Sleeping Behaviors

Sleeping Behaviors - OrthoRug Australia

Once your dog is napping, you may get some clues about the quality of their sleep from their behavior.

Sleep is important for healing and repairing the body, and REM sleep, which is the deepest stage of sleep, is the most restorative.

Pay attention to these signs and behaviors to make sure your dog is getting the best sleep possible.

Circling and digging

It’s normal behavior for dogs to circle their sleeping area or even dig a bit before lying down for sleep.

This is behavior that comes from dogs’ wolf ancestors who would often trample down grass, leaves, or snow to get comfortable. They might also dig a hole that would help keep them warm in winter or cool in summer.

Dogs tend to circle a few times before lying down, but doing it too much or having trouble settling in might be a sign of pain, arthritis, or a neurological issue. Consult a vet if you notice excessive circling.

Light Dozing

A dog might doze off during the day if they’re bored or just getting a rest. This is not a very restful sleep, and your dog may just be waiting for something more interesting to come along.

Watch your pup’s ears and see if they perk up at any movement or unusual noise. This probably means that your dog is still fairly alert and looking for something worth getting up for.

Maybe it’s time to do something fun like go for a walk or play fetch.

Twitching, wagging, or soft barks

Dogs tend to move a bit during REM sleep when they are most restful. They could very well be acting out their dreams, but they are getting a nice, deep sleep.

Twitching, tail wagging, leg kicks, and occasional barks or grunts are common. This is a good time to let sleeping dogs lie, as this stage of sleep is very restorative and good for their health.

Movement during sleep is actually more frequent in puppies and senior dogs, and no one can really explain why.

A less common reason for twitching during sleep is if a dog is cold. The twitches are the body’s way of warming up. If your dog is cold, get a blanket or move them to a warmer sleeping place.

Like humans, dogs can have nightmares.

If your dog seems particularly agitated during sleep with more movement, barks, or whimpers than usual, you can try gently calming your pup down. Call their name softly and stroke their back or side. Use soothing tones.

Your pup may wake up or may just simply relax and continue on with a more pleasant dream after you’ve comforted them.


When twitching gets excessive, it could be a sign of a seizure that requires immediate medical attention.

Try calling your dog’s name and waking them up if you suspect that their movements are abnormal. If they wake, it may have just been an intense dream.

If they don’t respond to your calls, continue to shake, or feel stiff, get medical help right away.

You should pay attention to your dog’s usual sleeping habits so you know the difference and can tell when something is out of the ordinary.

Amount of sleep

Dogs sleep a lot more than people do. On average, dogs need about twelve to 14 hours of sleep a day.

Big dogs tend to take longer naps than smaller dogs, and puppies need about 18 to 19 hours of sleep a day, usually waking up for an hour after every few hours of sleep.

Take notice of your dog’s normal sleeping habits. If you notice a change in how long your dog sleeps, it could mean a lot of things from a dietary change to a thyroid problem.

If your dog is spending too much time napping, it could be time for a vet visit.