Let Sleeping Dogs Lie...
It would seem, as old as this adage is, (circa 1380 if you really needed to know) it seems we've been ignoring the importance of sleep for our dogs.
I do mean ignoring, because we are well aware that lack of sleep for humans is at best, unpleasant, damages our ability to learn and ultimately, sleep deprivation kills, and we should be aware that a dogs brain and body is not dissimilar to our own in its basic needs.
One of the things I ask clients, particularly those seeing me for anxiety and stress related behaviours, is how their dog sleeps.
"Upside down with his legs in the air.." is not an uncommon answer, but when I ask how their dog dreams... often they don't know when they last saw that happening.
To dream, your dog needs to achieve REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, the same as we do - this means the dog is deeply asleep as opposed to the SWS (short wave sleep) where the dog is lightly sleeping and much more aware of his environment.
We strongly suspect that like us, dogs relive and replay events and actions during dreaming, and this helps them to de-stress, to rebalance the stress hormones and neurotransmitters in the body and brain, and process what they've experienced.
Dogs sleep a lot - much more than we do, puppies sleep up to 18 hours a day and for adult dogs between 10 and 14 hours a day is normal.
Just as with humans, a lack of proper, quality sleep, affects a dogs ability to process and de-stress, and of course, lots of stress will affect a dogs ability to sleep properly!
A lack of proper sleep for your dog can mean he doesn't learn properly, that training isn't successful, that he is reactive and easily irritated, that he does not tolerate sounds or touch well, that he has a lower capacity for tolerating pain.
So what does your dog need to facilitate good quality sleep?
- A bed that is large enough for him to lie flat out
- A bed that is comfortable, not too hard or too soft, not to warm, with a texture or surface material HE likes.
- A bed that is elevated off the floor. Elevated beds make a dog feel more secure and keep them up out of the way of draughts.
- A bed that is located near you or otherwise, somewhere he'd actively choose to sleep.
- A choice of beds
- An undisturbed location
This may in fact be your bed, and if that is the case and you and your dog are happy with that, thats fine. I am all for co-sleeping with dogs IF everyone is getting enough sleep. Otherwise a bed in your room is a great option and ideally, multiple beds around the home that the dog has free access to.
So what if you have all this and your dog still isn't sleeping properly, your dog is always sleeping very lightly, leaps up at the slightest disturbance, can't settle...
If that describes your dog it is likely there is some underlying stress - and that could be something serious like pain, serious fear or phobia, or it could simply be that his day to day life is quite stressful and simple tweaks to his routine can reduce that stress.
We'll talk about stress and management next week!
©Emma Judson 2018
Todays blog inspired by Dr Amber Batsons talk at the IAABC UK conference - the first time I have ever heard any other professional discuss the importance of sleep! If you want to know more or see Dr Batson speak check out her facebook page https://www.facebook.com/understandanimals/