Ah, puppies! Even if you waited for the right time, scheduled a vet visit, stocked up on essential puppy gear, and could ace a test on puppy socialization 101, you may still find that puppies are full of surprises. As a veterinarian, I commonly hear that new puppy owners are alarmed by just how much a puppy sleeps. Dogs of all ages sleep more than us humans (lucky dogs, indeed), but the average number of hours puppies sleep a day is 16 to 18 — or even more.
Just How Much Do Puppies Sleep?
If you have recently opened your home and heart to a steadily wagging tail, it’s helpful to keep in mind that the younger the pup, the more sleep he needs. A newborn puppy’s daily routine is made up of sleeping 90 percent of the time; that is almost 22 hours of shut-eye! (He spends the other 10 percent of the day nursing, in case you are curious.) As your puppy matures beyond the newborn stage, he will sleep less; but even at 3 months of age your furry sleepyhead will spend 15 to 20 hours a day dozing and dreaming away.
Why So Much Sleep?
Though it may not appear so, while your new furry angel has peacefully nodded off, his body is hard at work. Development of his brain and central nervous system is dependent upon these precious ZZZs. Time spent snoozing tones and strengthens your young puppy’s muscles and bones, which enable your growing pup to soon be your athletic companion, should you so desire one. Sleep even keeps your puppy’s immune system functioning at its best. Without enough sleep, your puppy will become cranky, destructive, and at risk for infections and illness.
Does Your Puppy Need A Nap?
Have you ever gotten frustrated with your puppy because he starts acting out of the ordinary inappropriately? Perhaps after a special long trip downtown he arrives back home and is chewing things he normally doesn’t (emphasis on normally) and being unruly with you. This classic pattern indicates he needs a nap.
Puppies can get overtired, especially when their senses are overstimulated. If you have ever been around a young human baby who has missed his nap window, you likely have that memory scarred into your mind. Like human babies, seemingly adorable and angelic pups can morph into little hell-raisers when they miss their “nap window.”
It can be impossible to predict the erratic sleep behavior of puppies, but do realize that while that trip downtown may not seem that exciting and educational to you, puppies are continuously discovering their new world and absorbing all the new information with keen senses — from the sound of honking car horns to flashing lights to new smells in all directions.
Is Your Puppy Sleeping Too Much?
Have a sleepy pup? Chances are he’s normal. There are expected periods during a puppy’s life in which he logs extra sleep. One example is a growth spurt, which can come on literally overnight. The extra sleep during growth spurts allows your puppy the opportunity to rest from taxing developmental leaps he is experiencing. During growth spurts, when the puppy is awake, he should otherwise act like his usually happy puppy self.
Oversleeping in puppies that is accompanied by low energy levels when your pup is awake can indicate any type of illness or injury. Anemia is a common one in puppies; this is a condition in which the body doesn’t have enough red blood cells and can be quite dangerous to a growing puppy. Young puppies with flea infestations are particularly at risk. If you suspect your puppy has anemia, check his gums. If they are pale, it is suggestive of anemia and you should seek veterinary care immediately. Intestinal parasites are another common puppy sleep thief, as the parasites battle your puppy for much-needed nutrition and can zap a pup of his energy. Make sure to see your veterinarian if you are concerned about your puppy’s sleep habits.
Help Your Puppy Sleep
Puppies don’t always know when to go to bed, and because their desire to learn trumps their desire to sleep, they don’t always heed their own internal nap alarm clock. Follow these tips to help your puppy get the sleep he needs.
1. Make the environment sleep-friendly. Animals, kids and household noises create an atmosphere that is stimulating and not conducive to puppy sleep. This is the top reason a puppy doesn’t get the sleep he needs. The solution? Provide a safe haven for your pup. Whether you choose a crate, a bed in his own room or your own bed, provide a space for him to fully relax in and drift off.
2. Adjust for changes in routine. Predicting a puppy’s sleep pattern takes some trial and error. If you take your pup along for a new experience, expect him to need an extra quiet rest period to settle down, and he will probably need it sooner than he usually does.
3. Burn off excess energy. Interactive games with you are great for wiping out your pup. If you aren’t at home during the day, consider toys and food puzzles, provide an outdoor view for entertainment or schedule a pet sitter to come over for a play session.
4. Manage hydration. If your puppy is thirsty, go ahead and let him have a small drink before bedtime, but try to stop plentiful drinking one hour before bedtime. This gives him time and opportunity — your responsibility — to empty his bladder.
5. Adjust the lighting and noise. If you watch TV or use a tablet in bed with your puppy, consider turning down the brightness and volume to reduce the risk of sleep disruption. Consider blackout shades if his sleeping area gets street light or early morning sun. In the morning, expose your pup to sunshine with a morning walk. These simple cues can help signal when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to wake up.
6. Try to have patience. Puppies wake more at night than adult dogs do, but your pup will soon acclimate to your sleep schedule. An action-packed day, empty bladder and bowels, and cozy bed make the perfect combination for your growing pup to spend the night having sweet dreams.