As I usually say: a tired dog is a happy dog. But too tired can be dangerous for your dog and people around him. So it’s really important to know the signs and symptoms your dog is not only tired but exhausted.
If your pup is tired and relaxed, that’s great, he’ll be able to sleep and you can enjoy some peace as well. But you should definitely know when to stop. Because once your dog is not only tired but exhausted, you should give him some time to rest. It’s particularly important for you to stop your dog because most dogs won’t stop themselves, no matter how tired they are. They would follow you until they fall off their legs, that’s just their nature.
Why it’s important to force your dog to rest
Dogs are in many ways like children. And that’s particularly true for when they’re being exhausted. Overly tired children often become hyperactive. With dogs, it’s just the same. Have you ever noticed that you’re dog gets particularly excited after a long hike or agility training session? In that case it’s most likely that he’s overly tired. I don’t know about you but I find it super annoying when Baloo’s overly excited so I try everything to avoid it.
Losing self control
Another thing that can happen is that your dog will loose his self control. You probably know that from your own behavior: if you’re really tired you’re much more irritable. This might result in you screaming at someone only because he asked you how you’re doing or something similar. It’s the same for your dog. He might be the best dog for an entire day of family picnic but bite a child in the evening. All the noise, activities and people make dogs tired. At some point they need to be able to go to a quiet place in order to rest. Otherwise he’s more likely to loose self-control when people behave in a way he doesn’t like (especially children).
Dogs who never learned to calm down will suffer more easily from joint and heart problems. Their body is incapable to relax and will hence develop weaknesses.
Exhaustion can also come from mental or emotional stimulation
It’s very important to keep in mind that mental exercise can exhaust your dog just as much as physical exercise. That’s why he might be more tired after an hour of obedience training than after a day long hike (or at least the same).
Another very important factor to keep in mind is emotional stimulation. This is often overlooked because your dog doesn’t seem to be doing anything that would be actively tiring. But it’s actually very exhausting for dogs if a lot is going on around them. That’s most common for occasions where a lot of people are around him or where there are many smells or noises.
How much sleep does a dog need?
Dogs sleep a lot! An average dog should sleep around 18 hours per day (24 hours). By sleeping I also mean relaxing, just not actively doing anything. The time where they are actually in deep sleep is about 12 to 14 hours per day. This may sound like a lot but if you think about it, it means that your dog would be ready to have some sort of activity for 6 hours per day! For most dog owners it’s impossible to provide this much activity for their dog. So if there is only something interesting going on for, say, 4 hours per day, your dog can relax during the remaining 2 hours where he would be ready to be active.
Sleeping is kind of a default manner of dogs if they don’t have anything to do. If your dog gets at least 4 hours of activity each day and sometimes a bit more, like on the occasional camping or hiking trip, he should be fine. Activities can be walks, playtime, eating/drinking, sniffing, exploring, chewing his bone, etc. Anything, where he is not just lying around. The amount of sleep a dog needs also depends on the activity he’s getting during his waking hours. Sniffing, e.g., is much more tiring than just walking. New areas involve new smells and are therefore much more intense than known territory.
Puppies will need even more sleep, 20+ hours are completely normal.
10 Signs your dog is tired or even exhausted
Most people would probably say, that’s the most obvious. While it can certainly mean that your dog is tired, it mostly means something different, like stress or uneasiness.
2. He forgets commands
It’s sometimes difficult to tell if your pup is just trying to be nasty or if he’s actually incapable of executing your commands. If he seems to have forgotten even the simplest commands without any noticable distraction, it’s very likely that he’s had enough and needs a break.
3. Hyper dog lying down
That’s a very clear sign for me that Baloo is exhausted. Baloo never lies down in public on his own! He always feels like he has to watch everything that’s going on. So when he’s actually lying down, I know it’s time for a break for him. Because even if he’s lying, he won’t be able to relax in public, just too many stimuli.
4. He’s having the “Zoomies”
When you’re dog is zooming around, it can mean 2 things: either he’s bored and tries to get rid of his excess energy. Or he’s hyper active because he’s over tired. You have to look at this in the context of what’s been going on before he started to become hyper. If there has been a lot going on, it’s a good indicator that it’s time for bed for your fur baby.
5. He’s sniffing the ground
This is a particularly obvious sign in training, like Agility. You’re pup is usually super motivated and focused on you. But sometimes he just seems to get distracted by smells every 5 seconds, right? Yep, then he’s done, he’s too tired to focus anymore and that’s why he gets distracted.
6. Excessive panting and/or lip licking
These are simple signs of uneasiness. In case your doggo shows these signs after you’ve worked with him or had a busy day, it can mean that he’s starting to get tired.
7. He’s not acting like himself
Just watch out for any signs telling you that something’s different. In my case it would be when Baloo’s lying down by himself, that’s a really rare scenario. Another sign could be that his ears are usually up and now they’re hanging down. Or he’s being a clown and rolling around. Things like these can indicate that it’s time for his doggy bed.
8. Excessive thirst
Excitement or physical exercise can result in excessive thirst. This can also be caused by the treats he’s getting. Chewing bones usually make a dog very thirsty as well. But have you ever noticed that your dog drinks a whole lot more when you’re having guests around or visiting friends? That’s because the emotional excitement makes him thirsty. This is also a sign that you’re dog will have to rest at some point.
9. No interest in playing
Is your dog usually really playful and loves anything that’s flying around? But then sometimes he just doesn’t seem interested, right? That’s another sign that it’s time for a nap. Give him some rest and play again in a few hours.
Dogs that aren’t the social type will usually hide if it’s getting enough for them. This behavior will particularly be visible with emotional stimuli, such as when you’re having friends over. This is a very clear sign and very easy to read. However, it’s not exactly typical dog behavior. Most dogs will show some of the other signs that aren’t that obvios. If he’s hiding somewhere, leave him there and let him relax until he feels ready for some socializing.
For hyper dogs: consider a crate
Crate training is a super helpful “tool” in dog training. It’s best to start practicing it when you’re dog’s still a puppy. But he can still learn it later.
It’s especially useful for hyper dogs that have a hard time calming down by themselves. For them it’s best to put them in their crate in a calm room. It’s much easier for an exciteable dog to relax there than if he’s just going to his bed in the living room where there’s still a lot going on around him.
Signs it’s getting dangerous
If your dog seems tired or lethargic for no particular reason you should watch out for signs indicating that he might have a medical issue.
If you’re dog is tired or even lethargic for more than 1 or 2 days, there might be something wrong with him. A very obvious sign is when he doesn’t react to the things he usually likes. That could be his favorite toy, his beloved food or you calling him to go for a walk.
Reasons can be a number of infections, pain, arthritis or even cancer. Vetstreet lists all the possible reasons.
Alright, so what have we learned? Yes, a tired dog is a happy dog. An over tired or exausted dog isn’t! Learn to read your dog’s body language and stop him when you realize he’s had enough!