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Dog Won't Lay Down? Here's Why & What to Do

By Aviram K.
October 31, 2021
5 min read
Dog Won't Lay Down? Here's Why & What to Do
🏥 The information in this article is not a substitute for professional help.

So you’ve been walking your dog, keeping them busy all day.

You expect them to just settle for a bit, don’t you?

Well, it’s a perfectly reasonable expectation. Still, sometimes, there’s something else at play that will prevent them from laying down and dosing off.

There are various reasons why your pup may not want to lay down. Some are easily fixable, and others may require a veterinarian.

Generally, dogs won’t lay down if they are very bored, over-excited, or haven’t had enough exercise. They also may not lay down if their bedding or floor isn’t comfortable or if they don’t have a designated spot. Also, some medical issues or old age may contribute to the problem, too.

In this article, I will explore the many different reasons why your pup doesn’t want to plop that belly down and what you can do to help.

Ready? Let’s begin.

Table of Contents

01

Why Your Dog Doesn’t Lay Down

02

What to Do When Your Dog doesn’t Lay Down?

Why Your Dog Doesn’t Lay Down

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Over-Excitement or Boredom

Both boredom and over-excitement (the two opposite ends of the spectrum) can lead to a refusal to lie down.

Boredom can manifest in pacing or constantly being active because your pup is finding something to do.

If left to their own devices for too long, you might find the pacing turning into an unsavory result as your dog finds a new way to entertain themselves, such as chewing up your furniture!

Likewise, over-excitement is when your pup gets so stimulated it might feel like they lost their brain. This excitement tends to cause jumping, excessive wagging, and lots of energy - not conducive to laying down.

Insufficient Exercise

Going hand-in-hand with boredom, insufficient exercise can cause a dog to pace back and forth and refuse to lay down.

Think about it, many dogs are pretty energetic creatures, and if that energy isn’t spent… it’s pent up and uncomfortable. A dog may pace and not want to settle down because their whole body aches to use that energy.

This is especially prevalent in working and herding dog breeds, dogs bred to be very active. Be sure to take your pup out on walks, play ball in the yard, or sign up for dog sport classes (such as agility). Your dog should be back to laying down in no time once those energy needs are met.

Full Bladder

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Do you want to lay down with a full bladder? I don’t think so!

For puppies especially, not wanting to lay down and keeping up on the legs can mean that your dog needs to go to the bathroom. For some pet owners, this is actually a tell-tale sign of potty time!

Keep an eye out on the belly or abdomen area. If it’s a bit bloated or pooched out, that usually means your dog is standing because of needing to go out.

Misunderstanding of Your Commands

If you found this article because you’re struggling to teach your dog to lay down on command, this issue may be due to a bit of a misunderstanding in the training room.

Dogs don’t speak English, and they won’t inherently understand what “lie down” means! So if you haven’t gone through the proper A-to-B steps, something could get lost in translation.

Sometimes, refusal to perform a command isn’t because your dog is testing you - it’s because your dog genuinely doesn’t understand what you want from them.

Eventually, this can lead to frustration on both sides, with the dog now having a negative association with training time.

If you find that your pup doesn’t seem to understand you, go back to the basics and try again! Start with sitting, then lead the dog’s nose to the ground.

Remember to keep training fun, rewarding, and exciting so that your dog becomes eager to learn.

Uncomfortable Surroundings

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If you recently changed your dog’s sleeping quarters, refusal to lay down can be as simple as the new bedding is uncomfortable.

Or you haven’t given your dog a comfortable place to lay! Not all dogs like sleeping on the floor, and a dog may refuse to settle if they can’t find somewhere comfortable to do so.

Try a new dog bed or cozier blankets and pillows; this may do the trick! As well, give your pup a designated space that is all their own, filled with lots of plush and comfortable things to lay on.

Old Age

Old age in pups manifests similarly to old age in humans; things just stop working like they used to. So if your senior pup isn’t lying down, a few old-age associated causes may be to blame.

Older dogs are at a much higher risk of developing joint pain, such as arthritis. The joints associated with the motion of laying down or standing up will start to ache, making your older dog more hesitant to lay down (or to stand up after laying down).

Senior pups can also develop dementia. One such tell-tale sign is shifting sleep cycles or lack of settling down. Dementia, also known as Canine Cognitive Disorder, is when a dog’s brain ages and leads to issues with memory, learning, and comprehension.

This is almost exactly like Alzheimer’s in humans. Dogs tend to aimlessly wander when suffering from dementia and will not lay down, and may shift their sleep cycles to appear to never sleep to their owner.

Like Alzheimer’s, there is no known cure for dementia in dogs.

Anxiety

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As you may tell from reading my other blog articles, much unusual behavior tends to be rooted in anxiety. The consensus is: if it’s weird, anxious feelings can be the cause. When dogs feel anxious, they tend to break out of the norm, much like people do.

Pacing, panting, and not lying down can be tell-tale signs that something is really bothering your dog, whether anxiety or another medical issue (that we shall discuss below).

If you’ve ruled out medical reasons, then it’s likely something along the lines of separation anxiety or something in the home is scaring your pup.

Start trying to find the root cause of the discomfort, and you should be able to remedy the problem.

Pain or Medical Issue

If your dog refuses or has difficulty doing something as routine as laying down, a medical issue may be to blame.

Our pups don’t use their words to express when something hurts, but they use body language. Therefore, being attentive to your dog’s normal behavior and even more attentive when that behavior changes is integral to pet ownership. This allows you to catch medical problems as quickly as possible.

Conditions such as hip dysplasia, luxating patellas, and arthritis tend to develop as the dog gets older and may inhibit their ability to comfortably lay down. If you gradually see a lack of wanting to lay down, a veterinary appointment will be necessary.

Call your emergency veterinarian immediately if your dog suddenly will not lay down and exhibits other signs of discomfort such as labored breathing, vomiting, or hanging the head low with glassy eyes.

Several medical conditions can be life-threatening and tend to exhibit themselves first as a sudden significant lack of laying down or getting comfortable. These conditions may include:

  • Pancreatitis
  • Bloat
  • Heart Disease

Especially with bloat (when a dog’s stomach twists, leading to collapse and possible death), time tends to be the essence in these cases.

What to Do When Your Dog doesn’t Lay Down?

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If your dog refuses to lay down, the first thing you need to do is figure out the root cause. Then, from our above list, start sorting out what the possible reasons may be.

If you believe there to be a medical issue, get your pup to the local vet. The veterinarian’s findings should shed light on why your pup may not be wanting to lay down. Sometimes it’s as simple as a pain management medication to help soothe joint issues or changing diet to fix a GI issue.

If there is no medical issue present, it’s time to look at the environmental or behavioral causes.

If boredom, over-excitement, or lack of exercise is to blame, time to change your own habits. Make sure your pup is well stimulated, physically and mentally, so that they are tired enough to want to lay down and sleep.

Puzzle toys are a great, low-effort way to keep your pup’s mind active, and a walk a day keeps the doctor at bay for you both!

Try making a designated sleeping space for your dog, such as a kennel or crate with the door left open. Fill it with comfortable bedding, blankets, and pillows, and your pup should enjoy their new area. This will encourage them to lay down and relax.

That should do the trick!


Tags

Dog Behaviors

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Aviram K.

Aviram K.

Dog Behaviorist & Trainer

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