Do Dogs Have Nightmares? Should You Wake a Dog Up From a Dream or Nightmare?

Do Dogs Have Nightmares

We’ve all heard the phrase “Let sleeping dogs lie” and there’s good reason for it. When a dog is sleeping, even if it is very active or vocal, it’s best to leave it alone to avoid scaring them or provoking a startled snip of teeth.

Do Dogs Dream?

This is probably one of the Top 5 “If I could ask my dog anything” questions humans have. We want to know if our dogs dream, what they dream about, do dogs have nightmares, what their nightmares are, and if they remember their dreams.

While no dog can ever answer these questions, researchers have been able to monitor the brain activity of dogs when they sleep. It does appear they got through the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage like humans. This is when our minds are actively dreaming, breathing gets a little irregular, and their eyes dart around behind closed lids.

This is when your dog will most likely be twitching, wagging its tail, making silent whimpers or barks. You might even see a sleeping dog pumping its legs like running.

Should You Wake a Dog Up From a Dream or Nightmare?

Do you want to be woken up mid-dream? A sudden wake-up for a human or a canine companion can impact sleep inertia. This is the transitional part between sleeping and waking up. When startled by a loud noise or someone shaking you, it can impact sleep inertia. This makes the person or dog more groggy and unable to function properly, especially in the first few minutes.

If you are genuinely worried about the dog’s actions while sleeping, try a light noise or soft call of the dog’s name. Nothing loud or jostling. Don’t just do it because you are annoyed by the behavior. Remember, your dog sleeps through all your snoring, tossing, turning, talking, and dreaming as well.

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Shaking them and screaming their name can startle them and might switch the “fight” instinct on for a few seconds, leaving your sweet Golden Retriever as a biting madman for a few seconds while trying to regain his senses.

How Do I Know If It’s a Dream or a Seizure?

Some dogs can be very dramatic sleepers and move around a lot. A seizure can also look similar.

It starts with knowing if your dog is prone to seizures and having a conversation with your veterinarian about any medication needed and how to handle a seizure.

Seizures in dogs are much more severe than an average dream. They will thrash about or shake with tremors throughout the entire body. They might go potty accidentally during a seizure. They are very unresponsive to humans during a seizure, and if they are sleeping it will be very hard to wake them up. The American Kennel Club (AKC) says seizures are most likely to happen while the dog is awake or shortly after the dog wakes up.

What to do if a dog has a seizure

The AKC says it’s an old wives’ tale to try to stop a dog from swallowing its tongue during a seizure. The best thing you can do is be close by and avoid any falls off furniture or down a flight of stairs. Grab your phone and set a timer on the length of the seizure. This will be good information for your veterinarian.

If the seizure goes longer than 3 minutes, put some cool water-soaked towels on the body of the dog to keep it from overheating. Focus on the groin, head, and neck areas.

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When the dog awakens from the seizure, it will have no idea what just happened. It’s imperative you don’t be panicked when they come to their senses. Calmly soothe them while calling the veterinarian.

More than one seizure in 24 hours should require a call to the emergency vet, according to the AKC. These are called “Cluster Seizures.”

Is My Dog Getting Enough ‘Good’ Sleep?

Since dogs are man’s best friend, we tend to think they are very similar to us. One big way we differ, paws, tails, and vocal abilities aside, is in how we sleep.

  • Humans are monophasic sleepers. That means we get our sleep all at once, generally in the overnight hours. If we get poor sleep overnight, we can’t just nap it off during the day because we’ve got jobs, school, and family responsibilities. Our bodies are designed for a solid chunk of sleep once a day.
  • Dogs are polyphasic sleepers. They sleep on and off throughout the day, generally totaling 14 hours of sleep in 24 hours. To them, it doesn’t matter what time they sleep, just that they get the right amount of sleep in the day.

The breed of your dog might determine how many dreams they have during sleep. Research shows smaller dogs tend to dream more often but with shorter dream lengths, while larger breeds dream less often but have longer dreams. That’s why your Chichuaua might twitch for a few seconds and drop back into a deep sleep, while your German Shepherd might go on chirping and twitching for 5 minutes.

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Do dogs have sleep disorders?

They sure do. A narcoleptic dog might just suddenly fall asleep mid-chase of a ball. This is different from the puppies that seem to fall asleep out of nowhere. Puppies are still learning their limits for play vs. sleep time. Adult dogs that just suddenly fall asleep mid-meal might have narcolepsy.

Dogs with narrow snots and airways, known as Brachycephalic breeds, are prone to sleep apnea. You might hear them snoring loudly or suddenly waking themselves up gasping for air. There is no quick solution for this, but you should keep an ongoing conversation with your veterinarian if the sleeping problem becomes worse.

I’m Worried About My Dog’s Movements While Sleeping

The AKC gives this advice—record the event with your phone and send it to your veterinarian the next morning. If the actions of the sleeping dog are waking you up, causing sleep inertia issues for you, look for another place to let the dog sleep. A kennel in a nearby room might be an option or invest in a noise machine to drown out sounds that would otherwise wake up you.

As long as you are sure the dog isn’t having a seizure and is safe and secure in a sleeping area, there is no justifiable reason to wake up a sleeping dog.


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