BEHAVIOR & TRAINING

Why Do Dogs Sleep So Much: Health & Environmental Issues

Dog sleeping
Wyatt Robinson
Written by Wyatt Robinson

Anyone who owns dogs has probably found themselves asking the question: why do dogs sleep so much? It seems like every time we turn around our fuzzy buddies are curled up in the corner asleep. The average dog can sleep anywhere up to 12 hours a day and that’s a lot of time in dreamland. There are various reasons for your dog’s sleep patterns and they will differ from breed to breed. In this article we’re going to take a look at what the reasons are behind dogs sleeping so many hours of the day and when this it too much.

There are certain health and environmental conditions that may need to be changed if your dog really is sleeping way too much. As a responsible dog owner it’s important that you understand what the warning signs are and that you’re prepared to take medical action if it is required. Boredom can also be a key factor for dogs oversleeping.

In the rest of this article we’re going to go through all the health problems that you need to watch for, show you how to identify the warning signs of boredom in your pet and give you some solid, actionable ideas on how to manage both.

What general factors are at play?

There are a few basic things that have an impact in how much dogs sleep. They are nothing to be overly concerned about and they change throughout the life of the dog.

Sleeping dog with tea

Before we get into things that could be causing your dogs to oversleep, let’s take a look at the natural rhythm of things:

  1. Puppies use more energy, so they need more energy: When puppies are young they spend their entire lives running around, jumping and exploring. They are coming to terms with their bodies, their environment and everything around them. While they are going through this phase you can expect your puppy to sleep anywhere up to 20 hours out of every 24 hour period.
  2. Older dogs tend to sleep more during the day and be more active at night. Sleep patterns changing as dogs age is no different from sleep patterns in humans changing as we age. Older dogs and changing sleep patterns is nothing to be concerned about unless the dog is visibly unwell.
  3. Different breeds need different amounts of sleep on a daily basis. If you’re looking for a very active dog then it is important that you do your research before you go out shopping. The same is true if you want a very docile dog.

So as you can see, before you even take health and exercise levels into consideration there is a lot that goes into answering the question: “How much sleep do dogs need?”. Of course there are other things that can be an issue too. There are health and environmental factors that come into play (and have an impact on each other as well). Let’s take a look at some of these now.

Health issues

If you find yourself tearing your hair out and saying that your dog sleeps all day and it doesn’t seem to be normal then there may be something deeper wrong. If your dog is neither very young nor very old and their sleep patterns change suddenly then it could be a sign of a much deeper problem. As a responsible dog owner it’s important that you keep an eye on changes in behavior in your pooch.

Dog health care

Dogs are very similar to humans in many ways and a lot of the conditions that can cause lethargy in us can do the same in them. Here are a few conditions that can cause your dog to oversleep:

  • Hyperthyroidism
    When your dog’s thyroid stops producing enough of the right kind of hormones their sleeping patterns can change. This can be a very serious condition and it can be a sign of a number of other problems. Some of the things that can cause issues with the thyroid gland include cancer and diabetes. These conditions are just as serious for your dogs as they are for you and I and if there is any chance that they’re suffering from them then it is very important to get them to your vet.
    As with disease in humans, the sooner they get caught and treated the better chance your beloved pet has of making a full recovery and living a full life.  Left untreated this can cause them to be lethargic and ill. Thyroid problems can also be a sign of more serious conditions like thyroid cancer so it’s important to get them checked up quickly.
  • Diabetes
    What we call juvenile onset or type two diabetes is relatively rare in puppies but it can cause problems for older dogs. The ramifications of diabetes are wide ranging and very serious and if your dog’s sleeping patterns change significantly there is a chance they could be suffering from this disease. If that is the case then you need to talk to your vet, get a treatment plan in place and make sure that you manage the condition properly.
    Just like in humans, type II diabetes can cause problems with vision, circulation and a wide range of other things so it’s really important that you get it treated quickly.
  • Various forms of cancer
    Just like we can – our dogs can end up getting cancer. There is a wide range of cancers that can manifest in a dog and (no different from in humans) they are going to cause an imbalance in their systems. Cancer has some very broad-ranging effects and lethargy is only one of them. If you’re concerned at all then get to your vet. Cancer is also often only picked up at regular vet visits so make sure pup is on schedule for their annual checkup.
  • Improper or poor diet
    If your prize pooch is not getting enough nutrients in their diet then chances are that they are going to be lethargic. The cheapest option is not always the best option when it comes to dog food and if you feel your dog is overly lethargic then it is important to discuss this with your vet. They can make some recommendations around what you could change or supplement the dog’s diet with in order to improve their energy levels.
  • Depression
    Depression manifests in dogs in many of the same ways it does in humans and it is equally unbearable for pooches as it is for people. If your dog is displaying one or all of these symptoms then it is most certainly time to get to your veterinarian and get them sorted. Depression in dogs can be treated and you’ll have a much happier home if you manage it properly. Some of the signs of canine depression include:

    • Dogs become withdrawn.
    • They may be more difficult to handle.
    • They no longer participate in things they once enjoyed.
    • Their eating and sleeping habits change.

