Restlessness and stress can result from a lack of rest or improper exercise of the dog. Dogs need more rest than humans do. A healthy adult dog snoozes an average of 18 hours a day. You can find out more about the need for rest and the urge to keep busy in the other blogs in this series.
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A dog's need for rest
Our dogs' need for rest is greater than most dog people would estimate. A dog is physically easily able to carry out everyday life with us humans. From a biological point of view, a dog needs significantly more rest than humans. An adult and healthy dog needs around 16-20 hours to doze and sleep. Puppies or old dogs need more than 16-20 hours of rest. If a dog cannot calm down on its own, it needs the help of a person to instruct it to calm down. Some dogs, on the other hand, find peace on their own. This can be because the dog learned it from the start, or because his personality and character favor it. The reasons why your dog doesn't calm down can be different. Body structure also influences stress resilience. You can find out more about the body structure and the ability to self-regulate in the explanation of terms impulse control. The more people integrate dogs into their everyday lives, the more there is a need to teach and learn to be calm.
After the overloaded children, the phenomenon of excessive demands is now gradually occurring in the dog world. Agility courses, mantrailing and various workshops are intended to keep the dog busy. The dog also accompanies us on visits, to the restaurant and to the weekly market. Where is the necessary time to switch off and really relax?
ℹ️ Well-intentioned utilization, poorly implemented
Unknowingly, as dog people, we can encourage restless behavior in our dogs. Excessive exercise or thoughtless games that rely on movement without the brain promote restlessness and prevent the dog from calming down. Stupid ball games without a concept encourage, among other things, ball junkies who rush like mad after a ball.
Too much and too little exercise can cause the same symptoms of restlessness in your dog. If your dog doesn't calm down, it could be due to too much exercise or too little exercise. In addition to the dog's lack of exercise, incorrect activity can cause your dog to go crazy. Finding a healthy amount of exercise and activity for your dog is not always easy. In order to teach your dog to calm down and at the same time keep him busy, you can use impulse control exercises or concentration exercises. We already have it for you impulse control training for Beginner, advanced and professionals compiled.
The thought often floats around in dog people's heads that a dog that is well exercised hears better. It is understandable that exercise and activity with your dog is necessary and that boredom causes some problem behavior in dogs. However, the reason for employment should not be to exhaust yourself, but rather a healthy amount of stimuli, impressions, exercise and opportunities to rest. Elevated cortisol levels make dogs want to exercise in order to metabolize the excess cortisol through activity. A vicious circle arises: a stressed dog becomes a hyperactive dog that is stressed. Lack of rest and sleep leads to nervousness, lack of concentration and tension. As a dog person, the dog's behavior makes you think the dog needs more exercise. Incorrect! What a dog like this needs is rest!
Lack of sleep is not only a result of stress, but also the origin of other health problems and problem behavior. As a dog person, it is your job to teach your dog to calm down if your dog doesn't calm down. This not only helps with general behavior and health, but also promotes the processing of training, exercises and experiences.
How do you know that your dog is overexcited by the situation?
- your dog is hardly or not at all responsive
- you are hardly noticed and there is little orientation
- the muscles are tense and the ears alert
- the dog does not lie down and is constantly in motion
- Despite movement, your dog does not come to rest
- your dog shows a lot of yelping, whining, whining, barking, and shaking
- Jumping actions often occur, such as biting the leash, excessive digging, nervous jumping on people, etc.
- your dog shows no signs of tiredness and demands more exercise
- Food is refused
Rest and stress - what happens in the dog's body
It's important to understand that chronic stress in dogs can not only lead to unpleasant behaviors, but also health problems. Chronic stress can weaken the immune system, increase the risk of infections, and even lead to serious illnesses such as heart disease and gastrointestinal problems.
Therefore, it is crucial that we give our dogs enough time for rest and sleep. Dogs need approximately 18 hours of rest per day, depending on their age, health and activity level.
If we overwhelm our dogs in stressful situations, e.g. through too much training, too many social interactions or too much overstimulation, this can lead to overload. By giving our dogs enough rest and relaxation periods, we can help them feel more comfortable and balanced overall.
