A dog trainer in Minnesota has reported that she is seeing an increase in behavioral issues stemming from a lack of sleep in her young canine clients. One culprit? The pups’ owners, including children, being home more often in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Beginning a year ago, more and more Americans have been working from home. At the same time, many children began homeschooling due to school closures or because they or their family members are at high risk of serious disease from SARS-CoV-2, which is the virus responsible for COVID-19. Even now that vaccination rates are rising and many schools and companies are beginning to open up again, some people will continue working or schooling at home now and into the future.
While dogs are benefiting in the sense that they get to spend more time with their owners, do not suffer from separation anxiety each day when their humans go off to work and school, and are getting more exercise and attention than ever before, some of them are suffering from a lack of sleep that they would normally get during the day when their people were not home. And just as sleep deprivation can negatively affect humans, it can also cause negative effects in dogs.
Parents of young children will often make sure that their little ones get plenty of sleep because they know the behavioral challenges that go along with a toddler or preschooler who is tired. Many dog owners don’t realize that puppies and young dogs have the same issues when it comes to not getting enough Zs.
Both puppies and elderly dogs require a lot of rest or sleep. Adult dogs get between 12 and 14 hours of sleep per day, with larger breeds often sleeping more. Puppies need up to 20 hours of sleep per day, and senior dogs get about the same amount of sleep as adult dogs, but they often require more rest periods in between activities. A 2020 study showed that when dogs have the option to spend time with people or sleep, however, many will elect to spend time with people. When their humans are home more, then, it stands to reason that dogs are sleeping less than they would normally.
Not getting enough REM sleep can cause differences in the way that a dog processes emotions. A study from 2020 has shown that dogs lose some of their ability to recognize human emotions when they aren’t able to get enough REM sleep. Dogs who do not get enough sleep might not cycle through all of the sleep cycles, leaving them REM sleep-deficient.
In humans, not getting enough REM sleep can cause higher levels of stress as well as reduced performance levels. It can also lead to pain and a reduced threshold to pain tolerance. In dogs, that lack of sleep can cause behavioral issues such as whining, crying, and even aggression. Sleep deprivation can increase their anxiety and stress levels, leading to stress behaviors like barking, chewing, and even creating lick sores on their legs or other body parts. A lack of sleep can even interfere with immune function, leaving your dog susceptible to infections and other illnesses.
What’s a dog owner to do if they are home and their pup is not sleeping well? First, find a quiet room that your dog can retire to and snooze away part of the day. A crate is another good option. Teach your dog that this area is for him to relax. A blanket, a stuffed animal, or even an old t-shirt that smells like one of the family members can soothe your dog to sleep. If he will not go to the room or crate himself, you can enforce naptime by putting him in there once he’s comfortable with the idea.
Creating a good routine is another good way to make sure that your dog is sleeping enough. Each day, try to have set mealtimes, naptimes, and playtimes. Ensure that your dog is getting enough exercise by going for one or two long walks per day. You can also take your dog out to play, preferably in a fenced yard where he can run safely. A dog should get at least a half-hour of running or hard playing in each day, and puppies might need more. Take the cues from your dog.
If, despite your best efforts, your dog is still not getting enough sleep or you’re not seeing improvements in his behavior once you implement a good routine, talk to your veterinarian about ways to help him settle down and get the rest that he needs.
Featured Image Courtesy: Pixabay.