When you come home from a long day at work, your dog is usually overjoyed to see you. You might get pounced on and greeted with a toy for you and your dog to play with. This can make coming home a joy, in addition to any family or friends that you might be coming home to, as well.
Yet as the evening winds down and everyone is getting ready to turn in for the night, you might have to deal with an overexcited dog, who is still bouncing off the walls and ready for action. This is especially true in puppies and young, energetic dogs. Even if your dog isn’t hyperactive at night, you might notice that they don’t seem to get sleepy the way humans do. Here are some reasons your dog has so much energy at night, and what to do if your dog confuses bedtime with playtime.
The Root of the Behavior
Humans and dogs do not share the same sleep cycles, although to be fair, humans have adapted their sleep schedules over time to fit a standard workday. Thus, while humans have decided to work all day and sleep all night, dogs continue to operate on a less rigid sleeping schedule. In fact, without humans, it is possible that dogs would not stick to a schedule at all. Dogs are active at various times throughout the day and night, and they prefer to separate these active times by short naps as opposed to long, deep sleep. Since they do not receive as much deep, restorative sleep as humans, dogs tend to sleep more overall than humans do, up to 14 hours on average.
The age and size of your dog plays a large role in how much sleep it needs, and also determines how excitable your dog will be during its active hours. Puppies and larger dogs sleep more than older, smaller dogs. In all cases, a dog will at some point begin to adjust its active and inactive windows to the life of the humans and other creatures around it. Since a dog can sleep or become active more or less at will, dogs tend to adopt similar sleeping patterns as their owners, although it doesn’t always translate perfectly. Dogs with too much energy, or dogs who face boredom for a majority of their day-to-day lives need some kind of outlet for their energy, and if it happens to be night when everyone is around, then that time will be night.
Consider a day in the life of your dog. Many dogs see their owners once in the morning, and then won’t see them again for about eight or nine hours. Even in a house with spouses and kids, a dog might spend hours on end by itself or with nothing to keep it engaged. Dogs require a healthy amount of mental stimulation and activity, and if your dog has had none before you come home from work, then it will become to most active during those evening hours. By the time you are ready to turn in for eight or so hours of sleep, your dog may be reaching the end of eight hours of inactivity, with the prospect of having to spend another eight with everyone in the house asleep.
Encouraging the Behavior
By the time that your dog has reached adulthood, it should by that time have adopted a steady sleeping routine similar to your own. Dogs that do not adapt or are not able to adapt to your schedule may be dealing with several other factors. Most commonly, your dog has either not been able to expend enough energy throughout the day to be ready for sleep and inactivity, or your dog is responding to a drastic increase in activity in the house each evening. To remedy this, you can work on establishing clearly defined active windows in which your dog will be awake, have someone or something to play with, and be fed or given treats.
If you would like your dog to adopt a sleeping schedule most similar to yours, then you should plan on having a more intense workout or play session early in the morning, right after you and your dog wake up. Exercise and play is a wonderful and positive way to start each day for both you and your dog. By putting a majority of the heavy activity on the beginning of the day, you and your dog can benefit from lighter activity or play in the evenings, which will typically dispel any remaining energy that your dog has from being home all day. Every dog is slightly different, with more active breeds requiring more play than less active breeds. As a general starting point, try two hours of exercise per day, and adjust according to your dog’s preferences.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Feeding schedules are closely tied in with a dog’s sleeping habits. Most dogs won’t go to sleep for at least three hours after eating, so it is important for you to make sure that you are feeding your dog according to the sleeping habits that you would like them to develop. Feeding should come at expected times, as well, so that your dog can get into the habit of maintaining its active windows according to when it knows that it will be fed. Puppies tend to benefit from three meals a day, but as they get older and mature, you should only have to feed your dog twice a day. If you forget to feed your dog, or feed it too close to bedtime, it may grow restless and begin to show signs of anxiousness or increased nervous activity.
It’s normal to be active past your bedtime if you sleep in too far past your normal wake-up time, or if you’ve been lazy all day and have a lot of pent up energy. Your dog feels that same sense of restlessness if it doesn’t get to play and be active. Make sure your dog gets plenty of opportunities to practice lying down and rolling over during playtime before you send it to bed to settle in for a long night’s rest.