Let sleeping dogs lie, why dogs need sleep and when should your dog relax during the day?

Let sleeping dogs lie

Australian Stumpies Chaos and Mayhem relaxing. Photo: Felicity Bennett-Bremner

Diane Garrod is the behaviour consultant/trainer and owner at the Canine Transformations Learning Center in Washington State.  Diane gathered information from a six-year study, involving 320 researched cases.  The outcome was the development of a stress release protocol for dogs.  In this article, Diane showcases the magic behind relaxation, calm and deep sleep to change behaviour in dogs.

Lack of sleep can be the difference between a dog who can cope and one who cannot, a dysfunctional dog versus a functional dog, and can result in all kinds of health issues due to stress.  Helping a dog to relax, to be calm, and to deeply sleep daily releases the stresses in daily life that go beyond the normal.

If a dog can’t achieve sleep you will see an increase in stress like excitability, nervousness, restlessness etc which all will lead to unwanted behaviours.  In this day and age, our lives are extremely busy even for our animals living with us. They feel the anxiety, nervous energy the environment brings.  It is our obligation (as a pet parent) to provide a healthy environment for them to feel safe, secure, and comfortable enough to achieve sleep.

When should your dog relax during the day?

A dog’s day should include required down time. Achieving calm, relaxation and deep sleep are as important as exercise, as they help a dog’s stress levels even out, create good stress (eustress), and allow a dog to learn better. When should a dog relax during the day?

Ideally, a dog should have four relaxation periods a day plus post-eating or post-exercising, interspersed with toy play, games, training, problem solving and exercise.  The cycle could be: relaxation; toy play, games, ball play; relaxation; training period/obstacle work or exercise; relaxation; and then a mentally tiring activity (problem solving) followed by relaxation.

When should your dog relax during the day?

Chaos and Mayhem love exercising at the beach. Photo: Felicity Bennett-Bremner

After eating – Digestion is regulated by many chemicals.  After eating, a relaxation period lasting at least 20 minutes can aid digestion.  Post-eating relaxation is crucial to a dog’s well-being as digestion is important for gut health.

After exercise – The same holds true for exercising.  Relaxing 20 minutes after exercising and before eating aids in reducing respiratory rate and will be better for digestion.  The rule is to wait until respiration has come down prior to eating after exercising.

List of relaxer tools to help your dog achieve relaxation and stress release

  • Warm towel or thundershirt
  • Relaxing touch – TTouch or animal massage
  • Tiring mental activity
  • DAP diffuser or collar
  • L-theanine/Lactium supplement
  • Relaxing environment
  • Music for dogs
  • Creating a distraction free zone, a safety zone
  • Chewing activities to release mouth tension
  • Appropriate exercise to release glucocorticoids

Three things to do to keep your dog well rested

Partricia Calderone from Clicker Canines says ‘A well rested dog is a happy dog’! She recommends these three things to keep your dog well rested:

  1. Keep your dog feeling safe and comfortable with a spot that is safe, secure and out of the way
  2. Each dog should have their own resting place as dogs need daily down time separate from each other
  3. Set up a calm, peaceful environment



Thank you to our friends at the Pet Professional Guild for this article.  This article was first published in BARKS from the Guild, the official trade publication of the pet Professional Guild on March 2016 (pages 18-23).