Why Do Dogs Sleep So Much, And What Is Normal?

Littlethings writer Phyllis Maddox by Phyllis Maddox
Phyllis is a retired English teacher and a freelance writer for LittleThings.

Your alarm starts ringing a split second after a cold, wet nose presses against your cheek and an eager tongue licks your nose.

It’s time to get up!

You drag yourself out of bed to let the dog out and head for your shower. An hour later, when you’ve both eaten and you’re dressed for work, your furry friend is snuggled in his bed and softly snoring. You sigh wistfully and head out the door.

Why is it that dogs sleep so much? You know you need six to eight hours a night and don’t always get it, but how much should dogs sleep? It seems as if dogs sleep all the time, but is there a limit on how much sleep is too much sleep?

Actually, there are answers for this. Unless your dog has suddenly changed his sleep patterns, there is probably no cause for alarm.

How Many Hours A Day Should My Dog Sleep?

Dog sleeping and playing
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

The National Sleep Foundation says, and most experts agree, that dogs will generally sleep about 50 percent of the day, rest about 30 percent of the day, and be active the other 20 percent.

Puppies might spend a little more time sleeping because their bodies are busy growing, but when they’re awake they are usually more active than older dogs. A puppy could be very similar to the human toddler who objects to nap time, calling out “I’m not sleepy” right up to the moment she passes out where she’s playing! Puppies go at it with all the enthusiasm they’ve got, playing, running, jumping, licking your face, right up until they just collapse in your lap, exhausted.

Older dogs may start to rest more because their bodies are not as strong as they once were, just like people. Experts estimate that adult dogs sleep about 12 to 14 hours a day, older ones a little more, and puppies up to 18 or 20 hours.

Why Does My Dog Sleep So Much?

Dog waking up from sleep to greet owner at door
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

One important thing to remember is that you are the center of your dog’s universe. Dr. Jessica Potosky, doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM), says that “dogs tend to sleep a large majority of the day unless they are stimulated by other things. I would say the biggest reason healthy dogs sleep is lack of other things to do. Most dogs would choose playing or doing an activity with their owner over sleeping.”

Your dog probably conks out when you leave and comes to life when you enter the door. If you are playing or otherwise interacting with her, she’s alert and ready for it, but if you’re busy, she will likely rest or nap.

So if you’re concerned that she sleeps too much, get her involved in a game. You know what she likes, and dogs are always up for something different as well. Dogs need games, socialization, and activities just like we do to enjoy life. Remember, you are your dog’s whole world!

Is My Dog Really Sleeping All The Time?

Dog sleeping with one eye open
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

Dogs aren’t always sleeping, either — sometimes they’re just resting.

Dogs don’t sleep like we do. Most of their daytime sleep is light sleep, and we can tell this by how quickly they’re wide awake and on the alert when there is the slightest unusual sound. Dogs are watchful, so they don’t go into deep sleep all the time.

Even if they’re not “watchdogs,” dogs take their jobs of watching over their owners very seriously. They do this 24 hours a day!  Sounds exhausting to me.  It may take them a while at night to totally relax and get into that deep sleep they need, just like we do, for their bodies to be rejuvenated, refreshed and ready for the next day.

How Much Sleep Is Too Much Sleep?

Dog sleeping on bed while owner cooks
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

The best way to decide if your dog is getting too much sleep is to look at any changes in his sleep patterns. Does he usually play for a while after you get home each day, but now he just stays in his bed? Does he usually watch you cook and hope he gets to test the food for you, but now he’s just not interested and prefers napping?

Has he stopped greeting you at the door when you come home?

When Does My Dog Need To See The Vet?

Dog being examined by vet
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

Dr. Potosky says: “I would recommend taking your dog to the vet if she is exceedingly lethargic…. Anything outside their normal behavior should be checked out.” You are the best judge of what your dog does that is usual and normal and what is different. When you see changes that make you concerned, get her to her doctor!

It has been said that the dog is man’s best friend. For many of us, we love our dogs like family, and what’s going on with them is just as important as our own health. This is a reason to know about how and why they sleep.

Please SHARE this article with your dog-owning friends so that they can learn more about their dogs’ sleeping patterns!