Does it seem like your German Shepherd sleeps all the time? Or are you worried that your German Shepherd doesn’t get enough sleep?
German Shepherds show considerable differences in sleeping habits from dog to dog.
On average, like most dogs, German Shepherds need 12 to 14 hours of sleep every day.
But working adult German Shepherds may need less sleep than average, and German Shepherd puppies may need more.
In this article we’ll talk about the practical ways you can make sure your German Shepherd gets enough sleep at night.
We will also discuss how to solve potential challenges to your dog’s healthy sleep patterns and your own.
Your German Shepherd’s Lifestyle and Its Effects on Sleep Time
Some dogs seem to be made for taking naps.
Bulldogs, Basset Hounds, Greyhounds, Mastiffs, Lhasa Apsos, Pekingese, and Shih Tzus seem to sleep all the time.
On the other hand, some dogs seem like they were bred for boundless energy.
Airedale Terriers, Australian Terriers, Lagotto Romagnolos, Labrador Retrievers, and Pomeranians can spend their days, and nights, in constant motion
German Shepherds are somewhere in between the two extremes, except when they are on the job.
Many German Shepherds fill protector roles. They may be guard dogs for the military. They may be patrol dogs for the police.
There are German Shepherds that do search and rescue, German Shepherds trained to be support dogs and to do disability assistance, and German Shepherds that act on TV and movies.
You can train your Shepherd to pick up toys, close the door behind you, or help you carry heavy bags.
Whatever task you give your German Shepherd to do, they will do it faithfully. They will be loyal to you and their job at the expense of sleep.
German Shepherds can bring intense energy and concentration to tasks like disaster search and rescue.
They can go without sleep for days on end. German Shepherds can be trained to spring into motion in emergencies, even when they have not had enough sleep.
The important thing to know about German Shepherd sleep patterns is that they don’t really have any unless they are encouraged to sleep on a schedule by their masters.
Left to their own choices, German Shepherds will take naps throughout the day and will be generally more alert at night.
Your German Shepherd won’t naturally lie down at 4 in the afternoon and spring back into action at 6 the next morning.
German Shepherds living their lives as pets are calmer, happier, and less likely to have accidents around the house if they are given lots of naptime.
For most German Shepherd owners, house training and establishing healthy sleep habits go together.
Training Your German Shepherd for Healthy Sleep
German Shepherd puppies spend a lot of energy exploring their world. They may need as much as 20 hours of sleep every day.
Older German Shepherds can need 18 to 20 hours of sleep a day, too.
But the habits you instill into your German Shepherds make both sleep time and potty time easier to manage.
How long your German Shepherd will sleep is related to how long it can “hold it in”
German Shepherds have a built-in urge to keep their living areas clean. A German Shepherd will wake up when it feels the urge to urinate or defecate.
Then it will go as far as it needs to do its business away from its sleeping place.
German Shepherds have a different sense of space at different ages.
A German Shepherd puppy in an adult-sized crate may decide it’s OK to relieve itself in one corner of the crate and sleep in the opposite corner.
An older adult German Shepherd may decide it’s OK to relieve itself down the hall from its sleeping place, no need to go outside.
At the age of eight weeks (when mother German Shepherds stop helping their puppies with bathroom needs), a German Shepherd puppy will be able to “hold it” for about two hours.
That means that if you make sure it has an approved potty break, it won’t need another until after it has finished a two-hour nap.
By the time a German Shepherd puppy is four months old, it will not need to “go” for four hours.
At six months, it should not need relief for six hours, and by the time a German Shepherd is eight months old, it should be able to wait overnight.
The calmer the surroundings, the longer your German Shepherd can wait for a bathroom break, and the longer it will sleep.
You encourage healthy sleep patterns by:
- Making sure puppies are in puppy-sized crates, so they don’t sleep so long they soil their crate or have accidents around the house.
- Making sure older dogs have opportunities to relieve themselves before it’s time to settle down for the night.
It also helps to give your German Shepherd time outside its crate throughout the day for toilet breaks so it can nap comfortably.
Providing your German Shepherd with good sleep conditions
Taking care of bathroom business is essential for your German Shepherd to get good rest, but there are other things you can do.
When you first bring home a young German Shepherd, it has been used to sleeping in a pile of puppies. It misses its brothers and sisters. It misses its mother.
Fortunately, for a dog, smelling is believing.
If you can take some unwashed toy or blanket that holds the scent of your German Shepherd puppy’s mother and siblings, it will have the sense that they are present.