If we assume that your dog's needs are met, other factors may be the reason why the dog cannot calm down. It should be understandable that lack of sleep and hunger lead to restlessness. Feeling hungry can cause nervousness and reduce impulse control. We have already discussed how nerve nourishment can have a positive influence in our article impulse control mentioned. You can practice calm with your dog, but other conditions play a role for your dog. You can find more information about this in the blog “Causes & reasons for a restless or stressed dog“. These include:
- Hereditary factors & unfavorable development / rearing
- Lack of frustration tolerance & impulse control
- Unlearned rest
- background stressors
- mood transfer
Aid in the event of a lack of rest - the dog does not come to rest
In addition to exercises, rest can be supported by various aids. It is important to mention that aids promote rest, but without training they do not bring about effective rest. In our blog you will find effective rest training with free training plans. The tools work on different levels. The effectiveness is different for every dog and must be tested individually for you and your dog.
Music therapy is very common in some areas in humans. Music can promote relaxation in dogs. Results from Lindig et al. (2020) indicate that animals (not just dogs) appear less stressed or anxious when listening to classical music. To date, there has been little research examining music and relaxation in connection with animals. Music can provide relief from restlessness in the home environment. In most studies, rest time and duration of barking have been assessed and measured as indicators of stress. Measured by cortisol levels and heart rate, classical music was able to induce calm. In addition to the genre, conditioning and association with experiences and music can also have a good effect. If your dog always lies relaxed next to you while you listen to your favorite music, the positive experience can lead your dog to calm down.
CBD can be used in a variety of ways for dogs and humans as a natural supplement. Dogs have their own endocannabinoid system, which works similarly to humans. This system is responsible for maintaining balance in the body and plays an important role in regulating mood, pain, inflammation and many other processes. CBD is a natural substance obtained from the hemp plant and has many positive properties.Unfortunately, there is not much proven evidence that CBD has the same positive properties in dogs as it does in humans. However, it is believed that CBD can help dogs with pain, cramps, anxiety and stress, to support the immune system or against inflammation. But it is important to know that it is used as support and not as a sole problem solver.
herbs and fragrances
Herbs and scents can have a calming effect on dogs, especially when they are stressed or restless. Chamomile, lavender, and valerian are three herbs often recommended to help dogs relax. The herbs can be given to the dog through food to work internally or as an essential oil through a diffuser. The herbs should be started during a quiet period. Only use high-quality and carefully prepared herbs and essential oils. Essential oils can have an irritating effect, especially when used in high concentrations or on sensitive skin. Get advice on the correct dosage and application.
The RelaxoPet is a device that emits specially tailored sounds for dogs, cats or horses, depending on the device. We were unable to find any evidence or studies confirming the effectiveness of the RelaxoPet. Some dog people have already had good experiences, others didn't notice any difference. However, if we think about conditioned relaxation, you can use the RelaxoPet to condition relaxation without it disturbing people because the sounds are hardly perceptible to people. If you set up the RelaxoPet at home in a quiet environment as a relaxation tone while the dog relaxes, after a while the RelaxoPet can also be used in stressful situations (e.g. when driving) without it bothering you.
Cycles and Adaptile
Zylkène and Adaptil can serve as natural remedies to support relaxation. Both aids promote calm in temporary, stressful situations.
Zylkène is obtained from skimmed milk. The calming effect is due to α-casozepine, which is produced in the intestines of puppies as they digest their mother's milk. The α-casozepine in turn strengthens the effect of the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). GABA is responsible for all functions that have to do with emotions, including stress. Adult dogs no longer produce α-casozepine, but the effect remains. Zylkène creates the well-known pleasant feeling in adult dogs and supports the dog in being able to react more calmly to stressful situations.
Adaptil is now available in different product forms: as a collar, as tablets, as an atomizer for the socket or as a spray. Adaptil works in the form of pheromones. Pheromones are messenger substances that help dogs get information about each other. A mother dog releases pheromones through her teats, which are intended to give the puppies a feeling of safety and security. Adaptil sends these pheromones into your dog's environment and gives him security. The feeling of security creates relaxation.
Thundershirt and Tellington TTouch body tape
In stressful situations, a Thundershirt can be a possible help. Thundershirts are special tight-fitting t-shirts for dogs that provide even compression on the body. This is intended to have a calming effect on the dog, similar to swaddling babies. The compression of the shirt imitates close contact, which is intended to give the dog a feeling of security and promotes the release of oxytocin, the feel-good hormone.
