Shih Tzu sleeping habit

Shih Tzus are sleepy dogs. In fact, they're mostly sleepier in comparison to other breeds!

Just like other animals (including us humans), sleep is an essential part of a Shih Tzu‘s growth and development.

It helps them recharge their energy after a day's worth of playtime and exercise, and it also helps them remember what they have learned during the day (especially in training.)

“All day long, electrical activity is happening in our brain, and random, disorganized data gets stored in various places,” says Dr. Nicholas Dodman of Tufts University. “We organize that in our sleep, and dogs do, too. It’s very therapeutic, and if you deny dogs that, they’ll kind of lose it.”

Sleep also helps dogs develop their immune system. In fact, sleep-deprived dogs (and people) are more prone to infections.

But how much is too much?

As a fellow Shih Tzu owner, I also sometimes freak out when I think my dogs are sleeping too much. I often listen carefully if they're still breathing!

Trust me; I know where your panic/wondering is coming from.

So, in this article, we'll discuss everything there is to know about the Shih Tzu sleeping habit.

In particular, we'll answer the following questions:

  • Do Shih Tzus like to sleep?
  • How much sleep does a Shih Tzu need based on his age?
  • What are the common sleeping troubles among Shih Tzu
  • s?
  • How to train Shih Tzus to sleep?

Let's get started!

RELATED: Why and How Much Do Dogs Sleep?

Do Shih Tzus like to sleep?

Yes, Shih Tzus like their nap times. And they do nap a lot; that's normal!

Just like other dogs, Shih Tzus are Polyphasic sleepers, which means they need to sleep multiple times a day.

In reference, adult humans are monophasic sleepers. We can survive the whole day by just sleeping once—usually at night.

There are different factors that affect a Shih Tzu's sleep duration—the changes in their environment, mood, feeding time, and most importantly, their age.

We'll discuss each factor in a while, but for now, let's focus on how much sleep Shih Tzus get based on their age.

How long do Shih Tzus sleep?

Just like how our sleeping patterns change as we get older, a Shih Tzu's nap time also depends on his age.

Generally, newborns and seniors sleep more than an active adult Shih Tzu.

To discuss the actual hours they need rest per stage of life, read on.

Newborn Shih Tzus

For the first few weeks of their lives, newborn Shih Tzus would sleep a total of 22 hours or more per day.

This is on and off; they would only wake up just for a while to nurse.

Newborn dogs also sleep while huddled with their mama and littermates to keep them calm and warm.

Most of their sleep here is at the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage—or in a deep sleep pattern.

This will only slightly change at around 3 weeks, where both slow waves of brain activity and deep sleep patterns are observed as they try to sleep less and stay awake a bit more.

They may also sleep at around 19 to 21 hours at this point.

Shih Tzu Puppies

Starting at around 4 weeks of age, you will notice your Shih Tzu puppies are more awake than they were as newborns.

They will sleep at 16 to 20 hours in a day.

At this stage, they will be alert 50% of the time, even though some of these ‘alert times' are spent sleeping.

That means their sleeping patterns are a combination of REM sleep and active rest

They'll also start to interact with their environment as they try to explore and socialize with others.

Their sleeping patterns will slowly become similar to that of an adult as they age until 8 weeks.

This is also the perfect time to train your puppies on proper sleeping habits and where they should always sleep.

How would you teach this to your Shih Tzu, you ask?

We'll cover that in a while.

Adult Shih Tzu

How long an adult Shih Tzu sleeps depends on many factors, including how you train them to sleep at night and their level of activity during the day.

In total, they would sleep around 12 to 16 hours throughout the day, but mostly at night.

This is still a combination of REM sleep and active rest.

An active Shih Tzu may sleep less in the day and more at night, while a bored one might nap more throughout the day.

Senior Shih Tzu

As Shih Tzus progress in age, they will need all the rest and relaxation they can get.

Most senior dogs, especially those 10 years old and above, will experience several health problems, mostly in their joints.

When they find the perfect spot to relax, they will sleep for a total of 14 to 19 hours a day. 

However, there are times when they will need your assistance to shift positions or to go for bathroom breaks.

Incontinence is a common occurrence among all senior dogs, not just Shih Tzus. It's when they aren't able to hold in their pee or poop anymore.

They may also be prone to Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome, a.k.a. Dog Dementia. 

One common symptom of dementia in dogs is sundowning, or when they become more anxious and restless as nighttime falls.

This means they would mostly sleep when it's light and bright outside but would howl or pace around at night.

Shih Tzu sleeping on his side on a carpet

Factors affecting a Shih Tzu's sleep

Apart from their age, there are also other factors that might affect a Shih Tzu's sleep.

