It's obvious that dogs sleep a lot! There's also a perception that small dogs such as Chihuahuas are more energetic and sleep less than large dogs, like Mastiffs, do. But is it true? Do some dogs need more sleep than other dogs?
Adult dogs and sleep
The amount of sleep your dog needs depends on their age, breed, and general health. On the average, dogs sleep 12 to 14 hours a day. A dog may seem like they will sleep a lot, but if it's a puppy you're talking about, it's normal for them to sleep even more than that!
The American Kennel Club says that puppies can sleep as much as 20 hours a day. Once your dog is out of the puppy stage, expect an average of 14 hours or so of sleep. As your dog ages past about the age of 7, it's normal for her to sleep more.
Older dogs sleep a lot more for a variety of reasons: they tire more easily from exertion, they may have arthritis and not want to move as much, or they may be sluggish from slower metabolism caused by something like hypothyroidism.
Dog sleeping habits
When humans sleep, it often takes us awhile to fall deeply asleep and really feel rested. Although dog sleeping patterns include short-wave sleep (SWS) and REM sleep, just like humans do, the rest of their sleeping habits are pretty different. It takes humans about 90 minutes to enter the deep period of sleep known as rapid-eye movement deep sleep (REM sleep). That's one reason why humans usually sleep for several hours at a time, and don't sleep off and on throughout the day like many animals do.
Dogs, on the other hand, cycle into REM sleep after only about 20 minutes or less. Since they fall into deep REM sleep so rapidly, you'll often see them twitching, whimpering, or otherwise making noises while they sleep, even if they've only been laying in their beds for a few minutes.
And while it seems like your dog is sleeping every time you look over at him, he actually isn't sleeping for long blocks of time most of the time. Their overall pattern is typically one of sleeping in shorter chunks throughout the day and night. One other impact of dog sleeping habits is that they can rouse from deep sleep easier than humans do. So even though your dog seems like he is crashed out, he can still hear someone ride a bike down the sidewalk and wake up instantly to bark at them.
Large dog breeds and sleep
Evidence does seem to suggest that large breeds sleep a lot more than small breeds do, although that evidence is limited, as there haven't been many studies on the subject. However, veterinarians generally agree that larger dogs require more metabolic energy to keep their bodies going, and they also require more sleep to recover from activity.
"Very large breed dogs such as Mastiffs and St. Bernards tend to sleep a lot more than other breeds," says Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM. "This is likely due to their massive size. Mastiffs and St. Bernards can weigh in excess of 200+ pounds."
Smaller dogs or so-called "lap dogs" such as Chihuahuas, may simply be content to relax around the house with their owners. Dr. Ochoa also said that small dogs don't have to expend the energy to move their bodies around like large dogs do, so they don't need to recover through sleep quite as much.
Dog brain size and sleep
It's not just breed that determines how much a dog sleeps. Science has some interesting results when it comes to animal size and sleep. In general, large mammals sleep less than small ones, because small animals (think gerbils or mice) have a faster metabolism and need to eat more frequently. However, larger mammals also have longer sleep cycles. Animals with large brains require more REM sleep.
It's difficult to pin down an amount of sleep that constitutes excessive sleep in a dog, since there are so many factors that influence how much an individual dog sleeps, and each dog's needs are different. That said, experts suggest taking a closer look at your dog's overall health and behaviors if you clock her sleeping more than 15 hours a day.
Observe whether your dog seems healthy, happy, and active during the other 9 hours or so that she is awake before you get too worried about excessive sleeping. If she seems lethargic while she is awake, or otherwise doesn't seem to be thriving, check in with your veterinarian. If she's an older dog or a particularly active dog, perhaps she just needs that extra sleep.
Working dogs, such as sheep dogs or hunting dogs, will naturally need to sleep more often than a house dog. Dogs also very easily adjust to the schedule of the humans that they live with, and they tend to sleep unless they are getting attention. If you are awake and active, your dog likely will want to be with you, and will be more active too.
There is some evidence to suggest that large dogs sleep more than small dogs do. This is because larger dogs require more metabolic energy to keep their large bodies going.
While 12 to 14 hours a day of sleep is a lot, it's actually normal for a dog! Each dog's sleep needs varies depending on their age, breed, and the amount of physical activity they get, so it's not easy to put an exact number on how many hours they should be sleeping. If your dog is physically active during the day, that could mean they need more sleep. On the contrary, an inactive dog can also sleep more due to not being healthy, not having much stimulation in their environment, or not having the energy to "get up and go."
Older dogs and puppies need a lot more hours a day of sleep than adult dogs, so don't worry unless you think there's something else going on. Observe their behavior while they are awake, and see if they seem healthy and happy when they're not sleeping. Let your veterinarian know if you notice a change in their sleeping habits or their behavior that may be related to a medical condition or aging.
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep
- Sleep Help: Everything You Need to Know About How Dogs Sleep
- American Kennel Club: Should I Let My Dog Sleep Late Every Day?
- Orvis: How Older Dogs Sleep Habits Change
- Readers Digest: How Many Hours a Day Do Dogs Sleep?
- Found Animals: How Many Hours a Day Do Dogs Sleep? …and Other Dog Sleep Questions Answered
- Hills Pet: My Dog Sleeps All Day: Is That Normal?
- Start Sleeping: Fascinating Animal Sleep Facts