The dog’s rest

The dog’s rest is essential. Being able to sleep is one of the basic needs that must be met in order to survive. Did you know that we can survive longer with no food than without sleep?

How much does the dog sleep?

How much a dog sleeps a day depends on what we define as sleep. This comes from that the dog is sleeping for about 12 hours a day and is lying down in a state of drowsiness for about five hours a day (average). There is an ongoing debate among researchers about if this drowsiness should be called a light sleep or just a transitory state.


The time the dog actually sleeps ranges between eight to 16 hours a day. Much of it takes place at night. Here it can be said that large dogs tend to sleep more than small dogs. The drowsiness, which is mostly spent during the day, actually varies very little between individuals and occupies some five hours.

With this it can be concluded that the dog’s rest, either drowsing or sleeping, totals between 13 and 21 hours a day. It should be clarified that the ideal is not sitting in the extremes and therefore a healthy dog rest includes 11 to 13 hours sleeping and five hours a day drowsing. I.E., the dog rests lying down about 16 to 18 hours a day. If the dog does not reach, or exceeds this resting time, we deduce that the dog’s time of rest is not optimal.

Now, found in studies over the past 40 years, there are clear indications that the dog has sleep homeostasis or self-regulation. This means that if the dog suffers a lack of sleep (for example due to a day of great physical activity) it will sleep more, while an excess reduces the predisposition to sleep.

The dog’s circadian sleep regulation

Sleep with motor inactivity occurs mostly during the night, between nine in the evening until six in the morning. Drowsiness is mostly during the day and especially in the afternoon. The highest quality night sleep is characterized by efficiency and continuity. Day rest is more defined by a state of “wake sleep”.

The domestic dog’s daytime activity is believed to be a reflection of its adaptation to humans. In other canids we see a lot more nocturnal and crepuscular activity. This has reached such a point that circadian variations in cortisol levels are not always detected in the domestic dog. Therefore, the dog has greater flexibility in activity time and adjusts more easily to routine changes. For example, studies with drug-sniffing dogs showed that they had no variations in the awake-sleep cycle when changing from day to night shifts, or vice versa. These changes are quite a bit more difficult for their human guide.

The dog’s ultradian sleep regulation

The dogs ultradian sleep cycles is some 20 minutes, with an average REM sleep of six minutes, keeping in mind that the dog does not reach REM sleep in all cycles. For comparison we see that the same cycle in humans is about 90 minutes long with seven minutes of REM sleep. Also, the dog has a much quicker wake-up and can assume physical activity after REM sleep a lot faster than the human. Therefore they can enter a state of alertness directly after a period of reduced vigilance.

How does sleep affect my dog?

Dogs with good rest have been found to have significantly better memory and cognitive ability than dogs that rest badly. Studies with dogs resting well compared to dogs with poor rest, clearly show that the rested dog learns commands much faster (and are more eager to participate). After a week with no working a command, rested dogs have a higher recall rate as well. In addition, these discoveries can be applied to dogs play, in the same way. From this we can deduce that a dog with good rest will be able to enjoy a much richer social life.

Therefore, knowing that a dog with better rest is more cognitive and has better memory, we can conclude that for a rested dog life is much easier and so can live a happier and in general better life.

Linked to this we have different behaviour problems that a dog can show. If he gets a good quality rest, my dog is less irritable (just like you and me) and a lot more able to withstand different stressors occurring during the day. Ergo – less behaviour problems.

How can I help my dog rest?

Leave him be

Let him rest. That has to be number one. Unfortunately we have our dog as some kind of emotional slave and toy, that has to be at our disposal at all times. If a dog is resting, let him rest as long as he needs. I know he can look like the cuddliest thing we have ever seen, but please let him be.

Right to choose resting place

Secondly, I think it is essential to give the dog the opportunity to choose his preferred resting place. His preferences may vary and so he should also have the right to switch. If for some reason it is necessary for the dog to rest in a unique place, observe him and let him choose his place and make sure it is comfortable. This is something that is almost impossible to fulfil. Comfort depends on a lot of factors that continuously change.

I live in a multi-dog home and my dogs sleep and rest where they want (none have chosen to rest on a table – yet). At night as well. This includes with me in my bed, or on a mattress next to me, in the living room, etc. I do not interfere with their choice of place. If you don’t like having the dog in bed with you at least let him be by your side. I find it hard to understand why force a social and gregarious being to sleep away from us.

Activity

For the dog to rest well, it is also necessary that his time of activity is rich. This does not necessarily mean that he have to be physically exhausted. Physical exercise is good for him, obviously, but we should not forget to give him the mental exercise he needs. By simply slowing down the pace on our walk and letting him sniff, giving him the time he needs to process the information he is collecting, helps him a lot.

Diet

Food plays a direct role on the dog’s ability to rest, as with everything else in life. I will not go into detail, but it is clear that the lack of nutrients in the dog’s diet directly influences his physical and emotional health. As does lack or excess of food. You cannot rest well if you are hungry and obesity problems affect in a very similar way.

When should I worry?

Every dog is unique. They are individuals with different habits and routines. If you are attentive and observant, there is no one who knows your dog better than you do. Clear signs that something is not the way it should is if it is difficult for your dog to go to sleep, or the other way around, has waking up difficulties. If anything happens in this regard, first you should take your dog to the vet to discard any physical or neurological problem. For heaven’s sake – DO NOT ask on Facebook and DO NOT consult Dr. Google and if you call me, I will tell you to take him to the vet, as any responsible dog trainer or behaviourist would.

If the veterinary check does not find anything, I recommend looking for a canine behaviour professional who can advise you on the emotional state of your dog.

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Jonas Thulin

*Note:
When the gender of the dog is unknown it is taken as masculin. I do not like to treat the dog as an “it” and apart from that, I am just lazy – nothing else.

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