March 18, 2024


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Understanding Your Dog’s Sleeping Habits

If you’re here, it likely means that you’re looking out for the wellbeing of the canine companion in your care – and I commend you for that! When looking out for our dog’s wellbeing, sleep patterns can tell us a lot about how our dog is doing, how they’re feeling, and whether there could be deeper concerns in need of addressing.

Together, let’s explore how to create healthy dog sleep habits: looking at how much dogs should be sleeping, when signals point to distress, sleep habits for stages of dogs’ lives, how to tune into our intuition as we go about this practice of noticing, and how to maintain the leadership status in our pack throughout the management of our shared daily lives.

Discover everything you need to know about assuming the leadership role and understanding your canine on a deep, impactful level in my masterclass, Embodied Alpha. The shift you make in your relationship with your canine is one of the most meaningful shifts you will ever experience. Happy healing.

How much sleep does a dog need?

Sleep is a very normal and integral part of our canine’s daily routine. In fact, when dogs are allowed to follow their instincts, they tend to sleep about 18-22 hours a day (though they physically require slightly less sleep). In the wild, dogs are opportunistic hunters, expending bursts of energy during pursuits, and iIt is woven into our dogs’ DNA to conserve their energy for whatever threat might arise during the day. As you know, dogs share most of their DNA with wolves (yes, even Labradoodles!), and so this strategy has ensured their survival for thousands of years. And even though threats to survival aren’t typically present in the modern domestic setting, your dog is still a wolf, and sleeping most of the day is still an important part of their overall health and wellbeing.

Recognizing and respecting this intrinsic need for rest is vital for their overall well-being. Whether it’s lounging on a sunny spot indoors or enjoying a nap after an outdoor adventure, these moments contribute to their physical and mental health. So, when you witness your dog in gentle slumber, it’s not just lethargy—it’s an acknowledgment of their evolutionary heritage and a sign that they are in balance.

Is your dog sleeping too much?

While it is natural and healthy for your dog to spend a majority of the day in rest, there is a line that can be crossed into lethargy and imbalance. Excessive sleep on the part of your dog can be a stress response – essentially, your dog willing the world to pass it by as it sleeps the day away.

According to a study from the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, changes in sleep patterns can serve as a subtle language—a silent conversation between our dogs and their bodies. Excessive sleep, often manifesting as lethargy, can be a signal that something may be amiss. As responsible pet parents, it becomes practical and imperative to pay close attention to these shifts in behavior.

So how can you tell if your dog is sleeping a healthy amount… or if sleep has become a coping tool for emotional distress? It’s important to tune into the overall habits of your dog – your intuition and observational skills can tell you a lot more than you realize, typically. Is your dog taking the time to chew on its bone, or are they disengaged from their surroundings? Do they maintain some level of awareness and attunement to what’s going on around them (without being hyper-vigilant, that is the other side of the stress response) – or are they disconnected, uninterested, and despondent?

It’s also worth asking yourself if you are providing enough outdoor access to your dog. Nature and access to the natural world is your dog’s birthright and baseline – not some novel treat to be handed out on occasion. Dogs not only love being outside… they need to be outside for their emotional and physical wellbeing (and… so do you, but that’s another conversation). If your dog is clearly checked out from their lives, it can indicate that they are too isolated and too confined indoors.

Begin to tap in: what do you think your dog needs for balance?

Read next: How to Read Canine Body Language (Signs of Comfort + Stress)

Navigating bedtime with your dog: sleeping through the night + sleeping arrangements

While dogs are typically sleeping on and off throughout the day, they also usually join their humans in sleeping through the night.  Additionally, over 50% of dogs actually share the bed with their owners, according to a survey by the American Pet Products Association – which brings up the question of sleeping arrangements.

When clients meet me and learn about the Inner Alpha Method, which necessitates maintaining the leadership position in the pack for overall pack harmony and providing a sense of calm for our dogs, one of the top questions I am repeatedly asked is whether dogs should sleep in our beds. Does sharing a bed with our dog compromise our leadership position, or make our dog feel like they are in charge?

In answer, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to share your sleep routine with your dog – as long as it’s on your terms and your terms only, and the decision of where your dog should sleep should be a reflection of your leadership (not their initiation). So depending on your decision, create a designated sleep space for your dog, whether it’s on your bed or on their own bed.