Of course sleeping in is not always a sign of anything too serious in humans and it’s the same for dogs. Why we sleep and why they sleep are pretty similar, really. Let’s take a look at a few environmental factors now that can have an impact on canine slumber.

Environmental considerations

It’s a little ironic but, just like with us, there are two things that can cause dogs to sleep a lot: too much exercise and too much sitting around.

Dogs will often sleep out of sheer boredom and if your dog is bored then you’re to blame. If your dog is sleeping because they are just pure worn out then you’re doing a great job.

The sleeping dog with a toy

Life is busy, and getting busier all the time. Dogs need and deserve our interaction but we don’t always have the time to give them the time they deserve. If you’re finding that your dog looks bored or they spend a lot of time alone then there are some things you can do to help ease things for them.  Here are a few of our favorites:

  1. Consider a second dog: If you are a one dog household and your dog spends a lot of time by itself (and you’ve got the space) then it can be a great thing to get them a companion. It’s a lot easier if you do it when they’re young so they grow up together. As long as they have space to play two dogs will exercise each other and also keep each other company.
    Of course this comes with extra expense and extra walkies but you will find that dogs from two dog homes tend to be far better at looking after themselves than dogs that are totally reliant on human beings for social activity.
  2. Make sure they’ve got plenty of toys: Give them things that they can interact with on their own terms. Make sure they’ve got access to their favorite toys so they can throw them around and chase them when they’re alone. If all your dog does is sit around all day doing nothing then chances are they are going to doze off and look pretty disinterested with life in general.
  3. Consider calling in re-enforcements: It’s perfectly understandable in a busy world that you don’t have four hours a day to play with and walk the family pet. There are plenty of services that you can call on for help though. Consider finding a dog walking service that can come by a couple of times a walk and take them out for a really good run. A dog that has had plenty of exercise is going to be a lot happier, a lot less bored and a lot more enjoyable to have around.
  4. Consider changing their play space: If they are alone a lot of the time and your lot is not fully fenced then chances are that you’re confining them to a relatively small space during the day while you’re out. Especially for larger breeds this can be highly problematic.
    While re-fencing your entire section would be expensive, if you’ve got the space then perhaps you could consider putting in a dog run. If dogs have space they will exercise a lot off their own bat so if you provide them with that then they’re going to be a lot happier.

If you feel like boredom is the issue then there is plenty you can do to reduce the impact of that boredom, you just need to think outside the box a little bit. You know your dog and you know what they enjoy doing, these are certainly not the only ways to combat boredom in your pet dog and we’re sure you can come up with some ideas of your own.

Active dogs are happy dogs

If you have an active, well treated, healthy and properly fed dog then you will have a lifelong companion and one who will quite literally do anything for you. They play such a pivotal part in our lives and it is so important that we take care of them in return.

Dogs don’t ask much from us, really, all they want is to be fed, played with and loved. Their needs are no different to ours. They want to be a part of a family, a part of a community and they want to be respected and treated well.

Active dogs

If your dog is sleeping more than 12-14 hours a day then you could have a problem and it is important that you consider some of the tips in this article and take action. We hope you’ve enjoyed our guide on the sleeping habits of dogs and that you’ve got some solid takeaways to get started on identifying if there is a problem and, if there is, how to fix it.

About the author
Wyatt Robinson
Wyatt Robinson

Wyatt Robinson had a great 25-years career as a veterinarian in United Kingdom. He used to be a member of British Veterinary Association and worked in 3 pet hospitals in London and Manchester. He is shining when he sees his pets healthy and full of energy and it is his duty to help other dog owners to keep their best friends full of life.

  • Kathy Peters

    I bought a sturdy almost indestructible toy for my Lab. I tried a lot of toys and good thing I discovered GoughNut Maxx. The GoughNuts Maxx Extra Large chew toy is a great safe toy. The manufacturers also give free lifetime guarantee. This is good news since my handsome Labrador can be such a chewer!

    • Wyatt Robinson

      This is a great distraction if the dog tends to be active and needs to sleep more. This toy can be a good diversion if walking outdoors is not a viable option at the moment.

  • Betsy Johnson

    I have to admit this but I think our dogs sleep so much! At night, they sleep for around 12 hours. When it’s morning, they have around 20 minutes romping around, then before I know it, they’re asleep again. Is this quite normal? How much does your dog sleep per day? Is this also dependent on age? Our dogs are around 3-4 years old.

    • Wyatt Robinson

      This depends on the age and breed of the dog. There are a lot of dogs that are heavy sleepers thanks to their low energy and even lower exercise requirements. Age is also a significant factor because as energy decreases as they age, they also tend to doze off a lot.

  • Anne Hunter

    I’ve read somewhere that dog’s rem sleep is a lot lower than our’s so that makes them sleep more. I believe the statistic was that we spend 20% of our sleep in rem, while the pooches spend 10% so they need more sleeping time. I guess excessive sleep may signal something worse but it’s probably nothing too bad. Exercising the pooches could give them better sleep, that’s what we do at least. Any ideas to help my dog sleep more?

    • Wyatt Robinson

      Exercise will tire them in a good way, which induces more sleep in the process because they have already used a lot of energy during exercise. Although there are normal cases of dogs that really sleep a lot.

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