two bulldogs fast asleep

Why Do Dogs Sleep So Much?
Learn Why Dogs Need So Much Of It

I wish I could sleep as much as my dogs do. My elderly pups can clock in up to 16 hours of sleep per day. They take several naps throughout the day as well as fully sleep through the night.

Though cats are the stereotypical sleepy pets, dogs do naturally sleep more than humans. But why do dogs sleep so much? Do you have cause to be worried if they doze for most of the day?

When should you worry if your dog is sleeping a lot?

In today’s article, we’ll break down all of the possible causes that your dog sleeps a lot and when to involve professionals.

Bulldog sleeping in his back

How Much Sleep Do Dogs Need?


The better question would be how many hours does a dog sleep?

“On average, most dogs spend about 50% of their day sleeping, about 12 hours in a 24-hour period. Puppies, large-breed dogs, and older dogs may sleep more, while small-breed dogs and working dogs may sleep less.” -Sandra Mitchell, DVM, from PetMD. (1)

These hours of sleep can be accounted for in any number of ways. Usually, like us, they will sleep for 6-8 hours at night and then take several naps of varying lengths during the day.

These hours of sleep can be accounted for in any number of ways. Usually, like us, they will sleep for 6-8 hours at night and then take several naps of varying lengths during the day.


Why Does My Dog Sleep So Much?

1. Your dog doesn’t sleep too much - we just sleep too little

So we have discussed what is normal for dogs in terms of hours per day they should sleep. But let’s explore the root of this question. You are likely asking why your dog sleep’s so much because comparatively, you sleep so much less, right?

There’s a false equivalency when we consider the amount of sleep we get as humans.

Though our bodies release the same sleepy hormones as other animals, and our bodies naturally want to turn in when the sun goes down, we humans are stubborn creatures. The demands of working life and/or parenthood keep us up when our bodies are tired. Sometimes we even choose to ignore our brain’s signals to call it a night and go to sleep in service of some seemingly more important task.

I am not calling you out here. I am ignoring my body clock as I am typing this! We all do it.

My point is your dog sleeps whenever their body tells them to sleep. Imagine how many hours you would sleep per day if you napped every time, you felt tired? Those hours would clock up quickly.

2. They are a young, old or large dog

Say that your dog sleeps a little more than the average for an adult dog. The 12-hour measure seems short to you. Should you worry? Does it seem like your dog sleeps all the time?

As I alluded to in the intro, my dogs are elderly and therefore sleep more often. Puppies and large dog breeds also naturally nap frequently throughout the day, but for different reasons.

  • Older dogs
    Older dogs that have lived an active and happy life will naturally slow in their later years. They tire far more easily than they used to. Caring for them in this later stage of life means investing in an excellent dog bed, as they’ll probably be spending a lot of time there! (2)
  • Puppies
    Rambunctious puppies seem to have all of the energy in the world in theory, but they spend more than ¾ of the day asleep!

“Sleep is essential to healthy growth, contributing to the necessary development of his central nervous system, brain, immune system, and muscles. All of that sleep also helps him rest up during growth spurts.” - Jan Reisen, American Kennel Club (3)

This necessity for healthy growth can mean that your puppy sleeps between 18-20hours per day. Don’t panic!

  • Larger dogs
    Larger dogs have a bigger job to move around. It’s just a curse of biology. Heavier bones and heavier coats take more energy to heave around. This is doubly hard for obese dogs. (4)

This is why small dogs tend to sleep less than large dog breeds.

3. They live active lifestyles

If you and your dog are quite active during the day, with long walks, runs, or agility training, you may find that your dog takes more rest during the day to recuperate.

There is nothing necessarily wrong with your dog doing this. They need to recharge. However, you need to keep an eye on whether the exercise itself is harming more than helping.

You’ll know if your dog is overexercised if: 

  • They are limping or appear to have joint issues
  • They take several breaks during the walk/run/activity
  • They feel warmer than usual/heat exhaustion
  • They are sweating and panting a lot during exercise
  • Their muscles are sore or tender

If any of these signs are combined with increased sleep, you may be over-exercising your dog. (5)

4. Dogs like to chill - they are just resting their eyes

Dogs are a bit dozy, aren’t they! They like to lounge. They like to spread themselves across the living room. They like to lay and have their bellies scratched.

