Since you brought your new Doberman puppy home, it seems like all he does is eat and sleep. While everyone online is talking about how energetic their Doberman puppies are, yours is sleeping all day. It can quickly have you wondering why you have a seemingly lethargic Doberman puppy, and what you should do about it. More than a few people have asked me about their supposed “lazy puppies” in recent months, so here’s a quick rundown of what you should know.
What should you do about a lazy Doberman puppy? Dobermans are known for their energy, but puppies need between sixteen and twenty hours of sleep. While sleeping this much often makes it seem like a puppy is overly lethargic or lazy, it’s actually completely normal. Make sure to rule out depression or medical conditions as a cause.
After working with many Doberman puppies over the years, I can tell you that they certainly do have their own personalities. It’s not uncommon for one Doberman pup to sleep all day while another is up and running around. Although dogs from the same litter are more likely to have the same exercise requirements.
So instead of the word lazy, what if we use the word lethargic instead? A lethargic dog might look lazy, but he could be lying down for other reasons. Lethargic looks the same but it can be caused by other factors such as medical conditions or depression. So before we talk about other causes, let’s talk about what a normal amount of sleep is for a Doberman puppy.
How Much Sleep Doberman Puppies Need
If this is your first Doberman, you might not be aware of how much sleep your dog needs. Veterinarians say average dogs need anywhere from 10 to 12 hours of sleep, with active dogs needing even more, and the Doberman is certainly an active breed. Energetic Doberman puppies need even more sleep than that!
Add all that up, and you can easily end up with a dog that appears to be lazy or lethargic because he seems to be sleeping all day, but is actually a completely normal puppy. I believe this is why so many are concerned about this. After an hour or so of energetic activity, your young Dobie certainly needs a nap.
Below is a graph of the amount of sleep a Doberman puppy needs, on average, based on their age. The graph shows a range for this average (the highlighted section) depicting the minimum and maximums. Every puppy is different and it isn’t uncommon for a perfectly healthy Doberman to vary a bit from this graph. If your dog is drastically off the graph though without an obvious explanation, it might be a good idea to look into the possibility of a medical issue or depression as a cause.
Clearly, Dobermans need a lot of sleep. This is true for older Dobermans which are over the age of 1 year old, but it’s also true for young Dobermans. A Doberman puppy at about 8 weeks of age needs around 18 to 20 hours of sleep every night. A 4-month-old Doberman puppy needs around 17 to 19 hours of sleep. At 1 year of age, Dobermans still need between 10 to 16 hours of sleep every single day.
Of course, these numbers will vary based on the individual dog and their activity levels throughout the day, but this should help put things into perspective for you so you can figure out what a normal and abnormal amounts of sleep are.
For how long average adult and elderly Dobermans sleep, which can be very different from puppy sleep cycles, see my article How Long Do Dobermans Sleep.
Why Dobermans Need a Lot of Sleep
During the first 1 to 2 years of a Doberman’s life, they are growing at an incredibly fast rate. This takes a significant toll on the body. This means that during this stage in your puppy’s life, their body is working extremely hard even while they don’t appear to be. This rapid growth is tiring for a young puppy and is the biggest reason they need such a large amount of sleep early on.
Another reason they sleep so much is simply due to how dogs sleep as compared to humans. Much of what looks like sleep is really dozing for a Doberman. While you’re sleeping, a guard dog like a Doberman is on high alert. Nighttime noises that we might sleep through can alert your Dobie. A car driving past is cause for concern. That creak in the ceiling needs investigating. All these things mean your Doberman likely gets a lot less sleep at night than you might think—it’s in their genetics.
Some sleep experts theorize that dogs, in general, don’t get adequate amounts of REM sleep at night because they’re always on a much higher level of alert than humans. This would help explain their propensity towards daytime napping.
A Doberman breeder writes on the Gentle Doberman Forum:
“I usually tell my puppy owners that a new puppy has a “shelf life” of about an hour, and then they nap for a while. Rinse and repeat.”
Another commenter on the same forum stated:
“A 8 week old puppy is just a baby. They will sleep a lot. When they’re awake they’re 90 MPH getting into everything then all of a sudden, it’s like someone flips the switch to off” (source)
Before you accuse your puppy of being lazy, keep track of how much he sleeps. Remember that he may be awake half the night. Six, eight, or even ten hours of sleep during the day is probably just necessary shut-eye.
Doberman Puppy Exercise Requirements
In general, Doberman puppies need 1 to 2 hours of exercise every single day. However, each dog is a bit different and their environment will also influence this as well. Luckily, Doberman puppies are amazing at regulating their own exercise requirements.
