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Why does my dog bark while sleeping?

Have you ever watched your dog sleep? Dogs can be funny, exhibiting behaviors that, at times, see more human than canine. Sometimes, dogs will vocalize or bark in their sleep- as well as demonstrate other behaviors, like growling, whimpering, or howling, while they are sound asleep.

Naturally, as a pet owner, this can be concerning, and you want to rule out any problem that could be making them act this way and alleviate uncomfortable symptoms. The truth is that the reason why your dog barks while sleeping is probably simple and not causing any discomfort for your pet.

The reason why your dog barks while sleeping may surprise you- though it is always recommended that you talk to your vet to report concerning behaviors when it comes to your dog’s wellbeing.

Why does my dog bark while sleeping?

The most likely reason for your dog to bark while sleeping is because they are dreaming– just as humans do. Both species experience REM sleep and are able to dream, though some may not dream at all. For those dogs that do experience dreams while sleeping, these dreams may be pleasant and cathartic, like running through grass, to scary and stressful, such as being chased.

The jury is still out on exactly what your pet dreams about specifically and it is unlikely they will be able to tell you- but much like humans, it could be about a lot of things. When your dog is dreaming you may notice other behaviors besides barking, such as:

  • Growling
  • Whimpering
  • Grunting
  • Howling
  • Licking
  • Twitching
  • Wiggling
  • Digging
  • Nose Sniffing
  • Tail Wagging

Your dog may also exhibit movement like running motion, though they are laying down at the time. Perhaps your dog is dreaming of chasing their favorite human across a grassy knoll; or your pet may be trying to outrun a violent storm that is raging in their dreams.

As always, if you are concerned about your dog barking in their sleep, talk to your veterinary provider but know that it likely is just a dream. In some instances, this could be indicative of something else going on with your pet such as an underlying medical condition, like a seizure disorder, but more on that later…

Should I wake my dog up if he is barking in his sleep?

If your dog is barking in their sleep, refrain from waking them up, if possible.  Is the barking keeping you or others in the home awake? If this is not an every-night ordeal, let them sleep. Your dog could become startled or confused upon waking and react aggressively.  

Barking while asleep is not a bad thing or painful thing for your dog, so don’t disrupt your pet’s sleep cycle by waking them unnecessarily unless it is really interfering with others.

Understandably, howling or barking at night can be disruptive to the humans living in the home; consider moving their bed further from yours. Could your pet actually be awake and be vocalizing because they are hungry or thirst?

Always check to make sure your dog has access to fresh water and food.  If the situation doesn’t improve, take your furry friend to the vet to rule-out any medical issues that could be making them more vocal than usual.

It is also important to assess your pet’s behavior to make sure that the barking or howling is not accompanied with trembling, shaking, panting, or difficulty breathing; in these instances, seek veterinary care immediately.

In the unlikely event that this is not simply your dog having a dream, these could be signs of a seizure or life-threatening reaction to something. This is the time that you can gently wake your dog by saying their name calmly and softly; if your dog is dreaming, they will likely stir awake but if it is a seizure, the dog won’t be able to respond until the seizure is over.

While you shouldn’t make it a habit to wake up dreaming dogs, it is okay to quell your anxiety and relieve worry by waking your pet up to make sure they are safe and not experiencing a medical episode of some kind.

If your dog’s barking while sleeping is bothering the rest of the household, look for clever solutions rather than waking, punishing, or getting frustrated with your pet; after all, they are asleep!

What are dogs dreaming about when they bark in their sleep?

What do you think dogs dream about in their sleep? What do you dream about? Dogs dream about things that they have experienced throughout their days, or dog stuff, just as humans dream about events of their day and memories they possess.

Smaller dogs have shorter sleep cycles, thus they have more frequent though shorter dreams. Larger dogs have longer sleep cycles so they have fewer, longer dreams when sleeping. Dogs have the capacity to dream about a lot of different things, like people do.

They have pleasant, nice dreams but also could have frightening nightmares, too, while they dream. Dreams may include chasing squirrels or hanging with favorite humans, or scary experiences like being lost or in a fight, if you are a dog.

While it is difficult to know anything for sure, it is assumed that dogs probably process and work through the events of their day just like we do when dreaming. Dogs are smart and one of the few species, besides humans, with the capacity to dream when sleeping.

Why does my dog bark in his sleep but not when awake?

Not all dogs bark while they dream so not all dogs will bark when awake, either. It depends on the dog in question- as well as their own distinct sleep cycle.

Also, make sure that you have ruled out a medical issue if barking in sleep is a problem or if the behaviors have cause for concern. Talk to your own veterinary provider for more information and assessment.

It is said that small breed dogs pass through non-REM sleep into REM sleep quickly, in about ten minutes. It takes larger dogs longer to reach REM sleep, approximately 90 minutes- much like humans. It should be noted that not all species of animals dream, however, dogs do.

When dogs dream, the same areas of their brain are stimulated as humans, which is why they are able to react and respond to the situations in their dreams. Consider barking in your dog’s sleep to be similar to someone who talks in their sleep or that sleepwalks around their house at night.

The answer to why your dog barks when sleeping but not at other times is a complicated one; environmental influences, physical condition, and age can all play a part in your pet’s sleep cycle, and subsequently, their dreams.

Make your dog as comfortable as possible for sleep to help them reach REM quickly and wake feeling rested- with or without dreams. Provide them with a warm, secure place to sleep, access to food and water, and with familiar, comforting items, like their toys or a blanket.

It would be interesting to know what exactly our pets dream about as Scientists continue to study the fascinating patterns and behaviors of our favorite furry family member and canine companion, the dog.