The Tellington TTouch body band can be used more variably than the Thundershirt, but requires a little more practice to put on. We recommend trying out both tools several times before using them in important situations. The calming effect depends largely on the individual feeling of the dog. Dogs who find clothing or harnesses uncomfortable will also find wearing a Thundershirt or body band bothersome.
Whether and how much the compression of the shirt or the body band calms your dog and reduces stress, depends on various factors and can be different for dogs based on individual needs and feelings - from disturbing and stressful to calming and soothing.
Rest and relaxation are necessary for our dogs’ health. Unrest can be attributed to several reasons. If your dog doesn't calm down, it can be attributed to health, genetics, as well as upbringing and training. You can teach your dog to calm down and promote relaxation using aids. We'll show you how you can actively practice rest exercises in the rest exercises for at home and the rest exercises for outside. A balance of rest and activity is crucial for your dog's well-being and health. Every dog has individual needs and it is important to take these into account to ensure a happy and balanced life for your four-legged friend. Watch for signs of under- or over-stimulation and adjust activities accordingly to ensure your dog is getting both physical and mental exercise.
Don't forget to give your dog plenty of opportunities to rest and relax by creating a calm and comfortable environment. A fixed daily routine and taking into account your dog's individual needs in terms of sleep, physical activity and mental activity will make a significant contribution to ensuring that your dog finds peace and leads a happy, healthy life.
Löckenhoff, U. (2017). Dogwalk: How dogs happily follow. Cosmos.
Mrozinski, N., Heberer, U. & Brede, N. (2017). Aggression behavior in dogs. Cosmos.
Lindig, A. M., McGreevy, P. D. & Crean, A. J. (2020). Musical Dogs: A Review of the Influence of Auditory Enrichment on Canine Health and Behavior. Animals, 10(1), 127. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7022433/
How many hours of sleep does my dog need per day?
Most dogs need between 16-20 hours of sleep per day, although puppies, older dogs and large breeds tend to need more sleep. However, the exact number of hours of sleep varies depending on the dog's age, breed, activity level and individual needs.
How much physical activity should my dog have daily?
The recommended amount of daily physical activity varies depending on the dog's breed, age and health status. In general, small breeds should be active for at least 30 minutes to an hour daily, while larger breeds need about 1 to 2 hours. Puppies and young dogs may need more activity to burn off their energy.
What are some examples of activities I can offer my dog?
Some examples of activities you can offer your dog include walking or jogging to promote physical fitness. You can also play fetch or hide-and-seek games to satisfy his natural behavior. Intelligence toys and brain teasers can help train your mental fitness and prevent boredom. Dog sports such as agility, flyball or obedience training not only offer physical activity, but also mental stimulation and the opportunity to strengthen the bond between you. Finally, socialization with other dogs is important, but make sure this occurs in controlled environments rather than dog parks to avoid unwanted interactions.
How can I tell if my dog is getting enough rest?
Watch for signs of tiredness or exhaustion in your dog, such as yawning, increased panting, or restlessness. If your dog often seems sleepy during the day or has difficulty concentrating on activities, he may need more rest. A good way to monitor your dog's sleep is to use a high-quality and cozy place where he can relax and sleep undisturbed.
How can I help my dog to calm down?
To help your dog calm down, it's important to create a relaxed and calm environment. Here are some tips you can follow: Make sure your dog has his own comfortable place to sleep where he can retreat. Reduce noise and distractions around him to help him relax. Avoid strenuous activity close to bedtime, as this can upset your dog and make it difficult for him to fall asleep. Establish a consistent daily routine to provide your dog with security and predictability, which can help him relax better. Use relaxation techniques such as gentle massage, calming music or essential oils to further help your dog relax and calm down.
How can I tell whether my dog is underchallenged or overwhelmed?
Signs that your dog may be under-challenged include boredom, destructive behavior, hyperactivity or restlessness. On the other hand, an overwhelmed dog may show signs of stress, anxiety, exhaustion or irritability. To determine whether your dog is under or overwhelmed, pay attention to his behavior and body language. If your dog often seems restless, constantly destroys something or has difficulty calming down, this can be a sign that he is not being challenged. In this case, you should offer him more mental and physical activities to burn off his energy. In contrast, an overwhelmed dog may often appear stressed or anxious, pant more frequently, exhibit persistent or recurring whining, and even become aggressive or irritable. If you notice such signs, you should reduce the activities and demands on your dog and give him more time to rest and relax.