Let sleeping dogs lie…

by 9 Jun, 2022

Sleep

We all know that for humans, sleep plays a vital role in both physical and psychological health and wellbeing, and that sleep deficits are associated with a wide array of physical and mental health problems. Studies have found that in otherwise healthy adult humans, the short-term consequences of sleep disruption include increased stress, low mood, memory and performance deficits, and a bias towards negative affective states. Behavioural problems and a decline in cognitive functioning are also associated with sleep disruption in children.

Well, insufficient sleep has similar effects on our dogs. Studies on shelter dogs show that increased sleep is significantly associated with increased welfare: a positive judgement bias, fewer repetitive behaviours, and increased time spent in a ‘relaxed’ state. Sufficient good-quality sleep has also been linked with a positive impact on dogs’ learning and memory, just like with humans. Naturally, therefore, a dog’s behaviour may be negatively affected if his sleep is disrupted, or if he’s simply not sleeping enough – we’re all a bit crankier when we don’t get enough sleep, right? In fact, adult dogs need between 14-16 hours of sleep a day for optimum physical and behavioural health.

As owners we often actively think about meeting our dogs’ exercise, enrichment, and nutrition needs, but we don’t necessarily give sleep and rest the same considerations. We may think that our dogs will just sleep when they’re tired, or we may be surprised by the amount of sleep they actually need. But sleep is important, especially for those dogs that may be a little more anxious or stressed. It’s a basic need, just like exercise, enrichment, or nutrition. Let’s be mindful about how much our dogs are sleeping, how much their sleep may be disturbed by external stimuli, and how we can make sure that they have a safe, quiet place to rest, away from constant disturbances and stimulation.

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