Getting a puppy is super exciting and dogs are only puppies for a short period of time, so you want to make the most of it. Sometimes the amount of sleep your pet requires can be alarming, so learning what is normal and what is abnormal for your pet is important. Changes in pets’ sleeping pattern can be a key indicator that there has been a change in their health status. But even normal healthy puppies do sometimes seem to sleep a lot!

Puppies are inquisitive: they love exploring and sniffing new things

Meeting new people and new dogs can be an extremely emotional experience which uses up a lot of energy. Some puppies will even lose control of their bladder due to the extreme excitement. After their short energetic bursts, they feel super tired and often fancy a snooze! This is totally normal and learning how your puppy acts when they are very excited is useful in case you need to warn those around you for behaviours such as jumping up, urinating or barking. 

So why is sleep so important?

Sleep is essential to ensure puppies grow optimally

Puppies are physically growing all the time which is hard work! Each and every bone is growing, and their soft tissues must grow at a similar rate to the bone to obtain balanced development. This requires energy to build up their strength, endurance and agility. Your puppy’s bones are constantly changing size, but also shape as the bone growth cells lay down new bone and then remodel it to make it stronger. Any weight bearing exercise such as walking or running will increase the rate at which these cells work. The central nervous system also has to work hard. It controls movement and helps in knowing where limbs are placed, coordinate an efficient start and stop to a movement. As these skills develop, you will notice your dog’s balance and coordination become much better. But in the meantime, it’s tiring work!

Digestion is most efficient when your puppy is relaxing

Puppies need to absorb as much from their food as possible in order to support their growth. Absorbing vitamins and minerals helps to support development. There are many different minerals, vitamins and macronutrients that will support your pet, which is why a healthy, balanced puppy food is important. A few are listed below. 

Calcium, phosphorous and vitamin C will help your pet’s bones to be built to the required strength. Vitamin A helps your pet’s vision, Vitamin B6 and B12 helps their blood cells to carry enough oxygen around the body. Proteins are required for building muscles and all of this growth needs energy from either fat or carbohydrates.

As well as their physical development, sleep is needed for mental development too

Many puppies learn from other dogs, which is why socialisation is important. They will learn to copy other dogs and inherit behaviour traits. Puppies also learn well from positive reinforcement training. This is when any behaviour we would like to see more of is rewarded, with treats for example. We learn the most per day when we are young… This is the same with dogs! During sleep, learned skills and information are thought to move from short term into long term memory.

Building a healthy immune system also takes a lot of energy

As soon as puppies are born, they have lots of maternal antibodies which they have received from their mother, and they get even more from her milk. These help your puppy in their early weeks by protecting them against common diseases. These antibodies wear off after a short while and your puppy will need to start producing their own antibodies and learning how to fight off disease-causing organisms using their own defence mechanisms. This too requires lots of energy, helping to explain why they enjoy sleeping so much.

If you compare puppies to babies, they are remarkably similar in the amount of rest they need. This is because all the growth and new emotional stimuli that they are exposed to are similar. Babies must learn lots, but they also have a longer lifespan, so they have a longer learning period. For puppies, because their lifespan is so much shorter in comparison to humans, they are on an intensive learning course initially!

What is a normal amount of sleep for a puppy?

Some breeds of dog will sleep more than others, so finding out the normal amount of sleep for your pet can be useful. Try not to compare your puppy to other puppies as there are many different factors, many of which are mentioned above, which will affect the amount your puppy sleeps. It is worth remembering that poorly dogs may sleep more often, so be aware if your puppy suddenly starts sleeping more. Nobody will know your pet as well as you do, and any behavioural changes could be vital signs that your pet needs some veterinary attention.

Because of many of the reasons mentioned above, puppies sleep a lot more than fully grown dogs. A normal young puppy will sleep for 18-20 hrs a day. This means they should be sleeping for more time than they do anything else! They must be left to sleep in a comfortable, quiet area without having their sleep pattern broken. Every puppy is different, and you must learn to allow your puppy to rest in order for them to develop correctly. 

The key question isn’t “How long are they sleeping”, but rather “Are they sleeping a normal amount for them?”. Any sudden changes in the amount they are sleeping should be addressed. If you are unsure about whether your puppy needs veterinary attention, call the veterinary practice you are registered with, and they will provide professional advice. 

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