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Why is my puppy sleeping a lot?

puppy sleeping
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Is your puppy sleeping a lot? There’s nothing cuter than a sleeping puppy and if you’ve been using any of the best puppy sleep aids to help your little one nod off, then chances are you’ve spent many a wonderful moment observing them in all their calm and peaceful glory.

But what about a puppy who sleeps too much?  How much sleep is normal for a puppy and when does sleep become excessive?  Puppies naturally need to sleep a lot – on average, about 16 hours a day – to support their growth and development.  Many illnesses in puppies can cause lethargy, which can cause your puppy to sleep more than usual.  

It’s important to recognize the difference between normal sleep and lethargy, so you can seek veterinary care right away if there is a problem with your puppy.  Read on to learn about sleep in puppies, including what’s normal and what isn’t!

How much sleep does a puppy need?

Like human infants, puppies need more sleep than adult dogs do.  Adult dogs sleep about 10-14 hours a day depending on factors such as age and activity level.  Puppies need even more sleep, averaging about 16 hours of sleep a day, with very young puppies sleeping as much as 20 hours a day!  Dogs and puppies that don’t get enough sleep can become sleep deprived, just like humans do.  This can lead to behavior issues like irritability, aggression, and frustration.  After all, we can all get a little touchy when we don’t get our recommended amount of shut eye.

Why is my puppy sleeping more?

It’s normal for puppies to sleep a lot, but what if your puppy is sleeping more than his normal amount?  This can occur due to a change in your puppy’s activity level.  If your puppy had a big romp in the park or a stressful visit to the veterinary clinic, he may sleep the rest of the day or even sleep more than usual the next day as well.  Your puppy may also sleep more than usual if there has been a disruption to his normal sleep schedule, such as getting to bed later at night or having more people at home during the day when he usually naps.  This can make your puppy sleep more during the hours when he is able to get some uninterrupted rest.

Is my puppy sick or just tired?

Unfortunately, some causes of sleeping more aren’t so benign.  Many illnesses can cause lethargy, which can result in your puppy sleeping more.  This is usually more than just being a little tired.  Your puppy will also have a decreased energy level and may be reluctant to participate in his normal routine.  He may play less or not at all, and may fatigue more quickly on walks.  Your puppy may also show other symptoms of illness such as changes in appetite, changes in urination and defecation habits, vomiting or diarrhea, or other changes in health and behavior.  If you suspect your puppy is lethargic, or you notice any other changes in your puppy’s health, see a veterinarian for an evaluation.

What age should a puppy sleep through the night?

puppy sleeping

(Image credit: Getty Images)

By the time they’re ready to go home to their new families – around 8 weeks of age – most puppies are capable of sleeping through the night.  Some small breed dogs may need an additional potty break during the night at first.  By 16 weeks of age, all puppies should be able to sleep through the night.  If your puppy still needs to go out during the night past this age, or if your puppy is having accidents during the night, this could be due to habit, poor crate training, or due to a medical issue such as a urinary tract infection.  

How to make sure your puppy sleeps through the night

Just as good sleep hygiene is important to ensure humans get a good night’s rest, it’s also important for puppies, too!  How to get a puppy to sleep through the night is a common query amongst pet parents and the first step is to make sure your puppy has an appropriate sleeping area.  This should be a place that is dark and quiet, away from high traffic areas of the house.  Your puppy’s sleeping area should include some comfortable bedding for your pup to settle down in.  You can even add some white noise or some soothing music if you like – check out Through a Dog’s Ear (opens in new tab) for music specifically composed to calm and soothe our canine companions.  

Establishing a bedtime routine can help get your puppy settled and ready to sleep at night.  Limit play as bed time approaches so that your puppy will not be excited and “amped up” when it’s time to settle into bed.  Be sure to take your puppy out for a final potty break right before bed so he has the opportunity to empty his bladder before settling in for the night.  Giving your puppy a special treat or a favorite plush toy at the same time each evening can also serve as a cue that it’s time to go to bed.  

Using a crate is also an excellent way to encourage your puppy to settle down and sleep at night.  If you do decide to use a crate, first make sure you choose one that is the appropriate size for your puppy.  An appropriately sized crate should be large enough for your puppy to stand up to his full height and turn around in a circle, but no larger.  A crate that is too large will encourage crate soiling, because your puppy will be able to urinate and defecate in one area of the crate and sleep in another.  An appropriately sized crate will encourage your puppy to hold his urine and feces until he is let out of the crate.  

If you’ve purchased a crate that is too large for your puppy, you can section off a smaller area using sheets of cardboard or solid plastic until your puppy grows into the crate.   In addition to using a crate that is correctly sized for your puppy, make sure you are also taking the time to crate train your puppy.  The crate should always be a positive experience for your puppy and good training will ensure your puppy feels safe and comfortable in the crate.  For help with crate training, check out this excellent guide from Dr. Sophia Yin (opens in new tab). You can also take a look at our guide to how to crate train a dog for more helpful tips and tricks. 

Puppies need a LOT of sleep!

In general, it is normal for your puppy to sleep a lot – as much as 16-20 hours a day, especially in very young puppies.  However if your puppy is sleeping more than is usual for him and this change is accompanied by other symptoms, such as a reluctance to participate in daily activities or other changes in health and behavior, then this can be a sign of illness.  If you suspect something may be wrong with your puppy, always see your veterinarian right away for further advice and care.

Dr. Elizabeth Racine is a small animal general practice veterinarian covering all things pet health and wellness.  Her special interests include veterinary behavior, nutrition, and internal medicine.  As a freelance writer, Dr. Racine has written content for major companies in the industry such as the American Kennel Club, Merck Animal Health, Bayer PetBasics, Elanco, and CareCredit.  In her free time, Dr. Racine enjoys playing trampoline dodgeball, hiking with her beagle Dasher, and spending time with her three mischievous cats.  Dr. Racine can be found at www.theveterinarywriter.com (opens in new tab) and at https://www.linkedin.com/in/eracinedvm/ (opens in new tab)