My dog is getting harder to wake up!

correct answerThe Short Answer is:

The fact that your elderly dog is having difficulty waking up is likely just part of the aging process and in itself should not be cause for concern.

In this research you will know the answer to the query “My dog is getting harder to wake up!“.

If you have recently noticed that your dog is getting harder to wake up to then there could be a large variety of reasons for this and most of them are things you should be concerned about. 

In this research we will take a look at this topic from the perspective of older dogs the older dog that you are trying to rouse is in its golden years.

It may seem as though your old dog is in a deep sleep because its senses are not as sharp as they once were.

Even with less-than-perfect hearing sense of smell and vision your old friend is able to switch off better than it used to. 

By answering a few simple questions lets unpack a few of these ideas. 

What do I mean by an older dog?

In the dog world an old dog is categorized as being 6 years old or more for large breeds. 

Unless your dog is a smaller breed they will not reach old age until they are seven years old! 

Does a dog sleep for a long time?

During any 24-hour period an adult dog will sleep between 12 and 14 hours. 

Walking or exploring their world will take up an average of five hours a day for these children. 

Rest will be the focus of the remaining 5 hours. 

What is the sleep pattern of older dogs? 

Around the age of 6 or 7 years old dogs will gradually increase the number of hours that they sleep and decrease the amount of time they are up and about. 

Several online forums indicate that dogs who are approaching the end of their lives are sleeping up to 20 hours in a 24-hour period. 

Do older dogs need more sleep than younger dogs? 

Dogs that are older sleep more than those that are younger as mentioned here and here. 

What is the reason for their sleep requirement?

Any animal including humans will experience a decline in physical and cognitive performance as they age. 

As dogs age their energy levels drop and they can no longer “keep going” for as many hours as they could previously.

This causes them to sleep more.

A part of this is due to the fact that they must recover from any activity for a longer period. 

Due to the weakening of organs like the heart and lungs their bodies are not as efficient and resetting takes longer for them.

Additionally I believe that an older dog sleeps less efficiently on its own.

To restore their bodies to 100% they need to sleep for longer periods of time.  

Humans vs Dogs

Humans can be compared in an interesting way.

Part of aging and deterioration is that we become less adept at sleeping as we age.

Older people do not need as much sleep as younger people as is commonly believed. 

What do you know? This is nonsense.

Sleep needs are approximately the same for adults of all ages.

Older people do not sleep as well as younger people for a variety of reasons (related to a decline in physical and mental processes). 

As a result older people sleep less on average. However this should be increased. 

There has been a lot of research on this subject. 

Does it apply to dogs as well? As long as more research isnot done we will never know. 

What we do know about dog sleep

Different levels of sleep

Humans and dogs have two main stages of sleep:

Short Wave Sleep (SWS)

Sleep begins with this stage.

Dogs are able to wake up quicker from this type of sleep because it is lighter.

Relaxation starts to take place in the mind and body

Rapid Eye Movement (REM

Within 20 minutes a dog can move between SWS and REM

You may hear groaning and notice your dogs eyes twitching.

REM sleep accounts for 10% of a dogs sleep.

With regards to deep sleep what I have noticed with our dogs is that our four-year-old dog is far more likely to engage in REM activity than our thirteen-year-old dog. 

It will most likely take place in the evening of a day on which she has gone for a much longer walk- or a walk that has been very taxing. 

That was a great performance! Her eyes will blink and close as if she is in a horror movie and her toes and legs will twitch enough to make you think she is running. 

The noise is at the top of that is the case. Most of the time it sounds like a whimper almost like a laugh but at other times it sounds like a screaming wail: one continuous sound for a few seconds. I’m very disturbed by the sound. 

4 other factors (apart from age) that impact a dog’s sleep

In addition to age there are a number of other factors that impact a dogs sleeping patterns. 

Factors to consider include: 


Dogs of larger breeds need more sleep than dogs of smaller breeds


Worker breeds of dogs such as Border Collies and Australian Shepherds require less sleep than other breeds of similar size


My dogs tend to sleep more than usual on a baking hot day such as the one I am writing this research on.

