If you’re like most people, you might not realize that dogs actually need and benefit from nap time. In fact, some experts say that napping can help improve your dog’s health and well-being. It also helps regulate body temperature and reduces anxiety, making it a good option for pets with trouble sleeping at night.
Your pooch may already be aware of all this. But if he or she needs convincing, consider how many hours a day your furry friend sleeps. The average adult dog gets between 10 and 12 hours of shut-eye each night. If your pup isn’t snoozing away those hours, there could be something wrong.
We’ve all seen our dogs curl up on couches, chairs, and beds after an exhausting day. We know these moments as comforting reminders of home and family. And we probably don’t give it another thought when our canine companions get down for a power nap. After all, they should be happy just to be together. So what exactly happens during that little slumber party? How long does a dog nap typically last? What happens while they’re asleep? And can you let them have short breaks? Read ahead to find out.
How Long Does a Dog Nap Usually Last?
A typical nap lasts about 30 minutes to an hour, although some dogs take longer than others. During this time, muscles relax, blood pressure drops and body temperature evens out. This means that your pet will wake to feel rested instead of groggy.
Napping is also beneficial because it gives dogs a chance to recuperate from the physical activity of walking, running, and playing. Dogs who spend too much time awake can suffer “weariness,” which makes them more prone to accidents such as chewing shoes, digging holes, or getting into garbage cans.
As for how often your dog takes naps, there really aren’t hard-and-fast rules. Some owners swear by daily nap schedules, while others prefer weekly rests. Either way, it’s important to keep tabs on your pet’s ability to stay alert throughout the day. If your dog has trouble staying focused or feels tired, then its nap schedule may need adjusting.
During his nap, your dog’s eyes may close completely, but he’ll still register light cues. For example, if you step on his tail, he’ll lift his head to see what happened. His eyes may remain closed, however. When your dog wakes up from his nap, he’ll yawn and stretch. He’ll also likely want to return to bed right away. Now that you understand how long dogs nap and how they react to being woken up, read on to learn what goes on inside the heads of sleeping pups.
What Happens During a Dog’s Nap?
Since dogs take naps every day, it’s easy to forget that they experience different things during their downtime. Just like we humans, dogs dream. While dreaming, dogs’ bodies release hormones that affect mood and behavior. These chemicals include endorphins, dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin.
Endorphins promote relaxation, whereas dopamine and oxytocin make us feel affectionate toward one another. Serotonin regulates appetite, memory formation, and mood. All of these hormones work together to create a calm, relaxed state of mind, which can result in better control over eating habits and less barking.
In addition to dreams, dogs also hear sounds around them while they sleep. Since dogs’ ears are smaller than ours’, hearing plays a bigger part in their lives. The hearing provides additional clues to help direct your pet’s attention to where it’s needed most. A dog’s sense of smell is also heightened during sleep, giving him a greater awareness of his surroundings.
So what happens to your dog’s brain when he’s sleeping? Scientists have studied the effects of sleep deprivation on animals and humans since the 1920s. One study showed that rats deprived of sleep became irritable and anxious and had lower levels of dopamine. Another study found that mice without enough sleep were more susceptible to seizures. Humans have been shown to have lowered cognitive functioning after lack of sleep, particularly in areas related to learning, memory, and motor skills.
While scientists continue to explore the relationship between sleep and mental function, studies show that dogs rely heavily on sleep to maintain healthy lifestyles. To learn more about whether your dog needs to nap, read on. If your dog seems restless before taking his afternoon nap, try placing a blanket or pillow over him.
You may even want to use a timer to cue him to start sleeping. As soon as your dog lies down and closes his eyes, set the alarm. When the time is up, gently shake him and encourage him to stand up. Once your dog is standing, reward him with treats or praise. Repeat this exercise about three times per day until your dog learns to fall asleep on command.
When Is it Ok for Your Pet to Skip a Nap?
Napping is great for both your dog and your wallet. Not only does your pet reap the benefits of a rejuvenated spirit and sharpened senses, but it also saves money on expensive vet bills. According to the ASPCA, veterinary care costs run anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 annually for simple illnesses and injuries, while more serious problems require an extra $25,000. That’s a lot of dough!
But there are times when your dog doesn’t need a nap. Make sure your pet stays alert and active throughout the day. Also, make sure your dog isn’t suffering from any medical conditions that interfere with normal sleep patterns. Your veterinarian can advise you on whether or not your pet needs a break from napping.
Although your dog enjoys plenty of quality time in front of the television, napping shouldn’t replace playtime. Dogs should exercise regularly, especially if they haven’t gotten enough activity lately. They should also have access to outdoor spaces and places where they can roam free. Outdoor space allows dogs to relieve themselves and sniff around for interesting scents.
If you live in an apartment or house, provide your pet with toys that resemble natural objects such as sticks, leaves, and grasses. You can also buy specially designed chew toys made for dogs. Chewing stimulates saliva production, which keeps teeth clean and gums healthy.
Many veterinarians recommend using melatonin supplements to treat insomnia in cats and dogs. Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally by the pineal gland. It’s normally present during dark periods. Cats and dogs can receive injections of synthetic melatonin to mimic nighttime. However, since melatonin affects other hormonal systems, it should be used sparingly and monitored closely by your vet.