Uncovering Canine Sleep Habits

Fireworks, the star spangled banner, beer cans sloshing in hand as we “cheers” each other, more fireworks… Yep, you guessed it, I’m talking about the 4th of July. It’s a day of outdoor BBQs, lawn chairs, fireworks, freshly cut grass, and a sense of celebration, but for many of our beloved dogs, the fun stops with half-eaten ribeye Fido was able to nick off of Uncle Jerry’s paper plate.

Loud noises are no fun for a dog, especially one that is seeking sound slumber. Some dogs respond to surprising sounds with trembling anxiety, and others begin to bark and jump excitedly… I remember Belle, my family’s old black lab, would bark and drool miserably during thunderstorms, scratching at the door to get outside if no one was home to comfort her with their presence.

All dogs respond to surprises in their own way, but all have something in common: if there is a sound, and your dog hears it, it’s going to be very difficult for your dog to ignore, even if this sound disruption happens while your dog slumbers.

We all know how important sleep is, and so each of us makes an effort to cultivate a peaceful sleep environment for ourselves and for our dog. Many of us humans have been wearing Fitbits, Apple Watches, and other quantification devices to help us understand how effective our sleep preparation protocols actually are. We use this data as feedback to adjust schedules, habits, and routines. 

Dogs aren’t as fortunate to have these tools and methods of quantifying sleep - and even if they did have their own ways, it’s a challenge to communicate with their human… “What’s that Tinkerbelle? You aren’t getting enough REM?? Let’s do something about that.” Nope, this conversation doesn’t happen. So how do we make sure that our pups are getting the quality sleep that they need? How do we quantify our dog’s sleep so that we can understand what’s going on while we all slumber?

Enter Pet Insight Project Sleep Detection Technology! For several weeks, Pet Insight Project has been trialing our Wellness Detection Technology with project participants. First, we were focused on itch detection and letting owners know how much scratching and licking was going on each week. Now, we’ve expanded to include sleep metrics with an eye on helping Fido catch a more restful night of sleep.

We track 6 different variables to calculate a sleep score for your dog: the duration of sleep, the count of disruptions during the night, the total time disrupted, and then the change in each of these 3 variables against the previous week.

Let’s pretend a strange, loud event occurs at night and wakes your dog up from slumber. The moment your dog starts moving around at night, we tally a “sleep disruption” and start tracking the length of time your dog is up investigating this strange and very interesting new noise. The timer stops as soon as your dog beds down again to snooze. 

Disruptions and these other 5 data points boil down to a weekly sleep score, and help us categorize your dog’s sleeping as “Restful”, “Somewhat disrupted”, or “Severely disrupted”, all with the goal of giving you - the owner - feedback on what kind of sleep your pup has been getting in the past 7 days. 

Here is Foxy’s Sleep Assessment report for the week leading up to July 7th:


Notice anything interesting? There is one short disruption on July 2nd, and another short disruption on July 6th. Foxy’s overall week of sleep is quite restful compared to other dogs! In fact, an average of 0.5 disruptions per night is less than 70% of the sleep performance of other dog weeks in the past 8 weeks:


Looking at Foxy’s sleep chart, you also notice something else, right? On July 4th, Foxy’s sleep was interrupted by America celebrating its freedom. 

All things considered, this disruption event isn’t too much to worry about. It happens only once a year, right? So we can shrug our shoulders and accept that next Thursday, Foxy will sleep soundly. Not much the owner needs to change about Foxy’s sleeping environment. 

But what if these disruptions are more frequent? Take Rex for example:


Now THAT is some disrupted sleep. Adding up the numbers, Rex here is averaging 8 disruptions per night! Considering all other dogs, that puts Rex in the top 99.9% of all dogs participating in the Wellness Study:


What might you do differently for your dog’s sleep environment if you had this information in your inbox?

Participants enrolled in the Wellness Test have been leaving comments for us, and we mined through the comment list to find some anecdotes that help highlight how this information is being used:

“The more disrupted sleep tracks exactly with two nights that I was away. Amazing how you picked it up in the sleep results”

“It's good to see he is sleeping well, currently we have guests so I was wondering if this will change his sleeping habits a bit.”

“We are fostering a few dogs so he is a little bit more alert.”

“Fireworks have been causing restless sleep.“

“Her nightly sleep this week was a little more disrupted than last week. Maybe because the nights were warmer.”

After reading through the comments, one of the main themes that stuck is that owners are able to use the data to hypothesize about what might be going on with their dog, giving them the ability to make small changes and run small tests themselves in an effort to improve the sleep environment for their dogs. One of our participants told us:

“Bailey sleeps in a covered crate to block out light and is in a separate room. He seems very rested when I let him out in the morning“

Might other dog owners run similar experiments in an effort to improve their dog’s sleep? With our Sleep Detection Technology, we’re giving owners the opportunity to level-set what is normal and start tracking changes in sleep.

Interested in joining the Wellness Monitoring Beta Test? Head to the sign-up page here to start receiving insights on your dog’s itching and sleeping habits!

- David @ Pet Insight