You won’t have to wake your Dobie up or encourage him to come play with you to meet these requirements. In fact, you shouldn’t. You should let your Dobie sleep if he wants to sleep—his body probably needs it. When a Doberman is young, their body tells them what they need and they act accordingly.
Just make sure that you are able to engage with them when they do wake up and are ready for playtime. These interactions are incredibly important to your dog when he or she is young. This is the time when your dog’s bond with you is built, so don’t skip this!
Most of us know by now that Dobermans are energetic, fiercely protective, and extremely loyal. That loyalty cannot be built without rich interaction with their owners—such as games, walks, and general companionship. Swatting him away when he is underfoot isn’t building companionship. Putting him outside is not a way to encourage exercise. Instead, you’re depriving him of one of his basic needs—to protect and interact with you.
Dobermans can become nervous, anxious, or even depressed if they’re left alone too much. Depression will often show as your dog being extra lethargic during the day and he may sleep much more than is normal for him. If you see a sudden increase in the number of hours your dog sleeps, and you’ve been gone from home a bit extra lately, this could be the cause.
Dobermans are especially prone to separation anxiety if left alone too long. If you come home and see your puppy has left scratch marks on your door, tore the curtains down, or in some other way caused havoc in your home, recognize those as signs of separation anxiety.
If you do have to work a normal job like the rest of us, there are some things that you can do to help avoid depression and separation anxiety. Take a look at the article I wrote all about leaving your Doberman home alone for how you can set up your dog correctly when you leave the house to avoid these things.
Dobies are more sensitive to stress than many other dog breeds. They will become nervous and anxious when those around them are stressed. Sleeping or acting out in a destructive way are often ways to cope with that stress.
If your Doberman has suddenly changed his or her sleeping habits, it could indicate something is wrong. If you notice your puppy sleeping a lot more or less—consider calling your vet. Dobermans are susceptible to numerous diseases; some inherited and others preventable.
- Hypoglycemia – Signs of low blood sugar include lethargy or, in some cases, seizures. Your vet will provide you with suggestions for a proper diet as well as medication if he or she deems it’s necessary.
- Heartworm – If an infected mosquito bites your puppy, it can transfer the larvae to it. Lethargy, decreased appetite, and weight loss are potential signs of heartworms. Since this disease can cause heart failure, take your puppy to the vet if you suspect this. Better yet, if you aren’t giving your puppy a monthly pill to protect against heartworms, talk to your vet to see if it’s time to get started.
- Hypothyroidism – Dogs with this condition have a thyroid that doesn’t produce enough of the hormone thyroxine. This hormone is responsible for the process of turning food into energy which means it could cause your dog to be lethargic if this isn’t happening. It may also cause weight gain. Although this condition doesn’t usually occur until dogs are 4 to 6 years old, it won’t hurt to have it checked out. It can be successfully treated with medications.
- Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) – I did a very in-depth article about DCM in Dobermans here. This is an incredibly common disease that Dobermans are genetically predisposed to. Sadly, statistically, 58% of all Dobermans will develop this at some point in their lifetime. It causes the heart to become enlarged and weak. Your dog’s heart has to struggle to pump blood and it causes lethargy and intolerance to exercise.
- Hepatitis (CAH) – Hepatitis is when your dog’s liver isn’t functioning as it should. Unfortunately, this is also a common condition that Dobermans are predisposed to. During the later stages of this disease, lethargy is very common. You may also see a swollen abdomen, weight loss, lack of appetite, weakness and other symptoms.
If your puppy wasn’t screened for genetic issues by your breeder, you should consider having him screened. There are many genetic tests available that will tell you if your dog is genetically susceptible to many common Doberman health issues.
Hopefully, I can put your mind at ease—just about everyone who has reached out to me because they were concerned that their Doberman puppy sleeps too much had nothing to worry about in the end. Most had simply read about how much work a Doberman is (especially a puppy) and expected a lot less sleeping, and more playtime, when the dog is young.
Sometimes we forget that our pets are like us in many ways. We don’t call a baby who sleeps all the time lazy. We just call her a baby who needs a nap. Just like a baby often is restless or cries in the middle of the night and sleeps during the day, your puppy is the same way. He might not be active when you want him to be, but after high-energy activities, he needs his nap also.
And if you never see those hours of energy bursts during the day that puppies normally have, talk to your vet to be sure something else isn’t wrong.
Do Doberman puppies sleep a lot? A Doberman puppy requires a lot of sleep during their first year of life. Between the ages of 8 to 12 weeks, Doberman puppies will sleep 18 to 20 hours a day.
Where should my Doberman puppy sleep? During the puppy stage, a Doberman should sleep near you in a crate. This will help lay the groundwork for healthy boundaries as well as housebreaking your Doberman later on.