to sleep they may be suffering from a condition that is called “Canine Cognitive Disfunction” (which is a condition similar to Alzheimer’s disease). This makes them confused and restless at night.

But don’t worry, there are many things you can do to help your dog in this case. In many cases, this condition can be controlled with medication (consult with your veterinarian). Also, many animals respond well to having a nightlight near their sleeping space, or a radio turned on with low volume. 

Your dog may also be waking up more often to go to the bathroom. So, you can make accommodations for them to go out more frequently at night, or to have a pee pad near them.

Almost any reason for your dog’s lack of sleep can be solved by visiting your vet who will help you identify the reason and proceed to finding a long-term solution.

The Bottom Line

Sleep is as important for canine mammals as it is for human mammals. Sleep helps our nervous system, and makes us smarter and happier mammals. The same goes for dogs. Watch your dog’s sleeping pattern and see if it adds up. 

If it doesn’t, or if you notice there’s a sudden change, make note of it and consider if a visit to the vet is needed.

Whether it’s your dog who is on the couch in the most adorable belly-up position, or any random dog sunbathing on the street, you should definitely let sleeping dogs lie. 

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