This proclivity to enjoy rest can be mistaken for sleep, or just end up in a micro nap!

5. They belong to a dog breed that naturally sleeps more

There are dog breeds that sleep a lot. Here is a quick handy list of dog breeds that are more prone to being consistently dozy (6): 

  • Bullmastiff
  • Miniature Pinscher
  • Pug
  • Chow chow
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Saint Bernard
  • Bulldog
  • Bernese Mountain Dog

6. They are bored

If your dog is alone at home most of the day, without much stimulation, they are more likely to sleep.

Unstimulated dogs can lead to depression and anxiety too, so this is cause for concern. 

"If it feels like your dog is sleeping his life away, consider what else he’s got to do with his time. The best way to help your dog stay awake and active during the day is by using puzzle toys.” - Kayla Fratt, The Spruce Pets (7)


My Dog Sleeps All Day - When To Worry

We have gone through almost every scenario as to why your dog sleeps so much. But what if your dog’s sleeping habits have suddenly changed? You know something is off and want to investigate.

You should worry about your dog oversleeping if:

  • Your dog develops narcolepsy
  • You can’t wake your dog in the morning
  • Your dog is eating or drinking less in order to sleep
  • Your dog’s routine is disrupted by sleeping
  • Your dog has no desire to exercise


Your dog could be suffering from depression, anxiety, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, or other serious ailments. If in doubt, speak to your vet to rule out anything serious.


Final Thoughts: Why Do Dogs Sleep So Much?

Dogs listen to their body. When they feel tired, they sleep, which is a beautiful thing. It is perfectly normal for your pooch to sleep anywhere between 12-20 hours per day depending on their age, breed, and weight. If your dog falls within the parameters of what is normal for their age and breed, don’t panic. It is completely fine for your dog to have a few extra winks.

If there are other huge changes to your dog’s behaviour or sleep routine, always check with your vet to see if your dog is completely okay.

FAQ

Do dogs dream?

Though we can’t exactly ask our dogs where they go in their sleep, most scientists agree that dogs probably do dream.

According to Psychology Today, the fact that our brains are somewhat similar to dogs in many ways suggests they are likely quite rich dreamers.

Stanley Coren Ph.D. writes “Also, during sleep, the brain wave patterns of dogs are similar to that of humans and go through the same stages of electrical activity observed in humans, all of which are consistent with the idea that dogs are dreaming.” (8)

References
  1. Mitchell, S. May 5, 2020. “Why Do Dogs Sleep So Much?”. PetMD. Retrieved May 24, 2021. https://www.petmd.com/dog/behavior/why-do-dogs-sleep-so-much
  2. Huston, L. February 10, 2021. “Tips for Caring for Senior Dogs”. PetMD. Retrieved May 24, 2021. https://www.petmd.com/dog/care/evr_dg_caring_for_older_dogs_with_health_problems
  3. Reisen, J. August 15, 2019. “How to Make Sure Your Puppy Gets Enough Sleep”. American Kennel Club.  Retrieved May 24, 2021. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/how-much-do-puppies-sleep/
  4. Williams, K & Downing, R. “Obesity in Dogs”. VCA Hospitals. Retrieved May 24, 2021. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/obesity-in-dogs
  5. Fitzsimmons, P. January 18, 2018. “5 Signs Your Dog Is Getting Too Much Exercise”. PetMD. Retrieved May 24, 2021. https://www.petmd.com/dog/wellness/5-signs-your-dog-getting-too-much-exercise
  6. Grant, M. June 10, 2019. “8 Dog Breeds That Are Just As Sleepy As You”. Bustle. Retrieved May 24, 2021.   https://www.bustle.com/p/8-dog-breeds-that-will-let-you-sleep-in-17940938
  7. Fratt, K. March 4, 2021. “Why Does My Dog Sleep So Much?”. The Spruce Pets. Retrieved May 24, 2021.  https://www.thesprucepets.com/why-dogs-sleep-so-much-4178938
  8. Coren, S. October 28, 2010. “Do Dogs Dream? Dogs dream like humans and about similar things.” Psychology Today. Retrieved May 24, 2021. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/canine-corner/201010/do-dogs-dream
Olivia De Santos

Olivia is a professional writer and animal lover. She loves spending time with her Podengo and Flat Coated Retriever, and writing pieces to help people to be better dog owners

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