I tuck my dog into bed every single night. He sleeps in my home office, where he has a large dog bed, a few blankets and even a pillow with the image of a look-alike dog printed on it. Come bedtime, he voluntarily strolls to bed, where I tuck him in, pat him on the head, turn off the lights, say goodnight and close the door until morning (I know, my dog dad skills are next level).
I assume he sleeps through the night, because he never scratches at the door or anything like that. There are times, however, when I wonder whether he sleeps well and if me tucking him in helps any. Or more broadly, do dogs have trouble sleeping? And if so, how can I help my dog sleep?
The bad news is, yes, dogs can have trouble sleeping. But the good news is that this is both uncommon and usually fairly simple to treat. “Insomnia is relatively rare in dogs,” says veterinarian and animal acupuncturist Rachel Barrack. “Most frequently it can be attributed to not enough exercise during the day, or anxiety and stress. However, insomnia can be more indicative of an underlying medical condition, such as discomfort (allergies can be one cause), pain (arthritis is common in older pets), increased urination or canine cognitive disorder. Should your dog develop insomnia, this warrants an appointment with your primary care veterinarian.”
If your dog is in generally good health, though, you can ensure that they sleep well by simply providing them with a comfortable bed and a pleasant lifestyle. “Making sure your dog has a good bed (or two) will help them sleep,” says Zazie Todd, animal psychologist and author of Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy. “If they’re allowed to sleep on your bed, that’s great. But some dogs prefer not to, and that’s okay, too — maybe they’d prefer a dog bed in the bedroom or another room to choose from. Senior dogs with arthritis or other difficulties may need a bed that’s low to the ground or steps up to your bed, so that getting into it isn’t painful for them.”
You can also help your dog sleep at night by simply being nice and, again, ensuring they get plenty of exercise — likely more than you think they need — during the day. “Research suggests that dogs’ sleep does change when they’ve had a stressful experience in the day,” Todd says. “We don’t fully understand why, but I’m sure everyone understands what it’s like to have a bad day and then get a bad night’s sleep. So you can help your dog by trying to ensure that their life isn’t stressful: Give them choices when possible (such as whether or not to be petted), make sure they have a safe space to go where they can relax if they want to, take them for nice walks with lots of sniffing time, train them with positive reinforcement (don’t use punishment) and make time to hang out with them.”
And while you’re at it, try tucking them in and singing them to sleep, too.