It will not feel as alone. Your puppy will sleep better, have fewer “accidents” around the house, and make less noise at night so you can sleep better, too.
Some breeders will give you a towel that has been “scented” by your puppy’s mother to take home with you.
Most others won’t object if you take them towels or toys to pick up the mother’s scent before or after you bring your puppy home.
If that’s not possible, go to the pet supply store and buy a spray bottle of DAP, Dog Appeasing Hormone.
This synthetic hormone mimics the odor puppies smell when they are nursing, and helps calm German Shepherds of all ages at night.
Responding to interruptions in your German Shepherd puppy’s sleep
Sometimes German Shepherd puppies can’t sleep because they miss their birth families. But sometimes German Shepherd puppies can’t sleep because they are cold.
The puppy you bring home at the age of eight to sixteen weeks will have spent its nights with the warmth of its mother and siblings.
Sleeping alone, it can feel cold. Sometimes all you need to help your puppy rest is to turn up the heat and make sure your dog isn’t in a draft.
When all else fails, you can always inflate an air mattress and sleep next to your puppy’s crate for a few nights. (Don’t invite your puppy into bed with you. Once your dog becomes accustomed to your scent so it can fall asleep, it will want to sleep with you forever.)
Eventually, you will need to give your puppy ways to self-soothe.
Give your puppy a chew toy to amuse itself until it falls asleep. Place a ticking clock next to its crate, or give it a white noise generator.
These distractions will help it feel calmer and sleepier.
Before the age of eight months, puppies will still need to get up at night for toilet breaks, but you can put out absorbent pads and put up a puppy fence around the crate so accidents don’t happen all over your house.
Create a routine for your German Shepherd puppy
First thing every morning, take your German Shepherd puppy out of its crate and carry it to the place where it should relieve itself.
Praise your dog for doing its business where it is supposed to.
Repeat the morning routine even if there have been accidents during the night. Never scold your dog for nighttime accidents.
Dogs don’t make the connection between their “going” in the wrong place and punishment for the mess. They will just think you are mean. But they will remember rewards for holding it in and going in the right place in the morning.
Throughout the day, make sure opportunities to potty follow opportunities to play. Pay attention to cues that your dog needs to urinate or defecate.
Take more potty breaks when your dog is exercising hard and drinking lots of water.
Before naptime, make sure your dog makes a trip to its place for bathroom activities. Then give it one more opportunity to relieve itself before putting it in its crate overnight.
Training puppies requires lots of patience, and lots of cleaning supplies. But the result will be a happier dog with a happier family that develops healthy lifelong sleep habits.
A word on pee pads:
There was a time when most new dog owners put out old newspapers over the floors so puppies could relieve themselves with ruining carpet or tile.
The modern equivalent is the “pee pad.” The problem is that dogs make an association between the feel of the pad and an appropriate place for bathroom business.
Just as dogs of the last century would relieve themselves on newspapers that their owners had not read yet, modern dogs trained on pee pads will “go” on any surface that feels like a pad.
Sleep and rescue dogs
Sometimes adult German Shepherds you adopt as a rescue dog will not have been house trained.
The procedure for adult dogs is similar to training puppies:
- Don’t give your German Shepherd too much space, either in its crate or in your house. Smaller spaces to keep clean will encourage your German Shepherd to go outside. It will sleep longer when it gets into the habit of taking care of toilet needs before settling down for the night.
- If your adult German Shepherd needs to interrupt sleep for toilet activities more than 3 or 4 times a day, take it to the vet to be checked for urinary tract infections or parasites.
- Provide your rescue dog with a calm environment. Its body will produce less urine, and it will get more sleep.
What to do when an older German Shepherd has sleep issues
German Shepherds can have some of the same kinds of sleep problems that humans get.
Some German Shepherds develop narcolepsy. The problem may be that they can’t be aroused from sleep. Their eyes may dart back and forth as if they were falling asleep.
Or they may fall asleep in the middle of their favorite activities.
German Shepherds can develop sleep apnea. They stop breathing until pressure builds up in their throats and causes an explosive snore.
Both problems require veterinary treatment.
Getting effective treatment of these sleep issues will help your German Shepherds find more energy for the families they love.
A word about German Shepherds and sleep problems in their owners
Scientists have found that older people who own German Shepherds sleep better than those who don’t.
German Shepherd owners over the age of 65 get more exercise and more sleep by taking care of their dogs.
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