For such a small dog, Chihuahuas are renowned as big sleepers. And truth be told, while there aren’t studies that prove which dogs sleep the most, you won’t find too many Chihuahua owners complaining that their dogs keep them up all night or are up early pestering them to be taken for a walk. But why do they sleep so much? In the following article we’re going to take a closer look at the sleeping habits of Chihuahuas and dogs in general.
???? The reason Chihuahuas sleep so much is because they are explosive in terms of energy expenditure. They’re personalities mean they are not well equipped for endurance and as a result they use up all of their available energy rapidly, and require additional sleep to replenish their energy levels.
Letting Sleeping Dogs Lie
If you have owned a Chihuahua you know there’s many distinct yet contradictory characteristics that define them.
For example they’re tiny but in many ways larger than life. They’re fiercely brave, sometimes bordering on aggressive with other animals, but also love being cuddled, carried around and in general made a fuss of.
They also appear to have unending supplies of energy, but also sleep, A LOT and tend to fall asleep at a moment’s notice.
And while this isn’t all that uncommon for dogs, it’s mostly thought that larger breeds sleep the most due to their larger frames demanding more in terms of energy.
In the case of Chihuahuas however, it’s not uncommon for a full grown Chihuahua to sleep as much as 16 hours per day or more, largely due to the amount of energy they expend while they are awake.
Why do dogs sleep so much?
While dogs can achieve REM sleep after only ten minutes, because they sleep lightly and are easily disturbed, they are also constantly waking up or going from deep to light sleep and as a result need far more sleep than us to achieve sufficient REM sleep to maintain good health.
It’s said that dogs spend half of their lives asleep.
Of the time they are awake, approximately 20% of that is active time, with the remaining 30% spent resting.
The reason dogs sleep so much is due to a few different reasons including boredom, however the primary reason is because their sleep patterns differ from ours, which results in less REM sleep.
Boredom can be addressed, by making your dog’s day more exciting and providing additional stimulation. REM sleep however is a different story.
For example, when we sleep we might experience up to 5 REM (rapid eye movement sleep) cycles, which indicate a deep state of sleep. REM sleep is essential for well-being in this sense, benefitting mood and memory.
There’s even a link between the amount of REM sleep a person experiences and their ability to learn, process, and retain information. In combination these 5 cycles of REM sleep equate to about 20 – 25% of our total sleep time.
When a dog sleeps however, they experience REM sleep for only about 10% of their total sleep time.
In humans it takes about 90 minutes to get into an REM sleep state, however in dogs that can be as little as 10 – 15 minutes.
And, because dogs are light sleepers, being descendants of wild dogs such as wolves, who need to remain alert for both predators and prey, dogs are easily disturbed while sleeping, and don’t tend to spend as much time in REM sleep as their owners, which neccessitates the need for dogs to sleep often, even if a lighter sleep with shorter durations.
This is much the same as dogs with nutritional deficiencies, that in turn affect their skin and coat. For example if the dog is deficient in a particular micronutrient, or they are consuming a low quality commercial dog food, they will eat a lot more, if given the opportunity. This results in more total calories being consumed to achieve the same nutritional balance.
The Sleeping Habits of Chihuahuas
You may have also noticed your Chihuahua has the ability to fall asleep, seemingly at the drop of a hat.
One minute they are tearing about, and the next they are sound asleep. Up to 6 months of age this occurs even more frequently as all puppies sleep more than mature dogs as a rule. Chihuahua puppies are no exception and can sleep as much as 18 hours per day from 2 – 6 months of age.
Older dogs, Chihuahuas included, also tend to sleep more, in some cases even more than puppies as their age beings taking more of a toll on their depleted energy levels.
Sleeping in the same Bed?
Chihuahuas also like to sleep in the same bed as their owners. They prefer this for a couple of reasons, firstly they really feel the cold, so any opportunity to bunk down in a warm bed beside a warm body is ideal.
Secondly, they like to burrow and be under a cover.
Chihuahuas, being smaller than most pets suffer from anxiety and as a result feel secure when they are covered. Your bed cover is ideal for both security and warmth.
Typically Chihuahuas like to sleep curled up.
There’s a few reasons for this, for one it maintains warmth which is important for Chihuahuas who tend to feel the cold more than other breeds due to their ultra-fast metabolism.
Secondly, sleeping curled up also protects the organs. While this isn’t necessarily an indication that the dog feels insecure, it’s true that a dog that sleeps sprawled out with limbs in every direction is considered a dog that feels safe and secure in his/her environment and has no issue exposing their organs.
Things to look out for
If you are concerned about your Chihuahua’s sleeping habits e.g. they are sleeping more or less than usual, or appear distressed during sleep, look out for the following signs:
Trouble getting settled
Particularly in older dogs, if they take a long time to settle e.g. they continuously circle their designated sleep area before settling down this may be a sign of joint pain and arthritis or an indication of pain of a more general nature.
If your Chihuahua sounds distressed while asleep, keep in mind dogs dream just like us. If you notice distressed behaviour, there are two schools of thought, either let them work through whatever they are processing or attempt to wake them.
I tend to prefer to wake them, by gently stirring them by patting them or calling them in a gentle voice. Sometimes the dog will come out of their sleep completely, other times they will come out of a deep sleep but still remain in a light asleep.
If your dog is experiencing distress regularly when asleep it may be time to discuss the issue with your vet.
Change in the amount of sleep your Chihuahua is getting
In most cases, your dog sleeping most of the day isn’t a cause for concern but too much sleep can indicate a health issue such as Diabetes.
If you notice an increase or decrease in your Chihuahuas sleep time it’s a good idea to speak to a vet who can run a full checkup.
While there aren’t established studies that prove which breeds of dog sleep the most, anecdotally it’s well established that Chihuahuas get a lot of sleep.
They may not sleep as much as some larger breeds such as Bulldogs (I have both, trust me Bulldogs sleep a lot), but much like high performance batteries, they’re high-powered but tend to go flat quickly.
So if you are feeling concerned that your Chihuahua seems to spend most of their lives sleeping, don’t worry, under most circumstances it’s perfectly normal and nothing to be concerned about.