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Chihuahua Sleep Habits


Owners of this breed may have many questions regarding the sleeping habits of the Chihuahua. This section is going to answer the questions of:
  • Do Chihuahua puppies sleep a lot? 
  • How much a Chihuahua should sleep depending on his age 
  • How to help train a puppy to sleep through the night 
  • The issue of sleep apnea that includes signs, diagnosis and treatment 
  • Things you can do to make sure that your puppy or dog receives the proper amount of sleep
  • Should a Chihuahua sleep in the bed with you?

How Much Sleep is Normal for Chihuahuas

Newborns - From birth until the age of 7 weeks old, a pup is considered to be a newborn. During the first few weeks, all that a Chi puppy will do is sleep and drink the dam's milk. There is even very little time devoted to bowel movements, since the dam stimulates the newborn puppy to eliminate. A newborn Chihuahua will slumber anywhere from 20 to 23 hours per day. They will normally only wake up to nurse and this happens roughly every 2 hours.

The prolonged sleeping habits of the Chihuahua puppy will begin to change noticeable around the 3 week mark. At this time, the pup is learning to walk (it takes about one week for this to be mastered), eyes are fully open and the ability to hear is functional. This is a time of great curiosity and exploration for as a far as the pup can travel from the dam. 

Therefore, from week 3 to week 7, a Chihuahua puppy will incrementally stay awake for longer periods of time.

Puppies - Chihuahua puppies sleep a lot and when they are awake they are often very active and even hyper. It's like 2 sides of a coin; the puppy will snooze so much that owners wonder if the Chi is sleeping too much but then when he wakes up, he has an enormous amount of energy.

From 2 to 6 months old, a Chihuahua puppy may sleep up to 18 hours. From 6 months to the 1 year mark, an hour or two may be slowly deducted from that. The sleeping habits of a Chihuahua puppy will be scattered. He may nod off in the middle of play as he pushes himself to stay awake and enjoy what he is doing until his body simply gives out and he passes out.

The goal for owners, of course, is to try and make the majority of that sleep occur at night when owners wish to be in bed undisturbed and we will go into that ahead.

Adults - Toy breed dogs such as the Chihuahua that are adults at the age of 1 will sleep roughly 12 to 15 hours. This includes both during the night and naps taken during the daytime. Each dog will vary on how many naps he takes and for how long.

By the 1 year mark, most have learned to snooze the night away and have more control on when they take naps. The young adult Chi is used to his schedule now and knows when to expect walks, feedings, play time and grooming. He can nap in-between those events and usually settles down at night without much prompting.

Dogs left alone for a good portion of the day may nap simply due to boredom while those that are engaged with interaction and activities may stay alert for much longer periods of time.

Seniors - As a Chi ages there is a gradual slowing down of the body. He will tire out more easily and tends to nap either more frequently or longer. Those that suffer with arthritis and other age related health issues may struggle to find comfort that allows them to fully relax.

You may not notice much of a difference with a 9 or 10 years old Chi, however when the dog enters his teens he will sleep much more than his younger counterpart. Senior Chihuahuas will sleep about 16 to 17 hours unless medical issues or discomfort prevents him from doing so.

Helping a Chihuahua Puppy Sleep at Night

Aside from housebreaking a pup, training him to sleep through the night is the biggest challenge that most owners face.

This phase can be a bit tricky, because the puppy will whine and/or bark. Owners wonder if the puppy won't sleep due to a bathroom need or simply due to wanting attention. 

Since you don’t want to ignore a signal to go potty, how can you avoid running over to him each time he wakes up? 

This can actually cause sleep deprivation for many new owners and it can be quite wearing. It can cause fatigue, affect cognitive functioning and produce headaches. It also may cause irritability and lower stress tolerance which can make caring for the pup more difficult.
Here are some tips:

1) Have a proper, designated sleeping area. While you may envision your dog cuddling in your bed, that can come later (if you choose) after he is completely house trained. 

It will be important to keep the puppy safe in an enclosed area but not isolated or feeling too confined. Never use a small crate; this can make a pup very stressed out and often leads to more nighttime barking and other issues.

A small gated off area that includes a comfortable dog bed works best. It should be located in a quiet area of the house. It is recommended to not have it in your own bedroom; if so the puppy may not sleep simply because he senses that you are so close and to him, you should be interacting and playing no matter what time it is.

The area should be close enough to you that you can hear any whines, cries and barks in case there is indeed a bathroom need.

