Dog Falling Asleep Standing Up: Unraveling the Whys and Hows

dog sleeps standing up on all fours

Have you ever noticed your dog falling asleep while standing up? This intriguing behavior might leave you puzzled or even worried about your furry companion’s wellbeing. It’s important to understand the reasons behind this phenomenon and how you can help your dog if needed.

Some dogs, particularly senior dogs, may fall asleep standing up due to various factors such as their history, changes in sleeping arrangements, or an underlying medical condition.

Larger mammals like horses and elephants regularly sleep while standing up, but it’s less common in dogs. Stress, anxiety, and fear may also contribute to this behavior, as observed in a study published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior.

Key Points:

  • Dogs falling asleep while standing up can be a sign of exhaustion or a medical issue.
  • It’s important to observe your dog’s behavior and look for other signs of fatigue or discomfort.
  • If your dog consistently falls asleep while standing up, it’s important to seek veterinary care to rule out any underlying health problems.

Understanding Canine Sleep Patterns

As a dog owner, it’s important for you to understand the sleep patterns of your canine friend. Here are some key aspects of canine sleep patterns that can help you grasp why dogs may fall asleep while standing up.

Sleep patterns in healthy adult dogs:

In general, dogs sleep for about 12 to 14 hours a day. A study conducted by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) found that most dogs have two peaks of activity during the day. These peaks correspond with their awake hours, while the remaining time is spent resting and sleeping. The study followed 42 healthy adult dogs ranging in age from two to eight years old using collar-mounted activity monitors over two weeks.

Possible reasons for dogs falling asleep standing up:

  • Exhaustion: Dogs may fall asleep standing up due to tiredness or exhaustion. Ensuring your dog has an appropriate balance of rest and exercise can help prevent this from happening. If you notice that your dog frequently appears overly fatigued, consult with your veterinarian to rule out any underlying health issues.
  • Senior dogs: Older dogs might experience changes in their sleeping arrangements or habits, possibly leading them to fall asleep while standing. These changes could be related to memory, mobility, or other age-related factors.
  • Specific breeds: Some dog breeds are more prone to sleeping while standing up, such as Great Danes and Greyhounds. These larger breeds may have developed this trait as a survival mechanism.

While dogs falling asleep standing up is not necessarily a cause for concern, it’s important to monitor your dog’s overall health and energy levels. If you observe any unusual behaviors or suspect that your dog is not getting adequate rest, consult with your veterinarian to identify any possible underlying health issues. By keeping an eye on your dog’s sleep patterns and overall well-being, you can ensure they live a happy and healthy life.

Why Dogs Fall Asleep Standing Up

dog falling asleep standing up

Canine Narcolepsy

Canine narcolepsy is a medical condition that can cause your dog to suddenly fall asleep while standing. It is a hereditary issue in some breeds and can also develop as a result of a brainstem lesion. If you notice your dog falling asleep frequently during activities, it might be a sign of narcolepsy. It’s crucial to consult with a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment options.

Restless Leg Syndrome

Another possible reason for a dog falling asleep while standing up is restless leg syndrome (RLS). RLS can make your dog feel uncomfortable while lying down, leading them to choose standing as a more convenient position to sleep. Factors such as stress, exhaustion, and anxiety can also contribute to this behavior. To help your dog feel more comfortable, consider:

  • Providing a comfortable and supportive bed
  • Ensuring a calm and quiet sleeping environment
  • Addressing any underlying medical conditions causing discomfort

In any case, it is always essential to consult with a veterinarian if your dog exhibits unusual sleeping patterns or behaviors. They can help identify the issue and recommend the appropriate course of action.

How to Spot Sleepiness in Dogs

As a dog owner, it’s essential to observe and identify signs of sleepiness in your canine companion. By doing so, you can ensure their health and happiness. In this section, we will explore the physical and behavioral changes that may indicate sleepiness in dogs.

Physical Changes

When it comes to observing physical changes, always keep a keen eye out for the following:

  • Eyelids drooping: Your dog’s eyelids might start to drop if they are feeling tired.
  • Yawning: Frequent yawning is a classic sign of sleepiness in dogs.
  • Slow movements: Your dog might move more slowly than usual when they’re feeling drowsy.
  • Lack of energy: Keep an eye on your dog’s overall energy levels – if they are acting lethargic, they may be feeling sleepy.

Behavioral Changes

In addition to physical changes, watch out for any alterations in your dog’s behavior, such as:

  • Seeking seclusion: Dogs may search for a quiet, secluded spot to rest when they feel sleepy.
  • Restlessness: Sleepiness can sometimes prompt restlessness, causing your dog to change positions frequently or move from one spot to another.
  • Lack of focus: A tired dog might become less responsive to commands and display a diminished ability to focus on tasks.
  • Irritability: Dogs who are feeling sleepy could become more sensitive or irritable than usual.

By closely monitoring your dog’s physical and behavioral changes, you can effectively identify their level of sleepiness and ensure their overall well-being.

Coping Strategies for Dog Owners

Creating a Comfortable Sleep Environment

As a dog owner, it’s essential to ensure your furry friend’s sleep environment is comfortable and relaxing. This can help reduce the likelihood of them falling asleep standing up.

  • Bedding: Provide a soft and supportive bed that allows your dog to stretch out and rest comfortably.
  • Temperature: Maintain a comfortable room temperature for your dog. Not too hot, and not too cold.
  • Quiet space: Create a designated sleep area that is quiet and away from high-traffic areas in your home.
  • Remove distractions: Minimize any potential distractions such as bright lights, loud noises, and other pets in the room.