Health/ Illness

Dogs that are healthy need less sleep than dogs that are ill. 

5 Conditions in older dogs that can hinder sleep

Despite the fact that many older dogs appear to sleep so soundly that it is difficult for them to wake up there are plenty of other senior dogs who have real difficulty getting good sleep. 

This is due to five main reasons.


The term canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) refers to the brain of a dog becoming less and less functional as it ages. Many aspects of a dogs daily life are affected including its sleep/wake cycle which reduces the quality of the dogs sleep.


Frequently as dogs grow older they become more anxious and confused. Routine and consistency become increasingly important to them and any changes might upset them enough to disturb their sleep. 

My old dog has a lot of food-related issues. Whenever she is expecting a biscuit before bedtime Bump becomes very unsettled in the days leading up to her evening meal. For an hour or two before bedtime she cannot sleep. 


An older dog with joint pain may have difficulty sleeping especially if their normal sleeping position is affected by their pain.


In this condition the thyroid gland is not functioning properly and it is underperforming. A dogs thyroid regulates his metabolism and there are several symptoms of thyroid dysfunction including increased lethargy.


The ability of dogs to control their bladders deteriorates as they age. Here I am not talking about incontinence but about a process that is a natural part of aging for all of us.

Due to this our senior dogs need to go out in the garden much more frequently which can affect their sleep.

How to gently wake up a sleeping dog

Is it even necessary to wake up dogs? Some people believe that you should not ever wake up a dog that is sleeping just in case the animal is startled and snaps at you.

Therefore this is something that has to be left to individual owners who know their dogs inside and out.

In my opinion I wouldnot hesitate to wake up Bumps because I know she wouldnot snap. 

It is most important for people to wake their dogs in the morning and at night.

Many of us have to get up early to prepare for work in the morning which includes taking the dogs for a walk and feeding them.

Do you know what to do with an elderly dog who is generally still asleep at these times?

In this case its important to be as gentle and quiet as possible so that the dog is not frightened. 

A great way of waking up your dog without having to touch it is to lay a few tasty treats around where it is sleeping and hopefully it will smell them and wake up.

5 ways to help your dog sleep

For your elderly dog to sleep better you can try a number of different things.

This is the foundation of any loving human-dog relationship there is no surprise here. 

1. Different options

Dogs like to change the location of where they sleep every few hours according to my experience. As a result our dogs sleep in a room with several options for them- a sofa a few dog beds on the floor and access to a cool stone floor. 

However its up to you whether your elderly dog needs the security of a crate.

2. Comfortable

Make sure the bed offers some cushioning or “softness” from the floor and is comfortable for your dog. 

Having a leather sofa is a must for our dogs! 

3. Routine

Routines are loved by dogs of all ages. However senior dogs are especially in love with routines. 

Maintain a consistent routine so your dog knows what is coming next- all the things that are going to happen before they go to bed at night. 

My wife always gives me a biscuit before I go to bed so this is pretty standard for me. After a while I take them out to do their “business” in the garden then another biscuit and lights out. Bumps will stare forlornly at me if she does not get her biscuits- theres no chance she’ll sleep without them.

4. Exercise

It is an important part of any dogs routine throughout its entire life; the only difference is that the duration changes. 

A dog should be taken on walks as long as it can stand and walk because this will benefit both their mental and physical health and not to mention the fact that many older dogs will be able to poop better when they walk. 

5. Diet

Food of high quality in the right quantity. 

With older dogs this is especially difficult as many of them still love food but as they exercise less smaller portions are required to maintain a healthy weight. 

In addition reducing portion sizes for food-loving older dogs is very challenging.

Dogs that lose their appetite as they get older are on the other end of the spectrum. The challenge here is to provide them with enough calories. This is an experience I have yet to experience.


The fact that your elderly dog is having difficulty waking up is likely just part of the aging process and in itself should not be cause for concern.

If you need to wake your dog up be sure to follow our gentle guidelines for doing it. Just keep an eye on how much sleep your dog is getting in any 24-hour period. 

If you want to read more about dog health tips read here: Dog Health Tips and Tricks.

My dog is getting harder to wake up to! (Watch Video)

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