2) Signal that night time has arrived. About one hour before you want your dog to settle down, go outside one 'last' time and then stop any and all exercise or activity. Lower the lights and lower the volume on the television. While you don't need to resort to whispering, keeping voices calm and quiet can help to give an overall sense of a peaceful, calmer environment.

3) Leave a few favorite toys and a strong, durable chew. There will be times during the night that the puppy wakes up and once you train him to fall back asleep, he may wish to quietly play by himself in his area before he is ready to settle back in.

4) Learn when to respond and when to ignore the puppy. This is always a bit tricky; however there are some ways to approach this. If there is any belief at all that a Chihuahua puppy is not sleeping due to a bathroom need, this should be attended to. 

You'll want to keep lights very low (use a flash light if possible) and keep talking to a minimum. 
As soon as the deed is done, bring him right back to his bed, give a quick pat and leave. It's hard to do, but you will be helping him in the long run.
One of the best ways to train a Chihuahua puppy to sleep at night is to show him that absolutely nothing fun or interesting at all happens during the night. 

There is no play, there are no treats, and there isn't even any speaking. He will not be soothed and he will not be sung a lullaby! In fact, life is so boring when its dark out that he mind as well just lie back down and snooze until morning when there is interaction, fun, treats and attention.

If the pup just urinated and eliminated and is only staying up to gain attention, he must be allowed to self-sooth himself back to sleep. Owners who rush over every time there is a yelp or a whimper will actually train a puppy to call out all night long. This can set up a foundation of terrible habits that is not easily reversed.

Sleep Apnea

Overview - This is a condition in which breathing patterns disrupt one's sleep. It is common with both people and their pets. This most often affects brachycephalic breeds (those with flat faces) such as the Pug when air passages become swollen and narrow. However, a Chihuahua may have stenotic nares (pinched nostrils) or elongated palate that does cause breathing problems particularly when the dog is in a prone position.

Signs and Symptoms - If you notice that your Chihuahua chokes or makes gasping noises while sleeping, has loud ongoing snoring issues and/or appears to have interrupted breathing you will want to bring this to the attention of the veterinarian.

Treatment - Depending on the exact cause, medications may be given that include antihistamines and/or anti-inflammatory medicine. With stenotic nares or elongated palate, minor surgery may be warranted.

Reader Q&A

Q:Is it okay for my Chihuahua to sleep in my bed? I'm hearing different opinions on this and am wondering what the pros and cons are?

A:  When a Chi is a puppy there are a few cons.  One will be keeping the pup safe from not falling off the bed or getting rolled over by accident.  We understand the urge to cuddle, but it's really in the best interest of the puppy to have his own spot where he is safe.  

One pro may be that you may be quickly awakened if there is a bathroom need and perhaps an owner may feel that allowing a Chihuahua to sleep in his bed will prevent barking at night.  While that is true, you also have to consider that dogs do best - in the long run - if they learn to self soothe and have some independence.  This will really be needed if the pup is going to be home by himself during the day while owners are at work.  
Once the pup matures and can handle being alone, a move to your bed is alright as long as you do take in the pros and cons you asked about. 

For Chi of all ages, you want to think about the long term consequences of letting a Chihuahua share your bed.  

Here's a few things to consider:

1) Once he sleeps there, that area is claimed for life. It's very hard to reverse this decision and go from your bed back to his own separate area. 

2) A dog may move around a lot at night and/or snore, which can lead to restless sleep for the owner.

3) While it won't be severe, there may be some issues with shedding that leads to dog hairs all over your blankets and bedding.  This especially holds true during the twice a year shedding season.  

4) Older, senior dogs really need the support of a quality canine orthopedic bed. 
5) Chihuahuas that have trouble with listening and following commands should not sleep in an owner's bed. It goes against the method of teaching proper hierarchy in the house. Humans must be seen as the leaders and for some Chi, sharing the bed will be seen as a 'weakness' that can lead to bad behavior and not obeying commands. 

This being said, one pro is that you have your best friend to snuggle with. Also, since this breed is so small, an adult Chihuahua will hardly take up any room. This definitely won't be an issue of the dog taking up the whole bed. 

It is a personal decision and one that you basically need to stick with to avoid problems with changes down the road. 

So, we would say that as long as the Chihuahua is old enough to not be injured, has a solid understanding that you are the leader and you are sure that you'll get enough zzz's, there is nothing inherently wrong with the idea of a dog sharing the bed. 
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