Developing Regular Sleep Routines

Establishing a consistent sleep routine can help your dog learn to relax and fall asleep more easily, thus reducing the chances of falling asleep standing up.

  1. Establish bedtime: Set a regular bedtime for your dog and stick to it as closely as possible, even on weekends.
  2. Pre-bedtime routine: Ensure your dog has a consistent routine before bed involving activities such as a walk, playing, and a bathroom break. This can help signal to your dog that it’s time to settle down and sleep.
  3. Consistency: Be consistent with the sleep environment, routine, and positive reinforcement. This can help your dog associate bedtime with rest and relaxation.
  4. Monitor sleep patterns: Keep an eye on your dog’s sleep patterns. If you notice significant changes, consult with your veterinarian to rule out any potential underlying issues.

By following these tips, you can help create a conducive environment for your dog’s sleep and promote healthy sleep habits that can reduce the chances of your dog falling asleep standing up.

Possible Health Concerns

possible health concerns related to a dog sleeping while standing

When your dog falls asleep standing up, there could be a few potential health concerns to be aware of. It’s essential to monitor your dog’s behavior and consult with a veterinarian if you notice any changes in their sleeping habits. In this section, we’ll discuss two health concerns that might be associated with a dog falling asleep while standing: Hip Dysplasia and Arthritis.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia, a genetic condition commonly seen in larger dog breeds, can cause your dog to have difficulty lying down comfortably. This might lead them to fall asleep while standing instead. Some signs of hip dysplasia include:

  • Stiffness and limping
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Trouble getting up or lying down
  • Pain in the hip area

If you suspect your dog may have hip dysplasia, it’s essential to consult with a veterinarian for an appropriate diagnosis and treatment plan.


Arthritis, a common ailment in older dogs, affects the joints and can make lying down uncomfortable for your furry friend. As a result, they may choose to fall asleep standing up to avoid pain. Signs of arthritis in dogs can include:

  • Limping or favoring a specific leg
  • Stiffness when getting up or lying down
  • Swelling in the joints
  • Decreased interest in activities or exercise

If you see any of these signs in your dog, it’s important to consult with a veterinarian to determine if arthritis is the cause and provide suggestions for proper management and treatment.

When to Seek Veterinary Help

when to call the vet if a dog sleeps standing up

As a responsible pet owner, it’s important to know when to consult your veterinarian if your dog falls asleep standing up. Here are some scenarios that may warrant a visit to the vet:

  • Unusual behavior: If your dog has never fallen asleep standing up before and suddenly starts doing so, this could indicate an underlying issue. Keep an eye on your dog’s behavior and make note of any changes or concerning symptoms.
  • Senior dogs: Older dogs may be more prone to falling asleep standing up due to age-related issues or medical conditions. If you notice your senior dog frequently sleeping in this position, it’s best to consult your veterinarian to rule out any potential health problems.
  • Signs of distress: If your dog appears to be uncomfortable or in pain while falling asleep standing up, this may be a sign of a medical problem requiring attention. Observe your dog closely for signs of discomfort, such as whining, mobility issues, or reluctance to lie down.
  • Narcolepsy: In rare cases, dogs may suffer from narcolepsy, a sleep disorder causing sudden, uncontrollable episodes of falling asleep. If you suspect your dog might have narcolepsy, consult with a veterinarian or veterinary neurologist for a proper diagnosis and treatment options.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does my dog frequently fall asleep while standing?

Your dog may fall asleep while standing due to age, especially in older dogs, or in large breed dogs who may have difficulty finding a comfortable position to lie down in. It could also be a sign of a medical condition, such as hypothyroidism or hip dysplasia, which could affect their ability to rest comfortably.

Is it common for dogs to sleep standing up after surgery?

It’s not uncommon for dogs to sleep in unusual positions, including standing up, after surgery. This could be due to discomfort from the surgery or the anesthesia wearing off. Monitor your dog closely and consult your veterinarian if you’re concerned about their post-surgery sleep behavior.

What does it mean when a dog sleeps sitting up on a couch?

When a dog sleeps sitting up on a couch, it could simply be a comfortable position for them. Dogs have various sleeping positions, and each dog has its preferences. However, if this behavior is new or unusual for your dog, it may indicate discomfort or a health issue, so it’s essential to observe them and consult with a veterinarian if necessary.

Are certain sleeping positions considered normal for dogs?

Yes, various sleeping positions are normal for dogs, and each dog may have its preferences. Some common positions include:

  • Laying on their side
  • Curling into a ball
  • Laying on their back with legs in the air
  • Laying with their head and paws tucked under their body

As long as your dog seems comfortable and content in their sleep, these positions are considered normal.

Why does my dog lay down with its bum in the air?

The “play bow” position, with your dog’s rear end in the air, is a common and normal position for dogs. This position can indicate playful behavior or a way for your dog to stretch its spine and back muscles. However, if your dog seems uncomfortable or displays any concerning behavior, consult with a veterinarian.

What could cause my dog to act strange and not sleep as usual?

Several factors could cause changes in your dog’s sleep patterns or unusual behaviors, including:

  • Stress or anxiety
  • Illness or injury
  • Changes in their environment, such as new surroundings or unfamiliar people/animals
  • Age-related changes
  • Medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism or hip dysplasia

Monitor your dog closely and consult your veterinarian if these changes persist or if you’re concerned about their well-being.