Sleep constitutes one of the physiological needs to which Maslow refers. Dogs need sleep, and lots of it! You and I might be able to feel we’ve done well to get 8 hours kip in a night, but your dog needs more than that. A lot more. In fact, twice as much! Dogs need 14-18 hours sleep a day, with young puppies needing even more (20 hours +). In their book Stress in Dogs, Scholz and von Reinhardt reveal that in a study of 224 dogs, those that had more than 17 hours sleep a day were significantly less stressed than those getting less sleep, with those getting less than 10 hours suffering from the highest levels of stress.
In order to be getting this sleep, your dog needs somewhere comfortable and quiet to rest, where they won’t be annoyed by other animals or humans (especially the little ones!). Try to never disturb a sleeping dog, and if you really need to, give them a verbal warning before you poke or prod them. Dogs can be startled when woken suddenly and can respond with a growl or snap. Dogs are polyphasic sleepers. This means they like to sleep in short blocks, and then get up and move around and maybe lie down somewhere else for their next snooze. Give your dog choice, and have various different beds around the house for him to try. Dogs often vary between sleeping curled up in a ball, or stretched out, or if, like me, you have greyhounds, with all their legs in the air! Watch how your dog sleeps and get him appropriate beds. And remember, if you crate your dog, you’re depriving him of the opportunity to follow his natural instinct to move around.
Dogs are also social sleepers. Dogs are better able to relax and switch off if they are sleeping in a group- human and/or canine. You might hear people say that allowing your dog to sleep on your bed will allow them to think that they’re the pack leader and lead to behavioural problems. Thankfully, these theories have been discredited (for more information, see my post on dogs and dominance). Your dog will most likely want to sleep on your bed because:
- it’s comfortable;
- It smells of you;
- dogs like sleeping up high- it makes them feel safer!
Both of my dogs sleep in my room, (one on my bed) because that’s where they’ve chosen to be, and because I like having them there. I know that not everyone wants a dog in their room, but if that’s the case, it’s best to slowly get your dog used to sleeping on their own. If you bring home a puppy, having them sleep with you for their first few weeks makes it much easier for them to let you know when they need the toilet, if they’re cold etc. More importantly, it helps them feel safe after the huge and no doubt confusing change in their lives. And it will help ensure you get sleep too! Whenever people tell me that their puppies are crying at night or waking them up early in the morning, I always recommend them having the puppy in their room- and I’m yet to have anyone tell me it hasn’t made a huge difference. You can then begin to gradually move their sleeping area out of your room if you want to, step by step. Gradually building the barriers between you and your dog at night time can be aided by the use of child gates. Making sure your dog is getting quality sleep is crucial to his well-being, so get this one right, and you’re making a good start to meeting one of your dog’s important physiological requirements!