Dogs tend to sleep quite a lot, as we all know. But why do they wake up so easily? Do all dogs do this? Is it bad to wake them up? Do dogs need time to wake up, like some of us before we’ve had our morning coffee? How can we make sure our beloved dogs are getting the sleep they need? And how much is too much? Here’s everything you’ll want to know.
So, why do dogs wake up so easily? Dogs wake up so easily due to genetic and evolutionary purposes. Dogs have evolved to wake quickly in order to be ready to deal with any threats they may suddenly encounter. In other words, dogs have needed to be lighter sleepers. And while dogs sleep more hours than people, they spend much less time in a deep sleep.
It all makes sense, really.
Dogs have been human guardians for centuries, after all.
And just because they are now domesticated and live entirely different, more prosperous lives, their biology remains largely intact.
With this in mind, let us continue to explore this fascinating and amazing ability for dogs to instantaneously wake.
Do All Dogs Wake Up Easily?
The majority of healthy dogs will wake up easily; the only exception being older dogs and those in ill-health.
Is It Common For Dogs To Wake Up Easily?
It is very common for all dogs to wake up easily, no matter what their breed. Dogs have shorter sleep cycles than humans do, and they tend to nap rather than sleep deeply.
Dogs are more aware of sounds and motion than we are, even when they’re awake.
So it’s normal that dogs will wake more easily, especially given that they spend less time in deep REM sleep.
When Dogs Don’t Wake Up Easily
If you find your dog doesn’t wake up easily, there could be several causes, most of which are reasons to take your dog to the vet.
Your Dog Is Getting Older
As your dog ages, his senses will naturally be less sharp. He will be less alert overall and won’t wake up as quickly as when he was younger.
If you notice a sudden difficulty in waking your dog, this could be a medical emergency, so contact your vet right away.
Your Dog Has A Health Condition
Several health conditions can cause your dog to be more drowsy and, therefore, less likely to wake up easily.
- Dementia. The quality of many older dogs’ sleep declines as they age, particularly if they suffer from the equivalent of dementia known as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD).
- Anxiety. Some older dogs become more anxious, affecting their sleep and making the need for routines even more essential.
- Hypothyroidism. One of the symptoms of a thyroid gland that is no longer doing its job is increased lethargy.
- Frequent Urinating. Needing the toilet more often (common in older humans as well as dogs) can mean disturbed sleep.
- Arthritis. Joint pain can make sleeping difficult for older dogs.
Is It Bad To Wake Dogs Up?
It is not a good idea to wake dogs up: there’s a reason behind the expression ‘let sleeping dogs lie.’
Even if your pet is shaking or whimpering in his sleep, let him sleep.
Have you ever been woken up when you were in the middle of a dream and then felt disoriented?
Dogs experience this too, but sudden waking can have serious consequences for them.
If you wake your dog and he happens to be in the middle of a nightmare, or worse a night terror, you could get an unintended bite.
Dogs dream to process what they’ve experienced during the day, and like us, they can find it difficult to be woken without having resolved or finished their dream.
If you see your pet is having a bad dream, the best practice is to wait till your dog wakes up and then offer comfort and cuddles.
Do Dogs Need Time to Wake Up?
Dogs don’t need time to wake up, as they are light sleepers: they only spend about ten percent of their total sleeping time in REM sleep.
Unlike humans, dogs will awaken quickly and are alert instantly.
How Long Do Dogs Sleep Without Waking Up?
Dogs tend to sleep for more than 8 hours per day, although this is often broken up into different sleep periods throughout the day and night. How long each sleeping period lasts depends on a dogs age, health status, whether they are disturbed and time of day/night.
The exact amount of time your dog will sleep without waking primarily depend on their age.
So let us continue to explore this below.
Puppies need more sleep than adult dogs to help them absorb nutrients they’ve taken in during the day, which enable them to grow.
Most young puppies will sleep on average from 18 to 20 hours a day.
Let your puppy sleep – he needs it! Puppies typically seem to play, eat, and sleep, which is just as it should be.
Your puppy will sleep less per day as he gets older, and his sleep pattern will change, too.
Also just be mindful that their sleeping behaviors may differ somewhat too. They breathe very quickly, for instance.
