If you’ve ever noticed your dog sleeping on the couch next to you while you gab on the phone to your friend or chitchat with family members in the living room, you may be wondering: how can dogs sleep with so much noise? There’s no way one of us could just lay down on the floor and go to sleep in the middle of a cocktail party (unless you’ve had one too many, I suppose!).
But dogs can.
In this article, we’ll explore how dogs are able to sleep with noise and whether it’s actually a good thing that dogs sleep with noise — or not.
Do dogs sleep with noise?
As it turns out, yes, dogs can sleep with noise, and they do. Furthermore, they do it better than humans — even better than babies.
If you’ve had a baby or been around one for any length of time, you know that they often have the amazing ability of being able to sleep during fireworks shows, loud movies, and even raucous parties. Dogs are very similar.
In fact, recent research at the University of Maryland has found that dogs can turn anything they want into background noise whenever they want. They have an uncanny ability to drown out voices, city noises, talking or music from the TV or radio, and other sounds so that they can sleep basically whenever they want to.
The role of conditioning
One thing to keep in mind when it comes to dogs and their ability to sleep through loud noises is whether or not the dog grew up in an environment where there was a lot of loud noise on a daily basis.
For example, if a dog grows up in a house where there are a decent number of kids (two or three or more), they are probably used to a relatively high level of noise throughout the day. The kids may be running around, playing, and yelling, or the TV or music may be on frequently. This level of noise probably conditioned your dog to be able to sleep even when loud noises were present. People are like this too in many ways.
And the reverse is also true. That is, if a dog (or human) grows up in a house that is overwhelmingly quiet throughout the day, they may have trouble sleeping if they are then forced to be in a space that is abruptly noisy. For example, your dog may have trouble sleeping if you suddenly move from the country to the city.
How do dogs sleep with so much noise?
Like human babies, dogs have the unique ability to tune out noises that they do not think are important. Of course, this is dependent on the individual dog.
You’ll notice that some dogs don’t sleep very well when you have the TV on loudly or if you’re having a lot of people over, and everyone is talking boisterously. Your dog might not like this and could become anxious in these situations, especially if they’re not used to it.
In these cases, however, dogs usually just go into another room to sleep, and even if there’s a bit of soft background noise that they can still hear, they’re able to sleep quite well.
Older dogs and sleeping with noise
One other thing to keep in mind is that dogs who are older tend to have difficulty hearing. In these cases, your dog may be able to sleep very peacefully in a room with a lot of noise because they can’t hear it!
Can noise help dogs sleep?
Many dog owners wonder whether they should help their dogs sleep with sounds and noise. Sometimes, this can definitely be a good option.
For example, let’s say you’ve noticed that your dog has trouble sleeping. In this case, you might consider getting a sound machine.
Sound machines come in different varieties, but most of them have what’s called “white noise” as an option. White noise is basically a “shhhhh” sound that plays at a steady rate, and you can turn it up and down, depending on what other sounds you may want to drown out and how loud they are.
The sound is reminiscent of a blank TV station with “snow” on it or a radio station that’s not coming in. In this way, if you don’t feel like purchasing an actual sound machine, you can always just change your TV to a white noise station, or turn on the radio to station that doesn’t come in well.
Sound machine tracks
Some sound machines also have other sound options on them. For example, you can play sounds like rain falling, a thunderstorm, waves crashing against the beach, whales, or the wind blowing through the trees.
It’s hard to know whether dogs would really like these sounds or whether they would notice that they’re any different than any other sound. But if you are going to be sleeping in the same room as your dog and you don’t mind the sounds yourself, they are certainly worth a try.
Like some humans, dogs may like the soft and distant sound of a fan whirring. A fan really sounds very much like a sound machine, but it can also be helpful in the summer months (when you’re likely to have one on anyway) to also keep things cool. Finally, it’s good for keeping the air circulating, especially if your dog is in a room with the door closed.
Are dogs alert while sleeping?
Generally speaking, yes. Dogs stay alert even while they are sleeping. This means that they are generally lighter sleepers than humans are.
Some humans, for example, wouldn’t wake up if someone walked into their bedroom in the middle of the night and slammed the door. Dogs, on the other hand, can really freak their human owners out in many cases because they may suddenly startle in the middle of the night when they hear a chipmunk walking across the roof or a tree branch lightly tapping the window.
This quality is probably left over from their ancestral days of sleeping outdoors and being surrounded by would-be predators.