You may have heard it said that greyhounds sleep a lot, and shook your head in disbelief – How could the world’s fastest dog also be the world’s sleepiest dog?
So, do greyhounds sleep a lot? Yes. It is not at all unusual for a greyhound to be in some stage of sleep 20 – 22 hours a day, especially if he is elderly. Many greyhounds get up only to eat and go for a walk. With a comparatively “active” greyhound, this routine may be broken up to chew on a toy for a few minutes, greet a visitor, romp briefly in the yard, or visit you while you cook.
You may worry about whether so much sleep is bad for your pet’s health. This article will let you know what you can expect, and when to be concerned or monitor him for illness. If you are considering getting a greyhound, let’s talk about whether such a sleepy pet would be a good fit for your household (the answer may surprise you!). I will also provide an in-depth look at the science behind why greyhounds sleep so much.
Why Greyhounds Sleep so Much
The folks over at the Sunset Veterinary Clinic have some great insight as to why the greyhound would be so incredibly sleepy. They claim that dogs who are bred for a very active purpose will sleep as intensely as they work. This makes so much sense, when you think about it – The greyhound is bred for incredible speeds; so it’s logical that he would also take incredible naps. It’s a perfect demonstration of Newton’s Third Law of Motion:
“For every action, there is an equal and opposite re-action.”Sir Isaac Newton
The Sunset vets also point out the typical pattern of change in daily sleep needs over a course of a dog’s lifetime, which is the same for greyhounds as it is for any dog – Puppies need the most sleep, less for adult dogs; and then almost as much as a puppy, when they grow old. Finally, they state that large dogs simply need more sleep than smaller ones.
Would you believe there is no article out there that explains why, exactly, dogs need sleep?! Using my knowledge of greyhounds, I put forth this explanation, with the help of The Sleep Foundation: it’s obvious that a dog needs sleep to function. Every process would be severely impaired without it. This includes his immune system. Any healthy senior citizen will tell you that the secret to long life is to get plenty of sleep; which explains why greyhounds tend to outlive large dogs of other breeds.
Greyhounds and Melatonin
Believe it or not, melatonin is highly beneficial to your greyhound. This brain hormone, which we usually think of as a sleep aid, can boost your hound’s immune system, help bald spots fill in (see my article and video on bald spots, linked below), regulate sleep cycles for elderly “sundowner” hounds (those who wake at night and fret), and even give dogs with cancer a longer life.
Greyhounds make their own melatonin while they sleep. According to Demian Dressler, DVM, a leading dog cancer specialist, you can help your hound form more melatonin on his own. He says to “make your room as dark as possible, so your dog’s brain has a real shot at generating melatonin,” and offers the following suggestions:
- “Use blackout shades on your windows
- Make sure all sources of “blue light” from TV screens, computers, tablets, and phones are removed.
- Stop using night lights.
- Avoid charging your devices where you sleep, because electrical fields can interfere with melatonin production.
- Considering unplugging lamps and other devices at night.”
Alternatively, you can give your greyhound melatonin supplements. As far as dosage goes, a survey of the Greytalk forum reveals that 3 mg once or twice a day works well for greyhounds. The higher dosage was noted as being especially good for anticipated bouts of anxiety, such as those brought on by fireworks.
The Greyhound’s Sleepy Day: what to expect
Most of the time, we have to get our greyhounds up for their first turn-out of the day. Lily goes for a quick walk, does her doggie business, has a little breakfast, and sleeps until lunch. Before lunch, she takes a quick trip to the curb, and sleeps until late afternoon, when I take her for a good, long walk.
This is her most prolonged activity period of the day. Out in the neighborhood, Lily greets her friends and checks out everything she sees. Her eyes are full of questions, and she sniffs like a bloodhound. She coos and paws frantically at one friend, who is always armed with cookies, and encourages this shameless display. Back home, she might run around or play with a toy before dinner.
Later, I run her out again, before feeding her. Another nap. After one more quick walk, a drink of water and a cookie, Lily puts herself to bed for the night. All together, she probably has not been up for more than three hours.
The Pros and Cons of the Lazy Greyhound
The lazy greyhound is my idea of the perfect dog. My son always claimed to be disappointed that we didn’t have a dog who is up to all kinds of highjinks all the time. I have noticed, however, that he gets tired of other peoples’ active dogs, after a prolonged amount of time.
Dogs, like people, come in different personality types, and each of us has his preferences. Please, never adopt a greyhound just to “rescue” him. If you are used to having a busy, active dog, ask yourself if you’d be happy adding a creature to your home, who is likely to be asleep most of the time. If that’s not your preference, that’s OK – There are many active dogs who are waiting for an attentive owner, like you, who will enjoy their antics!
When to Intervene in your Greyhound’s Sleep
If your greyhound has an unexplained change in his sleeping habits, check in with your vet.
Be sure your greyhound’s schedule starts with getting out early in the morning at a regular time. On days when I wish to sleep in, I set my alarm for 6:45AM and get Lily out for a comfort stop. Then, we both enjoy a hot cup of tea and a nap (Lily’s tea is really just warm water with a little bacon fat in it!).
During the day, get your greyhound up for scheduled potty breaks. They don’t always let you know, and can laze themselves right into a UTI, from retaining urine for too long.
If you find your greyhound is not moving at all between outings, encourage him to get up every few hours (except for overnight). Again, this is to prevent UTIs. Even just getting up to come to you for a cookie or to lick a plate is enough to keep urine from stagnating in his bladder.
An Odd Dog Sleep Behavior
My Lily has an odd sleep behavior that crops up once in a while: she will be fast asleep – Then, suddenly, she’ll leap to her feet, and skitter away. Sometimes, she’ll run around the house briefly, or she’ll run to my husband. Then, she’ll lower her head and whine piteously.
I just ran across an article by JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM, about sleep disorders in dogs. In this article, her description of REM Behavior Disorder reminds me very much of Lily’s disturbing sleep behavior. Luckily, Dr. Pendergrass also includes enough information about this phenomenon for me to rest assured that Lily, though quirky, is just fine.
If, like Lily, your greyhound has these episodes once in a while, you do not need to be concerned. If it’s a new behavior, you want to let your vet know. You should also enlist your vet’s help, if there’s any accompanying behavior that could endanger the dog or family members; such as crashing into things or snapping at people. The vet can help your pup out with some medicine to lessen the intensity of his REM sleep behaviors.
Resources for Further Info
My article on bald spots:
More from Sunset Vets about why dogs sleep so much (not breed-specific)
JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM on REM sleep disorder and other sleep disorders:
Why we need sleep, too:
Inside baseball on melatonin:
Dr. Dressler’s advice on melatonin, canine cancer, and more: