10 signs your dog needs to sleep

Updated: Oct 21

Trying to work out what our dogs need isn’t always easy, it doesn’t help that many behaviours which suggest our dogs have excess energy to use up can actually be a sign they’re really tired and in need of a good sleep!

The old saying that ‘a tired dog is a happy dog’ is far from true for many dogs. Our dogs do need exercise and activities to keep them happy, but occupying them to the point of over-tiredness is unlikely to keep them happy.

When a dog is tired, they won’t be able to cope effectively with stress, this stress could come from excitement or it could be caused by frustration or fear. Tiredness also makes it harder to make good choices, the dog is unlikely to be thinking carefully or learning when in a tired state. If you think how you feel when you’re tired, everything becomes more difficult and you might be more likely to make bad choices

Did you know, puppies need up to 18 hours of sleep a day, and adult dogs up to 14 hours.

How do you know when your dog is over-tired?

1. Mouthing

Mouthing can be a tell-tale sign, especially in puppies and young dogs, it can also be a sign of over-excitement, but perhaps even more often it’s a sign of over-tiredness. In a tired state, young dogs particularly will struggle to regulate themselves, they may not have the ability to decide to go and sleep, which means their stress and arousal levels are likely to increase as their body isn’t getting the rest it needs.

With increased arousal comes increased challenging behaviours. Mouthing can serve as an outlet for frustration and it can become reinforcing if it triggers a reaction from people. Your dog isn’t capable of learning effectively in these moments so it’s far better to take any excessive mouthing as a sign your dog needs a rest and some time to calm down.

Maintaining regular rest time through the day will help your dog learn to regulate their needs better and enable them to gradually make these choices themselves without you needing to step in. A crate or a quiet room will provide your dog with a safe space where they can rest without being disturbed.

2. Restlessness

A confusing sign of over-tiredness is a dog who struggles to settle, they can appear to have so much energy and be impossible to tire out, when actually inside they’re in desperate need of a rest. These dogs will need more help to settle and rest, they might benefit from a smaller space and less choices (i.e. a crate or a room on their own).

Making rest time regular and enforcing more frequent sleeping time through the day can really help to teach these dogs to switch off and settle down.

Don’t be tricked into assuming your dog just needs more exercise, in fact you could do the opposite and swap out some physical activity for more mental stimulation and calmer activities which will encourage your dog to think and behave more calmly.