If you don’t wake them up, most adult dogs will sleep anywhere from 8 to 13.5 hours a day, with the average being 10 to 13 hours.
You will probably find that your dog wakes up early and is ready to start the day before you are.
When we’re ready for a lunch break, we may see our dogs sleeping and wonder how long they’ve been asleep.
The truth is that your dog is probably recharging himself with a ‘power nap.’
His sleep will be lighter, which is why you may find him waking up if you make even the slightest noise.
Once your dog is more than 5 years old, they are considered to be senior.
Dog years differ from human years: everything goes faster, especially once they’re older. With each passing year, senior dogs age the equivalent of 5 human years.
Senior dogs will sleep more than younger dogs, averaging about 16 to 18 hours a day.
Your dog will most likely be resting most of the time rather than sleeping, however. He is usually recharging his batteries which wear out faster with age.
Some senior dogs may appear to sleep all day which is perfectly normal. Other dogs may sleep as much as they did when young adults but may spend more time sitting and resting quietly.
Each dog is different, so the exact number of hours spent sleeping will vary depending on the dog’s size, health, and breed.
Some Differences According To Breed
There are some breeds that do tend to sleep more than others.
Small dog breeds will tend to sleep for 14 to 16 hours a day.
Medium-sized dog breeds will sleep slightly less: between 10 to 14 hours a day on average.
Large dog breeds need the most amount of sleep. These dogs will usually sleep for 14 to 18 hours a day.
This is why some people call larger breeds ‘mat dogs’ as they tend to sleep for longer periods.
The Most Active Dog Breeds
Dog breeds who tend to spend less time sleeping and more time running around include:
- Golden Retrievers
- Lagotto Romagnolos
- Airedale Terriers
- Australian Terriers
The Least Active Dog Breeds
Dog breeds who tend to sleep more than others include:
- French Bulldogs
- Chow Chows
- Basset Hounds
- Saint Bernards
- Shih Tzus
- Lhasa Apsos
No matter what breed of dog you have, though, their sleeping patterns will depend on their daily routine, their health, and their diet.
How To Ensure Your Dog Gets the Sleep They Need
Your dog’s sleeping pattern can be affected by many things, so here’s what you can do to ensure your dog gets the sleep he needs.
Keep To A Routine
Any kind of disturbances in your dog’s routine can affect his sleeping pattern, so stick to a routine as much as possible.
Like humans, dogs can struggle to sleep well if they are suffering from stress or anxiety.
Dogs are social sleepers, which means they will adapt to your sleep cycle: this is why your dog will often come and lay down next to you if you are sleeping or resting.
Dogs are crepuscular animals, meaning that they’re most active at twilight and at dusk.
Make Sure You Give Your Dog Exercise
Ensure your dog is getting the exercise he needs. Check with your vet or a local dog trainer if you aren’t sure how much your dog needs to exercise.
Different breeds have very different needs: some dogs need 2 hours a day of intense sport, whereas other breeds are fine with half an hour of a brisk daily walk.
Working dog breeds or energetic dogs need to work off their pent-up energy through games and exercise.
Watch Your Dog’s Health
Some health issues can cause sleep disturbances, so if you suspect your dog isn’t getting enough sleep, check with your vet that all is well.
Some health problems such as kidney disease requiring frequent trips to the toilet or itching from recent injuries or fleas can affect the quality of your dog’s sleep.
Provide A Comfy Bed
Sometimes your dog simply needs a more comfortable sleeping place. You could try:
- Letting your dog have a dog bed in a special corner
- Allowing your dog to sleep with you (our beds are always comfy for them!)
- Setting sleeping times for your dog (a bedtime routine)
- Feeding your dog at set times each day
- Providing quiet to help avoid disturbances
Dogs are able to wake up easily due to their genetic hardwiring. There was an evolutionary advantage to this.
And while times and circumstances have changed dramatically, dogs are driven by the same genes that are responsible for this trait and tendency.
So if you notice your dog waking up sharply, consider it normal.
In fact, if they don’t wake up as sprightly as other dogs or how they once did, it could be a sign of age or a medical condition.
And if that’s the case, it may be worth exploring, perhaps contacting a vet.
Otherwise, accept it as a quirk of your dog. It’s just how they are.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.