Sleep is a really important behavior in all animals, and a lot of research in various species has shown that it is necessary. Across species, it’s generally agreed upon that sleep is important for learning, memory consolidation, behavior and emotional regulation, health, and quality of life.

Research in sleep in dogs can be quite difficult. Much of the research we have depends on owner opinion, perception, and recording of sleep. There are some studies that have placed activity monitors on dogs that give relatively accurate measures, although not perfect, as rest and sleep can be hard to differentiate. Finally, there is laboratory research that has been done but typically involves more invasive procedures like EEGs and polysomnography, where electrodes are placed on the dogs, and this requires some training and perhaps doesn’t accurately reflect how an average dog would sleep in their home.

How much do dogs sleep?

There is a lot of variability in the amount of time dogs sleep, in terms of individual needs as well as differences throughout the lifetime of a dog.

One study looked at owner-reported sleep in puppies at 16 weeks of age and then at 12 months (Kinsman et al., 2020). On the whole, owners reported that their 16 week old puppies slept more over a 24 hour period, and more during the day, than 12 month old puppies. Owners thought their puppies slept overnight for 7.0 hours at 16 weeks of age, and 7.3 hours at 12 months of age. During the day, they thought their dogs slept 3.5 hours at 16 weeks and 3.0 hours at 12 months.

A study looking at laboratory beagles with activity monitors measured their sleep during the daytime and nighttime (Zanghi et al., 2013). The dogs varied in age from 1.5 to 14 years and were housed with 12 hours of light and 12 hours of dark. The dogs slept between 8.1 to 9.0 hours overnight, and between 3.6 and 4.1 hours during the day. From this study, and others, we also know that older dogs do tend to sleep more, but sleep is more fragmented.

The amount of time dogs are left alone at home can also influence the amount of rest or sleep that dogs are getting (Stephan et al., 2021). One study looked at video observations of dogs while their owners were away. They looked at a few different body positions on video to tell is dogs were resting or perhaps sleeping. The mean amount of time dogs were lying on their elbow or curled up was 49.8% and lying relaxed was 26.4%, a vast majority of the time they were left alone. The researchers also looked at the difference between single dog and multi-dog households and found that those in single dog households spent more time lying and resting or sleeping than in multi-dog households, where dogs were more likely to be active.

Sleep and behavior problems

While we know that sleep has many important and essential functions for all animals, it also likely plays a large role in behavior.

In a preliminary study looking at owner reports of sleep and the presence of behavior problems, owners were asked to record how much sleep they thought their dogs were getting while they were in bed (meant to represent overnight) vs. when they were not in bed (meant to represent daytime). Owners were also asked to rate their dogs behavior problems on a 0 to 10 scale, with 0 being a perfect dog with no behavior problems and 10 a dog that behaves in a way they cannot tolerate. The authors found a relationship between sleep and behavior problems, with dogs sleeping less than 8-10 hours while their owner was in bed having higher reported behavior problems. This is definitely an area that needs more research as it could be important in behavior modification, further research with less subjective measurements needs to be completed.

Where do dogs like to sleep?

We likely all know the favorite sleeping spot for the dogs in our homes, and it can be very different for individuals.

In a research study looking at choice tests in laboratory animals (Doring et al., 2018), older dogs were given different bed options to choose from. Dogs chose to use beds with soft bedding in them instead of rubber mats. When given the opportunity, these dogs also chose not to sleep on elevated beds, but rather on beds at floor level – with 83% of the night spent on a bed on the floor. It’s very possible that older dogs find elevated beds harder to get on or off of, especially in the dark.

A couple studies have also looked at the rooms in which dogs choose to sleep, and so far the data shows that many dogs prefer to be in the same room as people. A study looking at younger dogs that were 12 months of age and younger, found that when given the opportunity, 87% of the dogs chose to sleep around people overnight (Kinsman et al., 2020). Another study with dogs of various ages found that when dogs had a choice, 25.8% of dogs chose to always sleep in the same room as people and 37% chose to usually sleep in the same room as people (Tooley & Heath, 2022).

Should dogs sleep on the bed?

One question that often comes up is whether or not dogs should be allowed to sleep on the bed.

Several studies have looked at the relationship between allowing dogs to sleep on their owners’ bed and the development of behavior problems.

In a survey study, dog owners were asked what they allow their dog to do as well as information about any behavior problems their dogs have. Dogs were just as likely to have behavior problems as not when they were allowed to sleep on the bed or sleeping in another location (Voith et al., 1992).

Another study looked at information from dogs presented to a Behavior Clinic for a consultation with a veterinarian for aggression or separation-related problems (Cannas et al., 2018). As part of the information collected, owners were asked where their dogs slept. Twenty percent of the dogs slept on their owners’ bed. Of those dogs that slept on the bed, most (78%) were dogs with anxiety and 22% were dogs referred for aggression problems. This data lets us know that sleeping on the bed is not associated with current behavior problems. It’s possible that anxious dogs like to be closer to people and people may not let aggressive dogs sleep on their bed.

New research on the horizon

There is a lot of new research that has been coming out in the last couple decades, and as our technology advances I expect that research in this area will become easier and more applicable to our household dogs.

For example, there’s been preliminary work in dogs looking at positive and negative social experiences and how that influences sleep (Kis et al., 2017). Sleep macrostructure, or the different components of sleep such as REM and the organization of sleep, is changed by experiences that dogs have.

When it comes to behavior and training, I expect that we’ll be learning a lot more about sleep, the importance of it in our dogs, and its relationship to behavior problems. For now, I think it’s important to consider the amount and quality of sleep that dogs are getting, especially if there are behavior and training issues, to ensure that dogs are getting a sufficient amount.

If you’d like a less technical version of this to share with clients, one can be found at the Landmark Behaviour Blog that is written for pet owners.


Cannas, S., Talamonti, Z., Mazzola, S., Minera, M., Picciolini, A., Palestrini, C. 2018. Factors associated with dog behavioral problems referred to a behavior clinic. Journal of Veterinary Behavior. 24:42-47.

Doring, D., Backofen, I., Schmidt, J., Bauer, A., Erhard, M. 2018. Journal of Veterinary Behavior. 28:6-10.

Kinsman, R., Owczarczak-Garstecka, S., Case, R., Knowles, T., Tasker, S., Woodward, J., Da Costa, R., Murray, J. 2020. Sleep duration and behaviours: a descriptive analysis of a cohort of dogs up to 12 months of age. Animals. 10:1172.

Kis, A., Gergely, A., Galambos, A. ́, Abda,i J., Gombos, F., Bo ́dizs, R., Topal, J. 2017.Sleep macrostructure is modulated by positive and negative social experience in adult pet dogs. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 284:20171883.

Stephan, G., Leidhold, J. & Hammerschmidt, K. 2021. Pet dogs home alone: A video-based study. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 244:105463.

Voith, V.L., Wright, J.C. and Danneman, P.J., 1992. Is there a relationship between canine behavior problems and spoiling activities, anthropomorphism, and obedience training? Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 34: 263-272.

Zanghi, B.M., Kerr, W., Gierer, J., de Rivera, C., Araujo, J.A., Milgram, N.W. 2013. Characterizing behavioral sleep using actigraphy in adult dogs of various ages fed once or twice daily. Journal of Veterinary Behavior. 8:195-203.