Article – September 2021
Written by Karen Boyce (Behaviourist and Trainer at Beastly Thoughts Professional Dog Services)
So I have put a short, but really important, article together for all you owners on the importance of sleep.
It’s directed mainly at the puppy owners but it really is applicable to dog’s of all ages.
Have a read and enjoy!
ARE YOU TIRED?
“The process of sleeping is essential to maintaining optimal emotional and social functioning while we are wake, by allowing rest during that sleep to the important parts of the brain that control emotions and social interactions.”
Most of us are sure that, in terms of mental and physical health, we understand the importance of sleep.
Those of us with children, particularly young ones, are 100% sure of the importance of sleep and the resulting effects of lack of it! A hyper-active child is very often an over-tired child. But perhaps more importantly they are also a child close to losing control of their emotions at the slightest of provocations.
Well, did you know it’s exactly the same with our puppies and young dogs; certainly in terms of those around or below the age of six months.
I haven’t seen any estimations but based on my own experience I would guess that between 50% and 75% of pups are getting into trouble, i.e., perceived as being “naughty”, simply because they are not getting enough sleep.
But, of course, when we talk sleep, we are talking quality sleep. Sleep where the brain and body actually has the opportunity to repair and memories the opportunity to be stored.
My own Evie only the other day, as a 14 month-old GSD, was being rather pokey and bouncy and attention seeking when I sat down at the dining table to do some PC work.
So, what did I say to her?
“Are you tired?”, I asked in a soft tone.
One look at her face gave me the answer.
I know when my young dogs are tired. Their eyes often give it away; not just their actions. And, of course, I was aware of what time she had got up and what she had been up to in the previous few hours. Evie was ready for a snooze.
My solution therefore? I went and sat down for a bit on the comfy tv room sofa and she climbed up beside me and drifted straight off into one of those lovely deep energy repairing sleeps.
But, in a puppy it can be a hard thing to spot.
“He is so hyper!”
“I can’t seem to wear him out!”
“I just wish he would settle in the evenings!”
These phrases from owners always seem to put the blame on the pup. This is ridiculous, as in the home the owner is nearly completely in charge of how a dog feels and therefore how he acts.
Puppies are meant to sleep a lot. The advice is for about 18 hours a day, perhaps even 20 hours, for youngsters up until the age of six months.
I bet you are thinking your puppy doesn’t need that much, or that it wouldn’t accept you trying to get them to sleep that much.
Well, if your puppy is chewing on you, and chewing on stuff, and chasing the kids, or pestering the older dog or the cat then it might be time to reconsider. Yes, I agree these issues may be development behaviours or teething or boredom or nutrition BUT a lot of issues are made so much worse by a lack of sleep.
So here are my TOP TIPS:
1. Look for and train yourself to recognise overtired behaviours, Barking, chewing on you, pestering you, and following you around are maybe easy to see. But check those eyes. (Easiest done if the puppy is quiet for a few seconds!) The eyes often give more away than you would think.
2. Have a routine, particularly at an early age. Why? Because the pup needs one? Well yes, but more that you need one because the pup is unlikely to settle down unless you have, or you have put the pup away somewhere quiet where no one will disturb it. Plus, with a routine you have a much better chance of ensuring that the puppy does get enough down time.
3. Crate train so that your dog loves his crate, but also the closing of the crate door, once the pup is trained, is a great way to give the puppy “permission” to stop. They sometimes loose their off switch, but when shown that they have to stop they will take the opportunity readily.
4. If you don’t have a crate you will need to keep encouraging the pup to go settle in the right place; his bed, rug or favourite spot. Without a crate you will almost certainly have to stop to and demonstrate what you want; at least at the start of training.
5. The routine you devise around his sleep will include the walk, the play, the pee and poo and the feeding sessions. Get them in the right amounts and the right order and your puppy will sleep if given the right spot.
6. Be careful play time doesn’t equate to over arousal time. Throwing a ball or a toy up and down the hall or garden for ten or fifteen minutes will only make a more hyper puppy. Energy hormones take time to leave the body and young dogs find them hard to handle. But all pups love to practice scentwork. It’s so much more calming and makes a puppy tired sooner and for longer.
7. The same can be said of walks. Don’t go for high energy walks, go for investigative walks; looking at new things and discovering new smells. And always end the walk slowly with lots of sniffing and pausing. This will make it so much easier to get the pup to sleep when you get home.
8. Always ensure the pup or young dog has had a good amount of sleep before family members, particularly the children, arrive home. A tired pup paired with family members arriving back can push a puppy over it’s emotional threshold.
9. Check nutrition and the amount of energy nutrients being provided. Too many carbs, colourings and artificial flavourings can have the same effect on dogs as they do children.
So, all in all dog owners, but particularly puppy owners, need to be very aware of how much sleep the family canine is getting. Keep a log if needs be. Remind other family members. Work out a routine that sorts the household and the dog to ensure deep sleep is possible.
But most of all, when you are perhaps seeing behaviours you don’t like, just ask your dog: “Are you tired?”
Karen Boyce is the owner of Beastly Thoughts Professional Dog Services, the leading puppy training organisation in Wales.
Karen is the Puppy School Tutor for North Shropshire and North East Wales, and also Regional Manager for North Wales, Cheshire and Shropshire. Puppy School is part of the BTPDS’s Advanced Puppy Path that offers a range of training experiences for all pups six months and under.
Karen is the winner of the Animal Star Awards Behaviourist/Trainer of the Year 2019.
Karen is regularly featured in local papers and on local radio, and has a regular column in her local town magazine.
Also, follow us on Facebook as Beastly Thoughts Professional Dog Services / Twitter as Karen Boyce @beastlythoughts / Instagram as bt_dogtraining and #btpds