When I reflect on how I felt during my dog’s puppy period, the answer is easy: I was very, very tired! Puppies sleep a lot, but they wake up frequently, including at night. So getting them into a predictable sleeping pattern is a top priority for most owners. A puppy sleep chart by age would really help with this, but unfortunately, very little research has been done to understand the ‘typical’ sleep patterns of dogs under 12 months old. Which means it’s nearly impossible to say ‘this is what your pup should be doing’ at any given stage. And since every puppy is an individual, perhaps that’s not even an approach we should be trying to take. However, there is a lot we do know about how to help a puppy settle into the sleeping routine which is right for them as quickly as possible. So here it is!
- How much do puppies sleep?
- The importance of good sleep
- Normal puppy sleeping patterns
- Puppy sleep chart by age
- Top tips for establishing a good sleeping routine
How much do puppies sleep?
Newborn puppies sleep for a whopping 18-20 hours a day. It’s not a very peaceful sleep though. Puppies under two weeks old have an activated sleep pattern, which means they continue to move and vocalize a lot, even when they’re napping!
From about 14 days old, puppies enter the transitional phase. This is an eventful window of development when their eyes open, their hearing starts to improve, they become more aware of their surroundings, and their mobility increases. During this period they also start to develop a pattern of distinct light and deep sleep cycles.
By 16 weeks old, the average amount of time puppies spend sleeping according to one large scale owner survey is 10.5 hours a day. And by the time they are 12 months old, this drops to just over 10 hours a day. It’s not entirely clear how accurate this figure is though. The problem with gathering data on how much puppies sleep is that owners don’t typically observe their pets 24 hours a day. Different people might also have inconsistent views on what really counts as being asleep. But, the alternative is to measure sleep patterns using sensory equipment in a laboratory. This would produce more accurate data, but in such different conditions to a home environment that the results still aren’t useful.
The importance of good sleep
Unfortunately, another side effect of not being able to measure puppy sleep accurately is that we also have very little research into how quantity or quality of sleep affects puppies’ wellbeing. However, studies in other species suggest that not getting enough sleep will make puppies more prone to over excitement, irritability, and worse health. And this is widely reflected in people’s real life experiences, and the wisdom of seasoned breeders and dog owners.
Furthermore of course, the better your puppy sleeps, the better you will sleep! Sleep deprivation is commonly acknowledged to be one of the most grueling and off-putting parts of the puppy rearing experience. Getting your new charge sleeping soundly on a predictable schedule goes a long way to improving your relationship with them.
Normal puppy sleeping patterns
When puppies are new born, they sleep nearly constantly, and wake up briefly but frequently to feed, pee and poop. Since their tiny tummies only hold a small amount of milk, they need to nurse regularly to consume enough calories overall, and to maintain a steady blood sugar level.
As they grow up, they can last longer between meals, and longer between toilet trips. That means that they are able to sleep for longer periods overnight too. Adults dogs sleep for less time in total than puppies, but more of it is at night.
By the time they are a year old, your pup is likely to be napping less during the day. But the average amount of daytime sleep reported by owners is still 3 hours. Bear in mind this is an average, so around half of dogs will sleep even more, whilst the other half will sleep less. Part of this is determined by things like breed. For example, at one extreme of the daytime sleeping spectrum, my Whippet takes a 6-hour power nap after his morning walk every day, despite having already slept all night. At the other end, my mom in law’s working Springer Spaniel does not nap at all during the day, ever.
Puppy sleep chart by age
A typical sleeping routine for an 8 week old puppy might look like:
- Bedtime at 8pm
- Trip to the toilet between 11pm and 12am
- Night time toilet trip between 3am and 4am
- Awake at 6am
- And a number of daytime naps, totalling anything up to 8 more hours of sleep (although 4 to 6 hours would be more average).
Over the coming weeks, their bladder capacity will increase, and the night time toilet trip will gradually get later, and eventually be dropped altogether. By 16 weeks old, your puppy is likely to have a sleeping routine that looks more like this:
- Toilet and bed time at 11pm
- Awake at 6am
- And a number of daytime naps, averaging 3 to 4 hours in total
Like human children, puppies tend to wake up for the day early. But (like human teenagers!) they do start to sleep in longer as they approach adolescence.
Puppies aren’t robots!
These are some very broad generalizations that estimate roughly how most puppies will behave. However, puppies aren’t robots! They are all individuals, and many things could cause them to follow a slightly (or very) different sleep schedule.
For example, isn’t any evidence that puppies’ sex affects their sleep pattern in the early days, but there is lots of anecdotal and some research evidence that breed does. The hunt-point-retrieve breeds (such as Labradors, Weimaraners and Spaniels) are more likely to wake in the night as puppies, and continue waking in the night for longer. It’s thought that this is because they were bred for sociability and take longer to feel confident about being left alone.
So, try not to get preoccupied with how many hours your puppy is sleeping at night or in the day, and how that number compares to your friends’ puppies. As long as they are getting enough sleep, let them progress as their own rate.
Top tips for establishing a good sleeping routine
Your puppy will progress towards their adult sleeping pattern at their own personal rate, but there are things you can do to help them learn healthy sleeping habits.
- Establish a bedtime routine
- Be boring at night
- Provide company
- Use a DAP diffuser
Establish a bedtime routine
Puppies thrive when they know exactly what is expected of them. Being able to predict what is coming gives them confidence and makes them feel safe and secure. Establishing a little pattern of behavior before bed can be a useful part of this. For example, when they start to get tired in the evening, you might take the opportunity to brush their fur, then give them a cuddle, take them out for a wee, and put them into bed with a biscuit and a special toy that’s reserved for night times. With repetition, these cues will send your puppy a clear signal that it’s time to to rest.
Be boring at night
This is all about sending a clear message that night time is for sleeping. When your puppy wakes up in the night, be extremely boring. Take them outside for a pee without any talking or fuss, and return them to their bed with as little eye contact or excitement as possible. This applies in the early morning too. If your puppy is awake at 6am but your want him to learn to sleep until 7am, be present but very boring until 7am. If you sit somewhere comfortable together, you might even both be able to nap for that last hour!
Most of us will try to settle a dog in their own room after the first week or so. But research indicates that when puppies have access to people at night, nearly 9 in 10 will choose to sleep close to their human family. After all, they are still babies, and they have an innate desire to build social bonds through behavior like sleeping together. This desire is why we value them as pets in the first place! If you really want your puppy to sleep in a different room to you, you could try giving them an old, worn, unwashed sweater of yours at bed time instead.
Use a DAP diffuser
DAP stands for Dog Appeasing Pheromone. DAP diffusers release DAP into the environment, and its presence has been observed to reduce separation anxiety and puppies’ fear of new environments.
Puppy sleep chart by age – summary
Establishing a good sleep routine is a priority for most puppy parents, and a puppy sleep chart by age would be a really helpful tool for achieving that. Unfortunately though, we don’t have enough reliable data to construct one from, and even if we did, it couldn’t account for all the individual variation between puppies. So a more bespoke approach is needed! Rather than dwelling on exactly how many hours your puppy is sleeping and when, make sure that they are getting enough good quality sleep for them. Then trust that as they grow up, their sleeping habits will naturally get more sociable!