Dogs Need Sleep Too: How to Help Your Guests Get the Rest They Need
By Samantha Kent
People aren’t the only ones who need a good night’s rest. Sleep plays an important, restorative role for dogs too.
The average adult dog sleeps twelve to fourteen hours per day, but depending on the breed, size and activity level, they may need up to eighteen hours. Dogs don’t sleep in long seven to eight hour stretches like we do. Their sleep cycles are shorter, which makes it important for them to nap throughout the day.
Without enough sleep, dogs are prone to many of the same sleep–deprived changes as people, like anxiety, increased stress and aggression, and decreased energy levels. Lack of sleep magnifies a dog’s response to stimulation. At a boarding facility, these changes and behaviors can be distressing for the dog, and potentially dangerous for employees and other boarders. However, there are ways to help your canine clients get the rest they need when they’re away from home.
Comfortable, Safe Primary Enclosure
Each dog needs its own space where they are “safe” from interruption. Because dogs have such a short sleep cycle (only about sixteen minutes), disruptions are more likely to bring them out of the deep sleep stages. These sleep stages are essential for keeping stress and anxiety down because they stabilize moods.
Think back to a time when you were awakened from a deep sleep. Did you feel disoriented and confused? Dogs experience those same sensations. However, the fear and disorientation they experience are more likely to manifest themselves as increased stress, anxiety and aggression.
Primary enclosures should provide enough space for dogs of all sizes to comfortably stand up and lie down. While most boarding facilities (and private homes, for that matter) aren’t completely free of distractions and interruptions, primary enclosures should provide an area safe from other animals. You may want to consider having a white noise machine or fan blowing to drown out barking and other potentially frightening sounds.
Bedding Guidelines that Promote Animal Comfort
Bedding can make all the difference in a dog’s comfort and peace of mind. Policies that either allow or require owners to bring bedding from home open the doors to better sleep. Despite the fact that the dog is somewhere new, if he has the smells and comforts of home, it will be easier for him to relax. Even a small toy or comfort item from home that’s kept only in the primary enclosure can make relaxation easier for a dog.
Plenty of Exercise
Whether the exercise area is indoors or out, well–exercised dogs sleep better. However, you want to limit physical stimulation within two hours of lights out. Too much exercise close to bedtime may cause excessive thirst and drinking, which can disrupt sleep during the night.
Establish a Daily Routine
Dogs quickly adapt to a consistent routine and a routine brings predictability to their new surroundings. Dogs don’t get their sleep all at once so make sure to include plenty of rest periods. And, if a dog is sleeping when he’s supposed to be doing another activity, let the sleeping dog lie.
Better Sleep Means Happier Dogs
A safe place to sleep is as important to a dog’s health as his food and exercise. It’s also vital for socialization while away from home. With facilities and policies that promote healthy sleep, you’ll be set for happy, well–rested boarders.
Samantha Kent is a researcher for SleepHelp.org. Her favorite writing topic is how getting enough sleep can improve your life. Currently residing in Boise, Idaho, she sleeps in a California King bed, often with a cat on her face.