5 Signs your dog needs more sleep

None of us are at our best when we’ve had a poor nights sleep, and our dogs are no different. The average dog needs around 16-18 hours of good quality rest a day. This is not just good for him physically, but his mental health depends on it to. If you’re not sure he’s getting enough, here’s 5 signs your dog might need more sleep!

1. He’s reactive!

When he hasn’t had enough sleep, he’ll be much quicker to react. Feeling tired activates the reactive part of the brain so he’ll generally be more alert and more responsive to triggers. It also prevents the part of the brain that controls fear responses (amygdala) from resting. When this happens he’ll frequently over-react to triggers.

a sleeping grey dog,
Reactivity and anxiety could be signs your dog needs more sleep

2. He’s anxious!

Sleep gives the body time to get rid of left over stress hormones. Without enough sleep those hormones can build up and so will his anxiety. Dopamine is also produced during sleep. This is often referred to as the happy hormone, and for good reason. Without both these processes he’ll be less happy and more stressed. Double whammy! If this continued over a period of time the impact would stack and he could end up in a downward spiral.

3. He appears slow to learn new behaviours!

During sleep, the brain processes that days experiences and memories and files them into long term memory. It also gets rid of stuff it no longer needs. This is essential for all dogs, but those recovering from trauma truly depend on it.

This process usually happens during the REM stage of sleep. You’ll know your dog has learned loads because he’ll whimper and become quite active during this stage of sleep. Many people say their dog is chasing rabbits in their sleep, but actually the brain is working really hard. A lack of this type of sleep will hinder that process meaning it will take longer for your dog to learn new behaviours, and forget old habits and bad experiences.

4. He’s grumpy!

Deep sleep allows the whole body to relax and restore energy. Breathing and heartrate slow down and the muscles are at their most relaxed. Without this stage of sleep he’ll not feel rested. Instead, he will feel tired and grumpy, and could suffer from mood swings throughout the day.

a small black dog face, he's yawning widely with his tongue sticking out
Make extra time for sleep as part of your behaviour training plan for better mental health!

5. His attention span is short!

Our final signs your dog needs more sleep is in his attention span. Dogs aren’t renown for their lengthy attention spans at the best of times. A lack of sleep can seriously affect the ability to focus, solve problems, and make good decisions. Better sleep makes it much easier to concentrate and ignore distractions. And ultimately, he’ll be better able to take on the new behaviours you are trying to teach him!

How to fix it?

If your dog isn’t getting enough sleep, make it a part of his routine to take frequent naps. A quiet, cosy space that he can call his own will help. Quiet time in the house will allow him the space to calm himself and take himself to bed for an hour or two. If he won’t go by himself, you might need to enforce nap time. Crate training will really help with this.

Cut down on stimulating games and activities. Giving his brain time to get bored and relax will allow him the space he needs to settle down for a sleep. Stimulating activities can leave his brain buzzing for long periods.

Failing that, it might help to go out more! Since lockdown we are spending more and more time with our dogs. This can be quite stimulating and can keep them alert. Many dogs take the opportunity to catch up on some proper sleep while they are home alone. But if they never get the house to themselves, this can be quite difficult.

Let sleeping dogs lie!

If he does get off to sleep, don’t wake him. There are four stages of sleep and he needs to go through them all multiple times to truly feel the benefits.

Diet can also play a part in a dogs ability to sleep. Make sure they are getting a balanced diet with few additives. Switching treats to more natural options like cooked chicken can help, and double check they aren’t being over fed – it’s easily done!

How can I help you with your dogs behaviour training?

Private Dog Behaviour Consultations are currently available in the Dundee area and beyond. If you are looking for help solving your dogs behaviour and training problems, then please get in touch!


I have more than 15 years experience solving all kinds of canine behaviour problems, at home and in rescue. A bad experience with a old fashioned dog trainer inspired me to learn more about dog behaviour, and it is because of him, that I wall never use harsh methods when training and rehabilitating dogs.

I work privately with clients in Dundee and the surrounding area with dogs of all ages, breeds and issues including anxiety, aggression and hyperactivity.

In 2009 I was proud to publish a book about dog behaviour and training. How to be the Perfect Pack Leader (by Caroline Jenkins) remains popular today and a follow up is expected very shortly.

Articles: 135

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *