Are Dogs Nocturnal Or Diurnal?

By kropek2021. • Updated July 2, 2021

Are dogs nocturnal?

You may be asking yourself this question if your newly adopted dog has been recently fiddling with your nighttime rest.

As a short answer – no, dogs aren’t really nocturnal. They can easily adapt their day-night cycles to their human owners’ activity habits, allowing you to sleep peacefully at night.

The long answer, however, is slightly more complex than this. If you want to know more, keep reading – below, we’ll be having a look at dog sleep patterns to help you better understand your pet’s needs!

A Brief Intro To Sleep Behaviors In Animals

Before diving into dogs’ sleeping behavior, let’s briefly overview sleeping behaviors or patterns in animals.
An animal – including pets like dogs and cats – can be:

  • Diurnal. Diurnal species – like humans – are active during the day and inactive during the night. Pets like cats and dogs can be diurnal after adapting to their owner’s sleeping habits, though they may also be nocturnal.
  • Nocturnal. Nocturnal animals – like owls or rats – sleep during the day and become active at night.
  • Cathemeral. Cathemerality is when the activity of an animal is distributed evenly throughout the day and night. Among animals considered cathemeral are lions, bobcats, frogs, and coyotes.
  • Crepuscular. Crepuscular animals are primarily active during dawn and dusk. Crepuscular animals are divided into matutinal (active at dawn) and vespertine (active at dusk) animals.

This little glossary overview should help you better understand what we’ll talk about below.

Are Dogs Diurnal Or Nocturnal?

Dogs aren’t nocturnal, although they could be depending on their environment, being active only at night or only at dawn and dusk. Dogs – like cats and other pets – adapt to their owners’ sleeping schedules and thus sleep at night and are active during the day in unison with humans.

So if you – like most people – are awake during the day and sleep at night, your canine friend will most likely adapt to your schedule and become a diurnal creature. If your dog does start copying your schedule, great – your sleep probably won’t be disturbed by rituals of nighttime barking!
However, if your dog seems to be a night owl – even though you follow a perfectly traditional diurnal sleep pattern – something may not be right. More below!

 

What Dog Breeds Are Nocturnal?

Although canines generally aren’t nocturnal, some dog breeds are more prone to staying awake at night than others. Among these breeds are:

  • American Black and Tan Coonhound.
  • Belgian Malinois.
  • Berger Picard.
  • Border Collie.
  • Clumber Spaniel.
  • Komondor.
  • Maremma.
  • Tibetan Mastiff.

Remarkably, one thing that unites these breeds is that they need a lot of exercise. If these dogs don’t perform adequate amounts of exercise, they will stay energetic at night. So if you want to sleep well, make sure to take care of your dog’s activity needs.

This applies to any other dog breed as well. But breeds that have been specifically bred for sled-pulling or herding – in other words, working breeds – have way higher energy levels.

Dogs that live out in the wild may be nocturnal as well – particularly because of stray cats that tend to roam around at night.

How Long Do Dogs Sleep?

In case you didn’t know, dogs sleep quite a lot.

Typically, dogs sleep more than humans – 12 to 14 hours per day. Bigger breeds usually need more sleep than smaller ones, while puppies are the sleepiest of them all, traveling to dreamland for about 18 to 20 hours every day. Puppies like to play and explore until exhaustion, which is partly why they need so much sleep.

Interestingly, although dogs adapt to their owners’ sleeping patterns relatively easily, they have a markedly different sleep pattern.
According to the American Kennel Club, dogs only spend 10% of their sleep time in the REM (rapid eye movement) phase. In humans, REM sleep occupies 25% of sleep.

If you didn’t know, in the REM phase, the eyes of animals start rolling under their lids randomly. The REM phase is also when dreams occur.

Anyway, dogs’ short REM phase is due to their irregular sleeping patterns – canines often doze off anytime they want. Dogs can also wake up and become alert very quickly. And because of their rather irregular sleep patterns, dogs require more sleep to compensate for lacking REM sleep.

So, in short, dogs have a more irregular, intermittent manner of sleeping, while humans tend to sleep for 7 to 9 hours at a time.

All the numbers above were given for healthy dogs – sleeping disorders may significantly affect actual sleep duration. Dogs with narcolepsy, for example, may spontaneously fall asleep during the day or be in a constant state of drowsiness. Pain, itching, and other health issues, on the other hand, may interfere with sleep and result in sleep issues.

