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What Do You Really Know About Your Dog's Sleeping Behaviors?

Karen Soukiasian on

Published in Cats & Dogs News

There is something about watching your dog sleep that is comforting and sometimes even comical. Do you know, several of your dog's sleep behaviors are similar to ours and others are inherent?

The average dog sleeps 12 - 13 hours per day. It may not seem that way, but puppies snooze even longer! That is almost half their life! Dogs are skillful at catching a few winks whenever they can. That form of napping is similar to Stage 1 sleep, where they are sleeping, but just barely.

Sleep is a vital part of the health, physical and emotional well-being of your dog's life. It is during sleep that puppies grow, wounds heal and energy is conserved and stored for what lies ahead.

Companion dogs kept indoors, sleep longer and deeper than dogs kept outdoors and working dogs. Dogs kept outdoors and working dogs try to slip in an extra nap here or there, but rarely relax enough to reach a healthy, deep, restful sleep.

Do Dogs Dream?

It appears dogs follow similar stages of sleep as humans. Stage 1, is barely sleeping. This is where most outdoor dogs, wild dogs and working dogs sleep. At Stage 2, the animal's blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, and body temperatures gradually lower. Stage 3 is a transitional state between light and deep sleep. Stage 4 is the slow wave stage where usually the dog is now oblivious to their surroundings. If awakened suddenly, they often appear confused. Stag 5 is where the fun begins! This is the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) phase of sleep. Here, their body relaxes, but their brain remains active. At this stage, your dog's eyes roll under the lids and they slowly ease into those dreams we find so amusing. They whimper, growl, make lapping and eating sounds and motions, whine, bark, and/or appear to be chasing something!


Most indoor dogs spend up to 12% of their sleeping time in REM. Puppies spend a greater percentage of time in REM. During this stage, it is thought puppies process and merge what they are learning every day, into behaviors they will follow.

Interestingly, smaller dogs tend to dream more than their larger cousins.

Shaking during sleep can be perfectly normal for the average dog. Dogs that have suffered trauma and puppies removed from their mom too soon, may also shake in their sleep. Shaking could also be an indicator of health problems in dogs, such as hypothyroidism, pain, chills, and gastrointestinal discomfort.

If your dog is shaking while sleeping, calmly call their name and gently pet or touch them, to reassure them that everything is OK. Do not shake them awake! It is not known, if dogs have nightmares, but given the fact many rescues and dogs that have suffered severe physical and emotional trauma shake in their sleep, a little assurance goes a long way.


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