Puppies & Sleep - Everything You Need to Know about When, Why, and How Much Sleep They Need

Pet Care & Safety
dachshund sleeping on rug

As with human babies, puppies need quite a bit more sleep than adult dogs. Very young puppies (less than 2 weeks old) sleep around 90% of the time. That’s almost 22 hours out of a 24-hour period. As a veterinarian, I have had more than one little pup fall asleep on the exam table during a puppy checkup.

As puppies get older, they sleep less. The average 4-month-old puppy sleeps a little over 11 hours in a 24-hour period, and the average adult sleeps 10-11 hours in a 24-hour period. While the total amount of sleep for older puppies and adults seems roughly the same, keep in mind that naps are a bigger portion of a puppy’s sleep schedule. Adult dogs tend to sleep longer at night, with short naps during the day, whereas puppies tend to nap more and for longer periods during the day and sleep less at night.

How much and when do puppies sleep?

Napping during the day is near constant in puppies less than 2 weeks of age and averages around 3.5 hours spread out in multiple naps throughout the day in older puppies (i.e. those around 4 months of age). Adult dogs may nap for up to 3 hours total during the day, depending on their age and activity level. More frequent nap times in puppies are likely caused by the hard work of growing, learning new skills, and adapting to the life of a well-cared-for and loved family dog. The more excitement and stimulation a puppy experiences, the more sleep he might need. It’s not uncommon for a puppy to fall asleep right after playing, eating, or visiting with other people and animals.

How do I help my puppy sleep through the night?

When trying to help a pup sleep through the night, remember that bathroom habits are a big factor in when and how often he wakes up. By 4-5 months, most puppies are able to get a good night’s sleep without having to use the bathroom. Until then, puppies may wake up with an urge to go out more than once a night. To encourage sleeping through the night as much as possible, consider the following:

  • Provide a comfortable, sleep-friendly environment. A crate or sleeping area that is kept in a quiet region of the house is a great place for sleep as it will minimize distractions that might keep your pup from sleeping well. Soothing music or white noise may also be helpful.

  • Offer a puppy-safe chew toy to snuggle with and bedding that is not easily torn up. In very young puppies, a warm water bottle wrapped in a towel can mimic snuggling with littermates.

  • Make sure the puppy gets plenty of activity and stimulation throughout the day to help encourage resting at night. This includes playing with toys, teaching simple commands, and introducing him to new things. Be aware that too much activity can be harmful- young puppies are not ready for the types of exercise an adult can do. Further, do not prevent your pup from napping during the day altogether- frequent rest is needed to help him grow and adapt to his environment. When he is tired, let him sleep, but encourage him to play and learn when he is awake.

  • Offer a good quality puppy diet and ensure your pup is eating well. Many new puppy parents wonder how often they should feed their puppies. Puppies up to 3 months of age usually need to eat 3-4 times a day. By 3-6 months of age, they only need 2-3 meals a day.

  • Don’t encourage bad habits. If your puppy wakes up at night, giving in to too much cuddling, chatting, and playing might teach your puppy that waking up a lot is fun. Try to keep interactions to a minimum if your pup won’t sleep. If he needs a potty break, take him outside, let him do his “business,” and put him quickly back to bed. Avoid checking on him too often as he may see this as an opportunity to play.

  • Establish a routine or schedule. Consistency in the environment helps puppies develop their own inner schedule and keeps them more comfortable in their environment.

Get Your Puppy on a Consistent Schedule

Although puppies thrive on consistency, keep in mind that they won’t follow a strict day-to-day schedule. A cycle of Sleep - Eat - Play with regular bathroom or potty breaks in between tends to be the most common and easiest-to-follow schedule:

  • Sleep - Wake up from evening bedtime or nap

  • Potty break

  • Eat - Feed a meal or snack

  • Another potty break - 20-30 minutes after eating

  • Play - This can be teaching a new trick, meeting new people or pets, exploring his environment, or playing with a toy; encourage playing for at least 30 minutes, although older puppies may be able to play for an hour or more

  • Sleep (Naptime) - While you can’t make a puppy sleep, you can put him in his kennel or a quiet environment to encourage rest; puppies can nap for as little as 20 minutes or as long as 2 hours; just let him rest and wake up when he is ready

  • Sleep (Evening bedtime) - If your pup is not yet sleeping through the night, avoid playing or offering meals between bathroom breaks to hopefully encourage sleeping through the night

Sleep Patterns Vary

Sleeping patterns in dogs, especially those less than 12 months of age, vary quite a bit. Few veterinary studies have been done on sleeping habits of dogs to help us fully understand why that is. While veterinarians have a general understanding of average sleep times (often based on pet owner reports), each individual dog’s sleep pattern can be quite different from one dog to another’s and can change from day-to-day. What veterinary scientists do know is that changes in sleep patterns and amount of sleep a dog or puppy gets influences them while awake affects how comfortable they are in their environment and daily activities. In other words, if dogs/puppies don’t get enough sleep, they may struggle to adapt well to their surroundings, poorly affecting how they learn and grow.

Quirky (and often cute) Sleeping Habits in Puppies

  • Sleep Position. Studies on sleep habits have shown that the majority of dogs prefer to sleep stretched out while laying on their sides or curled up; however, a large number of dogs also prefer sleeping on their backs (i.e. with their legs splayed out or curled up on their tummies) or with their heads propped up (e.g. on a pillow).

  • Dreaming. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep in people also happens in dogs. REM is the phase of sleep in which dreaming occurs. In dogs, REM sleep looks more like twitching or running in place. Very intense movement can even look similar to seizures! What kind of rabbits is Fluffy chasing in these dreams?

  • Snoring. Yep. Some dogs snore. Breeds most commonly reported to snore when sleeping are the pug, bulldog breeds, Clumber spaniel, Labrador retriever, English cocker spaniel, border collie, and Cavalier King Charles spaniel. Usually snoring is not a big deal. Sleep apnea is fortunately, not very common in dogs.