Do Dogs Sleep All Night?

As mentioned earlier, dogs are intermittent sleepers, so they may wake up and fall asleep several times throughout the night. However, if you give your dog enough exercise and make an effort to adapt them to your day-night schedule, it’s very unlikely that they will disturb you at night – even if they do wake up.

Doggy Behavior In Sleep

To ensure that your dog gets enough quality rest, you should keep an eye on their behavior during sleep. Here’s what you should pay attention to:

  • Naps or slight dozing. Dogs often doze off throughout the day. When dozed off, your dog will appear sleeping, but they will stay alert. One sign of alertness is the ears twitching in reaction to sounds in the environment.
  • Circling or digging. Dogs tend to dig into their beds to get comfortable. This is normal behavior, but if your dog circles restlessly for a long time before sleep, there may be a problem – like an uncomfortable sleeping spot or body aches.
  • Twitching, whimpering, barking, or growling. These signs typically appear during REM sleep, when dogs can have dreams. If having nightmares, dogs may exhibit more aggressive movement and louder noises.
  • Excessive twitching. Excessive twitching may be a sign of a seizure. If your dog doesn’t react to their name or to attempts to wake them up, call your vet right away.

Additionally, you should pay attention to your dog’s sleeping position:

  • Side sleeping means that the dog feels safe and comfortable. Dogs don’t assume a side sleeping position (which exposes vital organs) unless they feel safe.
  • If your dog is curled up, they are either feeling cold or unsafe. Newly adopted pets often sleep curled up because they aren’t yet comfortable around their owner. Though note that some dogs just like sleeping all curled up.
  • Lying on the back is a sign of extreme trust and comfort. Again, dogs wouldn’t expose their bellies in such a way if they weren’t feeling secure.
  • Dogs who lie on their stomach, with their paws spread out, want to be alert and ready for action immediately after waking up.

Should Dogs Have A Sleep Schedule?

Dogs aren’t as strictly diurnal as humans, but they should have a nighttime schedule. Two reasons for this are as follows:

  • If your dog sleeps at night, they won’t be tempted to start to bark or otherwise interrupting your sleep.
  • If your dog sleeps at night, they will realign their needs in accordance with your daily routine. They won’t demand food or expect bathroom breaks when you are asleep.

Establishing a sleeping schedule in dogs isn’t too tricky. To do this, you should:

  • Avoid giving your dog food or water a few hours before sleep – this is to prevent the need for bathroom breaks at night.
  • Avoid exciting your dog before bed with games or exercise. 
  • Before going to bed, give your dog the last potty break of the day – to ensure that they don’t feel the urge at night. But if you have a puppy, do keep in mind that puppies under the age of 3-4 months often need to go out at least once during the night. To avoid accidents, you may set an alarm 6 hours after the last bathroom break to take your puppy out again.
  • Perform crate training to make your dog used to nighttime rest. When it’s bedtime, put your dog into a crate filled with blankets for a cozy night. You may give your dog small treats as well to reinforce them positively.
  • Once you get up in the morning, give your dog a potty break.

Why Are Some Dogs Awake At Night?

Dogs could stay awake at night due to two primary reasons – either you failed to adapt them to your schedule for one reason or another, or they have health issues that disrupt their sleep.

When it comes to health problems, dog sleep may be interrupted by the following conditions:

  • Kidney disease, diabetes, urinary tract infections, or gastrointestinal diseases that may cause your dog to need more frequent bathroom breaks. The increased need for a break will also be present during the day, so identifying this symptom shouldn’t be too difficult.
  • Painful diseases like cancer, arthritic pain, or inflammation.
  • Cognitive dysfunction, which could lead to a confusion of day-night sleep patterns.

In case you start noticing oddities in your dog’s sleep pattern, you should consult a veterinarian – there may be an underlying health condition causing irregular sleep.

Conclusion

In the end, canines aren’t nocturnal, though they certainly can be if their day-to-day needs require that. But most dogs pick up the lifestyle of their owner rather quickly.

So if you are considering adopting a dog, don’t worry – with training, you are unlikely to need to wake up every night to take care of any dog whims. But if your dog does like to stay awake or bark at night, figure out whether their schedule needs to be fixed or if they have health issues that prevent sleep.