Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

Sleep is a crucial part of our dog’s day – for all ages of dogs but even more so for puppies as sleep help their development and growth progression as well as helping the learning process.

We see our dogs sleeping every day from usual overnight deep sleep to afternoon naps and it is something that often give us joy to watch, and hear for our fellow snoring dog owners out there!! However sleeping isn’t just something to fill the time or to make us smile!!

Importance of Proper Sleep for Dogs:

Most dog owners have heard the saying ‘Let Sleeping Dogs Lie’. Do you know it comes from as far back as Chaucer who wrote in one of his tales “It is nought good a sleeping hound to wake.”

Basically, don’t disturb your dog when sleeping or napping!

Ripley loves her naps!

Physical Health – Dog’s bodies work hard while asleep and this is when repair and healing is taking place. This is essential for all dogs not just dogs who have been unwell or had surgery, but every dog will have had a little general wear and tear on the body during activity. During sleep every part of the body can focus more on repair and is why support like Streamz Collars etc are used overnight to boost the bodies’ natural healing.

Mental Health – Not only is the body healing but sleep promotes mental functions too such memory and problem solving. While dogs are sleeping there is a huge amount of processing taking place while information is sorted and stored for memory, learning, emotions etc.

Energy Generation – Just like our phones our dogs are recharging during sleep! Once the body has worked on healing and repair it focuses on topping up energy levels to ensure dogs can enjoy doing fun things the next day!

Emotions and Linked Behaviours – Having plenty of sleep helps dogs feel less stressed, frustrated or anxious as they are able to think a little more clearly. Having sleep before an exciting day will help dogs observe and understand situations before responding which in turn can help reduce or prevent behaviours such as barking at noises, lunging at other dogs in excitement or mouthing excessively due to being tired!

Puppy Development – Puppies require good quality sleep for proper growth and development. If it looks like your puppy is taller after a good night’s sleep then your eyes are not deceiving you! Puppies get a huge amount of growing down during sleep so literally get up taller, longer or stronger! Puppies are also processing everything from the day before such as new experiences, play time, meeting people and dogs, what they received praise for etc.

Pain Management: As mentioned above, the body heals itself during sleep, so when dogs have health conditions, have been unwell, or have had surgery the sleeping becomes an essential part of the healing, repairing etc. Tissues are rejuvenated, muscles get to rest before carrying on their support during the day, wounds can repair quicker during sleep as energy isn’t being used for movement or emotion!

Regulating Metabolism and Digestion – Having good sleep helps dogs’ metabolism work properly which in turn helps with weight management (although doesn’t stop dogs becoming obese if they have access to extra treats!!!). It’s also a time when digestion is taking place but more slowly than when awake – however having somewhere comfortable will help digestion work better!

Learning Is More Achievable – Whether actively doing a training session or learning about experiences, dogs will learn better, retain information etc when they have had a good amount of sleep. This may mean some dogs learn better earlier in the day following a good night’s sleep while others do better later in the day after some good quality naps!!

How Naps Help Dogs, Puppies and Super Seniors:

Adding to full sleep, Dogs are renowned for napping during the day. Naps help give Dogs of all ages a boost of energy which helps them continue through the day with activity as well as having refreshed cognitive skills such as memory and learning. During full day training sessions we do encourage owners to give their dogs a space to rest – in the car, in a crate etc – so dogs can have a quick nap if needed ready to continue learning later in the day!

For Puppies these regular naps will be enabling even more physical and mental growth to take place. It’s possible to see a real growth spurt after an afternoon nap or for a puppy to wake from a nap having learnt a skill you were teaching them earlier that day!

Senior Dogs may find that day to day activity can take it’s toll on joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles etc so naps here and there provide just enough recovery to be able to do more later in the day. Napping will also help older dogs remember daily routines, skills, problem solving which in turn helps keep the mind active and can help slow down the onset of canine dementia issues.

What Can Happen With Too Little Sleep?:

If dogs are unable to sleep or have naps, whether due to illness and pain or due to disturbances such as routine changes, moving house, family members working shifts etc, it can have a negative effect on their health.

Too little sleep with no chances to nap can lead to dogs feeling more stress and showing irritability or frustration (which then can be seen as unexpected aggression), as well as dogs finding it more difficult to learn something or understand direction.

As sleep and rest is instrumental in dogs having a strong immune system, having less sleep or not napping can also lead to increased health issues or preventing a basic health issue from being resolved.

If a dog has too little sleep over a longer time they may show bigger signs of ill health that affect physical movement and chronic illnesses, as well as seeing more behaviour problems such as frustration, lack of concentration and focus, not wanting people to stroke them or dogs to be close to them.

Merlin in his Teepee!

How Can We Help Ensure Our Dogs Sleep Well?:

Top Tips for a good rest for our dogs include:

  1. A quiet place for dogs to sleep or nap! This may be a cosy corner of the main living area in the home where your dog can be undisturbed but still aware of where people are. Ideally a restful area isn’t in a thoroughfares where people are passing by to get to another room, or using the front door etc. Also not right under the TV where there are constant changes of sound, or next to where phones are charging or landline is kept as phones ringing (when not muted) aren’t very relaxing!!
  2. Ensuring your dog has a comfortable bed! Comfortable will depend on each dog; some prefer a rounded bed to curl up inside, others like to stretch out. Some dogs like a fluffy bed and others like cooler surfaces like waterproof beds. My own dogs like their crates for a nap as well as terrier tunnel beds with other dogs are happy on the floor or outside on the grass! Ensuring you provide your dog with something they will enjoy and if you buy them a bed you feel they will love by they prefer their old bed, consider seeing if you can return the new bed or selling / changing with another dog owner who has a nearly bed bed your dog does like rather than binning the old bed and only giving your dog the new one they are not keen on! (Note; did you know dogs can have pain and discomfort from using a shaped bed every day and night over a long period as the bed determines the shape the dog lays in. If your dog doesn’t like a new bed it really can be the shape!)
  3. If your dog struggles to settle, perhaps you have moved house recently, are on holiday or visiting someone, or perhaps your dog is nervous or worried you can help them feel more relaxed and comfortable with scent based holistic therapies such as Pet Remedy, which comes as a spray, wipe and room diffuser and is made of several types of natural scent to help lower anxiety and allow dogs to feel calm and settled. Pet Remedy can be found at https://petremedy.co.uk/
  4. Help your dog to use excess energy so they are able to rest better! If they are a little restless you could invite your dog to play a game with you, hide some treats and help your dog find them, or even teach your dog a couple of fun tricks which will also get their brain working and help them nap!
  5. Give your dog a gentle massage or sit with them to stroke them for a little while – dogs that enjoy being touched will often find being stroked calming and this can help them drift off to sleep. There are many ways to give dogs a gentle massage that isn’t intended to work muscles etc and if you look up Galen Myotherapy there are some foundation massages that dog owners can do themselves and it not only helps their dog feel calm but helps build the bond between dog and owner too!
Foundation Galen Myotherapy massage

As today is National Napping Day why not set time aside to have a nap with your dog!!!

Written by Joe Nutkins, Accredited Dog Trainer and Certified Professional Canine Fitness Trainer.

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