Changes in their environment, mood, and feeding schedule might also affect how long or short they sleep throughout the day.

Winter and Summer changes

The warmer or colder temperature would affect a Shih Tzu's sleeping pattern.

During winter, for example, Shih Tzus will sleep longer than usual because of the longer night.

Something about the cold weather and the low-light conditions will definitely make their eyes a bit heavier than normal.

On the other hand, in summer, when the days are longer, and the outside temperature is generally hotter, Shih Tzus would also take every opportunity they can to rest in the shade and conserve their energy.

RELATED: Do Dogs Sleep More In Winter Time?

Boredom or Sadness

Yes, dogs feel bored and sad, too, when not given much attention.

If everybody in the household is just too busy to play with him or take him for outside walks, what better would a Shih Tzu do than just sleep?

This can also happen to pups who were adopted and separated too soon from their mother and littermates.

They would have a hard time sleeping in the new, strange environment without the comfort of their litter.

On the other hand, canine depression is also a thing where dogs sleep more than their expected amount of time.

Or when they're awake, they still tend to be lethargic, with not much energy to go about the day.

You should consult a veterinarian if you suspect there's something off with your usually jolly Shih Tzu.

Too Full or Too Hungry

Shih Tsuz that are too full might have a hard time getting a good night's rest because, well, they might need to go in the middle of the night!

This means, yes, there will be whining until you take them out to their ‘bathroom.'

Or, if your Shih Tzu hasn't been potty-trained, chances are there's a surprise waiting for you on their bed come morning.

On the contrary, pups that don't eat well will have a hard time ignoring those hungry pangs. It will most likely keep them up at night (and you, too.)

Can Shih Tzus Sleep Alone?

Shih Tzus can be as clingy as they're friendly and outgoing. They'll not be called as one of the velcro dogs for nothing!

And that means they prefer sleeping right next to their owner as much as they can!

My Shih Tzu, Lucky, would always cry for me to carry him to my bed when it was sleeping time. And he won't fall asleep without skin-to-skin contact with me (or fur-to-skin.)

Shih Tzus are social sleepers, which means they're used to sleeping in a pack.

But when trained properly, they are still able to sleep by themselves.

Just give them the most comfortable sleeping area, and you'll never have to worry about them taking up space in your bed.

Speaking of area, how can you train your Shih Tzu to sleep alone? And how can you help him sleep throughout the night?

Here are some tips.

How to make Shih Tzus Sleep at Night?

1. Have the right setup. A comfortable bed, water supply, and some toys are all it takes to make a dog want to sleep in his own area.

Make sure he has everything he needs so he'll be encouraged to sleep in it.

For senior dogs, I recommend getting an orthopedic bed to help soothe those achy joints while sleeping.

2. Exercise during the day. Make sure that your Shih Tzu has had his exercise for the day.

Not only will this keep him fit, but it will also make sure he's tired enough to be able to sleep at a later time.

3. Establish signals for bedtime. At least minutes or hours before sleeping, you should turn down the lights, turn off the TV, and minimize the activities going around the house.

Your Shih Tzu will learn that this means he's near his bedtime.

4. Stick to the same sleep schedule. It doesn't matter whether his bedtime is earlier or the same as yours. Just make sure to let him go to bed every day at the same time you trained him to.

And yes, that's even when you have visitors at home, or you're out of town on vacation. Let him sleep at the same time as much as possible.

5. Adjust meal times when necessary. If your Shih Tzu always asks for potty breaks in the middle of the night, it might be best to adjust his dinner time slightly earlier than usual.

Ideally, dogs should have their dinner 3 to 4 hours before sleep time.

This way, he'll have enough time to digest and process his food before sleeping instead of having to wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.

6. Train your Shih Tzu to self-soothe. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to train them, young Shih Tzus will still whine and seek your attention.

When this happens, let them learn how to self-soothe as much as you can. Soothing toys or even treat-dispensing toys will help with this.

7. Sleep aids for dogs. I'm sure you've had plenty of massages to make you calm to sleep. The same goes for our Shih Tzus!

They would appreciate a nice rub on the head and back after they plop down their bed.

But if you think that you've done everything you can to train them to sleep at night to no avail, consult with the vet and see if they can recommend supplements for your dog, like melatonin.

What You Should Not Do

  1. Don't feed your Shih Tzu right before bedtime.
  2. Don't attend to your Shih Tzu immediately if he starts whining. Just monitor him from a distance.
  3. When he wakes up for a bathroom break, don't turn on all the lights, don't play with him, don't praise him. Just keep the energy low and calm, so he'd know it's not yet playtime.

Where Should Shih Tzus Sleep?

Another question we often get asked about Shih Tzus is where do we let them sleep?