It’s important to note that the decision on where your dog sleeps isn’t just about providing physical comfort; it’s a symbolic act of leadership. The leader-follower dynamic is a cornerstone of a balanced and harmonious relationship with your dog. When you make thoughtful decisions about sleeping arrangements, you reinforce your position as the pack leader, contributing to a sense of security and well-being for your canine companion.

Sleep habits for senior dogs

Inevitably, our canine companions grow older, and their sleeping habits will shift as they begin to age. A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health emphasizes the importance of recognizing and accommodating these changes. Practical adjustments become instrumental in ensuring a good night’s sleep for our senior canine friends.

The study reveals that senior dogs often experience alterations in sleep patterns and may be more susceptible to conditions like arthritis or discomfort related to aging. In response to these changes, ensuring that you’re providing comfortable bedding for your dog is important to support aging joints and ease any physical discomfort they may be experiencing.

Addressing signs of restlessness is another key element in senior dog sleep considerations. Behavioral shifts may indicate discomfort or even pain. If it appears that discomfort is very much disrupting your dog’s ability to sleep, checking in with a holistic vet would be advisable.

Sleep habits for puppies

Sleep habits are very much top-of-mind at the outset of your journey as a pet parent – as puppies tend to need a lot more attention, guidance, and assistance to ease into balanced sleep habits (including sleeping through the night).

Puppies, with all their curiosity and playfulness, have unique sleep needs that evolve as they grow. On average, puppies require a substantial 18-20 hours of sleep per day, a testament to the intense periods of growth and development they experience. This extensive naptime isn’t just about rest; it’s a vital part of their foundation for a healthy, active life.

This early stage in a dog’s life is a key opportunity to establish the leadership dynamic in your pack – and set the stage of a calm, well-balanced dog later on. Designating where your dog will sleep (on your terms) nurtures a sense of security in your dog, and also lays the groundwork for a mutually respectful relationship in the future that acknowledges boundaries and builds trust.

Just like human infants, puppies may initially struggle with sleeping through the night. Consistency is key; maintaining a regular bedtime, offering a comforting blanket or toy, and ensuring a pre-bedtime bathroom break all contribute to a smoother transition into nighttime rest. As the leader, your consistent actions and responses guide your puppy towards understanding the expectations for sleep.

Holistic canine health for quality sleep

Finally, we can’t talk about your dog’s sleep without touching on their overall holistic health. Everything is very much connected when it comes to your dog’s health and their behavioral patterns and habits, and ensuring that your dog is met with these considerations is the foundation for their ability to get the sleep that they need.

Holistic canine health extends beyond mere physical wellness, encompassing mental, emotional, and environmental factors that contribute to a harmonious and balanced existence. A holistic approach involves understanding the interconnectedness of various aspects, recognizing that a healthy diet, regular exercise, and mental stimulation are not isolated components but threads woven into the fabric of a dog’s overall vitality.

When we prioritize holistic health, we recognize that a well-nourished body translates into better sleep quality and a more stable mood. A balanced, species-appropriate diet tailored to their individual needs supports their physiological functions, ensuring that they have the energy for play, exploration, and, eventually, a restful slumber. Mental stimulation, often an overlooked aspect, is vital for cognitive well-being, influencing mood and behavioral patterns.

As conscious pet parents to our canine companions, our role extends beyond providing a cozy sleep space; it involves attuning ourselves to the subtle cues of what healthy dog sleep habits are and the evolving needs of our dogs. I am so grateful you are here on this journey to better understanding your relationship with your dog, yourself, and the world around you.

Sasha Armstrong

Founder of Canine State of Mind

A place where dog parents can learn more about canine behavior and how to create the environment for a closer relationship with their dog.



Understanding Energetic Cues and Expressions in Dogs

Transforming your relationship with your dog requires understanding how they view our world and communicate in it. Learning to read your dog’s energetics and cues goes beyond interpreting their behavior–it’s about cultivating a profound connection to our canine companions. In this comprehensive guide, you will learn to:
  • Decode canine energetic cues
  • Become a confident and peaceful leader capable of meeting your dog’s needs
  • Foster trust, respect, and empathy with your dog
  • Ensure your dog feels safe + valued
  • Cultivate a deep sense of of purpose in your own life

My gift to you