Are Dogs Nocturnal?

Sleeping Dog

Some dogs seem to come alive when the light starts to fade, finding their second wind in the darkness. Other dogs assume similar schedules to their owners, rising when they rise and hitting the hay when their families climb under the covers. Some dogs spend most of their daylight hours deep in slumber, leaving their families wondering—are dogs nocturnal?

What are the Normal Sleeping Habits of Most Dogs?

The modern dog has adapted to life as a companion animal. Like other social creatures, dogs naturally gravitate towards adopting the schedule of its housemates. Because of this, dogs prefer to be awake when their family members are and to sleep when they do. Still, since dogs require more sleep than their human counterparts, dogs will nap throughout the day to keep their energy levels primed for things like car rides, playtime, walks, and more. This means that generally speaking; no, dogs are not nocturnal.

However, there are a few dog breeds that do tend to spend more time awake during the night than others. This is largely because of their genetics which have encouraged a propensity towards guardianship. Among the breeds that can be more active in the evening hours are:

  • The Tibetan Mastiff

The Tibetan Mastiff is a dog of impressive size whose original purpose was to protect livestock from large prey animals such as leopards, tigers, bears, and wolves. Today, the Tibetan Mastiff’s natural wariness is put to use to keep its family safe from harm. This breed wakes easily and has the ability to remain awake all night if needed.

  • The Komondor

The Komondor is a breed whose job was to protect its owners’ livestock during the evening hours. The breed can be aggressive and does not tolerate foolish behavior. This dog breed prefers to remain awake through the night, choosing to catch its zzzz’s in the daytime.

  • The Great Pyrenees

The Great Pyrenees, a dog also referred to as the Pyrenean Mountain Dog, is considered to be nocturnal by nature. This dog traces its roots to the Pyrenees mountain range that separates France from Spain. This dog breed found its purpose in protecting livestock from large predatory animals such as wolves. Today, the breed retains its natural wariness and will respond aggressively if feeling its flock or its people are in danger.

  • Anatolian Shepherd

The Anatolian Shepherd is a dog breed that originated in Turkey in an area known as Anatolia. This breed is renowned for its strength and intensity. A breed that prefers to remain awake through the night, the Anatolian Shepherd excels at protecting its owners’ livestock while they slumber.

Most dog breeds with nocturnal habits have been selectively bred to encourage these traits for a specific purpose. That purpose most commonly is livestock guardianship.

Wolves typically are nocturnal creatures. Their activity is largely governed by the amount of light and the forces of the moon. Because wolves have eyesight that is not as acute as ours, they tend to be their busiest during times of a full moon as they are best able to see in that light.

How Do Dogs See in the Dark?

There is no doubt that dogs can see fairly well in the dark. In fact, dogs actually have better night vision than humans do. This is because dogs’ eyes have larger pupils. These pupils permit more light and light-sensitive cells to permeate the surface of the eye, making it easier to see when the light is dim or even dark.

Unlike human beings, dogs do not exclusively use their eyes to detect movement or to indicate clear paths. Since dogs have very strong olfactory senses and hearing, they are able to utilize these characteristics to help them navigate in dim light or darkness.

It is important to note that dogs do not possess the ability to see in total darkness. Dogs do have acute vision in the dark; however, dogs are typically near-sighted creatures. While ideal human vision can detect objects up to 63 feet from them, dogs only possess the capability of seeing items 20 feet away or closer.

What is the Average Amount of Time a Dog Sleeps Each Day?

Dogs spend a lot of time sleeping, particularly during the daylight hours. Most dogs catch a few zzzz’s from 12-14 hours per day. It has been estimated that the average dog sleeps approximately 50 percent of their entire day. The remaining percentages are divided as follows: 30 percent for sleeping and 20 percent for activity and fun.

Interestingly enough, working dogs tend to sleep less than their companion counterparts. All dogs tend to be light sleepers and are easily aroused by noise.

Statistics show that large breed dogs sleep more than smaller breeds. This may be because some of the largest breed dogs are nocturnal, meaning their daylight hours are reserved for catching up on lost sleep from the night before.

What is the Ideal Amount of Sleep a Dog Should Get?

As an average, most dogs should get a minimum of 12 hours of sleep per night. However, dogs are highly individual, meaning some dogs can get by on less while other will require more.

Puppies have higher sleep requirements than adult dogs. Because puppies need lots of energy to play and grow, they should get between 18-20 hours of sleep per day. Likewise, older dogs also sleep more than dogs in the prime of their lives.

My Dog Sleeps A lot; Should I Be Worried?

Dogs that sleep between 12-14 hours per day are right on target with how much sleep they should be getting to maintain optimal health and wellness. However, extremes on either end of the sleep spectrum can be a cause for concern. For dogs that are not sleeping enough or too much, it is important for owners to carefully assess their dogs for other symptoms that may accompany this new sleep pattern.

Among the signs to look for are:

  • Changes in activity levels
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of interest in play
  • Poor appetite
  • Narcolepsy
  • Fear or stress
  • Aggression or anxiety

Why Won’t My Dog Settle at Night?

There are several different reasons why some dogs find it hard to settle down when bedtime rolls around. Among the most common causes are:

Insufficient exercise

If dogs do not receive regular daily exercise, they can find it very difficult to settle down to sleep when evening it’s time to hit the hay. Dogs with pent up energy may circle, dig, or bark excessively. A daily walk or vigorous play session will help dogs to release their excess energy, allowing them to settle easily for a good night’s sleep.


Dogs that continually circle or pace may be suffering from soreness or pain that makes laying down uncomfortable for them. This is particularly common in senior dogs. An orthopedic bed can help take the pressure off sore, painful joints.

Separation anxiety

For dogs that sleep in separate rooms than their owners, separation anxiety can become an issue. A good solution to this problem is to place a dog bed or crate within sight of the owner’s bed to give the dog comfort.

Sleep apnea

Some dog breeds suffer from sleep apnea, causing disturbances in their sleep.

Are dogs nocturnal? While there are a few dog breeds that prefer to remain awake at night, most dogs adapt to their owners’ schedules, enjoying family life in the daytime and catching up on their zzzz’s at night.



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