In my experience, I just let my first Shih Tzu sleep in the bed. It went okay, nothing eventful.

There were just times that he was taking up too much space that I couldn't move freely.

And then I got a few more dogs, and suddenly, I couldn't accommodate them all on the bed.

While some pet parents are totally okay with their Shih Tzu sleeping in bed, apparently, some are not as thrilled by the idea.

One good alternative that I also got to try is putting their dog beds inside my room.

They still felt my presence while I got to sleep on my own (and them on their own.)

But the best possible area to let your Shih Tzu sleep is in a corner with less foot traffic.

This way, they get to relax undisturbed, and they'll have a private area they can consider their own.

You can put the crate or beds here, along with their toys and some other stuff that can help make them more comfortable.

RELATED: A Dog Sleeping in Bed With Their Owner: Statistics and Should You Do It?

Sleeping Shih Tzu with legs up and tongue out

Shih Tzu Sleeping Position

As we've discussed earlier, an adult Shih Tzu's sleep is divided into two types: active rest and the REM stage.

Active rest is when they have their eyes closed, but they're still alert enough to act fast when a ‘threat' comes near them.

The REM stage is when they're in deep sleep and are fully resting.

And did you know you can determine what type of sleep they're in based on their sleeping position?

Check this out!

Active Rest Position

  • Curled up with their necks, throat, and belly hidden. While this is the most common position among all dogs and not just Shih Tzus, it could also mean they're not 100% at ease in their environment.
  • Sleeping on their belly. Studies say this position doesn't allow a dog's muscles to relax, which prevents them from going into REM sleep.
  • Superman position is sleeping on their belly but with both arms up. This allows them to spring into action when necessary, either to defend themselves or to play.

Deep Sleep Position

  • Legs up, heads back, tongue hanging out. Meme-worthy, yes, but it means they're well-relaxed.
  • Sleeping on their side is another common position that means your pup is relaxed enough to show his belly and sleep. Some say this is only reserved for day naps.

Shih Tzu Sleeping Issues

Much like in humans, Shih Tzu dogs also sometimes have issues with sleeping.

Because they're brachycephalic, meaning their snouts are short and their faces are flat, they are susceptible to breathing problems.

This means some might have sleep apnea—yes, they snore. But not like a train-like snore, mind you.

Just some low-vibration snore that you'd only notice if he's sleeping beside you.

If his snore is loud, they better seek your vet's advice. There may be serious breathing issues that you're not aware of.

Here are other sleep issues your Shih Tzu might have.

    • Disruptions in Sleeping. Sometimes, your sleepyhead Shih Tzu who often sleeps through the night, suddenly has trouble.

This could be caused by several things, like a sudden change in environment, temperature, or an underlying health issue.

    • Insomnia/Hypersomnia. These conditions are rare but still sometimes observed among dogs.

In canine insomnia, they have trouble sleeping, and this is often because of anxiety about being left alone or any physical discomfort.

Hypersomnia, on the other hand, is when they sleep for an excessive amount of time.

    • Narcolepsy and Somnambulism. There are differing opinions from experts on whether dogs can actually sleepwalk.

This is often linked to Narcolepsy, a genetic disorder common among younger pups that makes them slump and fall asleep immediately after a period of excitement or a tiring activity.

But apart from how long your Shih Tzus sleep, if they sleep at all, there are also other indicators you should watch out for.

Indicators of Sleeping Disturbances in Shih Tzus

  1. A lot of loud snoring
  2. Changing his bed's position before sleeping
  3. Sleeping with his eyes open
  4. Sleeping for longer than usual lengths of time
  5. Taking brief naps anywhere and panting during the day
  6. Pacing instead of sleeping at night
  7. Still moves a lot, even when asleep
  8. Sudden collapse after a strenuous activity
  9. Chewing its bed
  10. Howling while sleep
  11. Always wants to share the bed with his owner

RELATED: Why Does My Dog Sleep with His Eyes Open?

Shih Tzu sleeping on owner's bed

Shih Tzu Sleeping Habit: Before You Go…

There's no doubt that Shih Tzus are little sleepy heads, and as an owner of one, it's always a joy to see them sleep soundly.

They do need more sleep than other active dog breeds, so this is generally something you shouldn't worry about.

But remember, they still need to be exercised on a daily basis!

Finding the perfect balance between rest and play is key to keeping our Shih Tzus happy and healthy!

Want to read more stuff about all things Shih Tzu? Check out our recommended articles below!

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Jossana started as a TV writer in 2017, until her love for dogs gets the best of her and started writing about them instead for Top Dog Tips. Jossana is the proud mama to Xavier and to mixed-breed dogs Zorro, Budak, Lucky, and Lily, who she loves spoiling with toys and treats.