World Dream Day (Sunday, September 25) is just around the corner, so it’s time to answer the question many pet parents have: should you wake a dreaming dog? Best Friends Animal Society, a leading animal welfare organization working to end the killing of cats and dogs in America’s shelters by 2025, is sharing insight into pets’ zzzz’s.
Do Dogs Dream?
Dogs do dream, as we discuss in our article Can Dogs Dream: They May Be Dreaming of You! pet parents who believe their dogs and cats have dreams are correct says Best Friends Animal Society. Dogs and cats dream when they reach REM sleep, also known as the rapid eye movement stage of sleep. During these dreams, scientists believe pets dream about a delicious treat or fun interaction with other furry friends. That explains why pet parents will sometimes see their sleeping pal wagging their tail, twitching paws, running in place, or even grunting or barking.
Can Dog’s Have Bad Dreams Too?
Dogs may experience bad dreams too according to Dr. Carley Faughn, Best Friends Animal Society’s certified applied animal behaviorist. In addition to these happier dreams, pets will sometimes experience night terrors, too. These can be due to previous encounters that were scary for them and creep into their subconscious dreams.
Should You Wake a Dreaming Dog?
No, you should not wake a dreaming dog. “It can be difficult to watch your dog have a nightmare, or bad dream, but it is not recommended to wake a dog from their dreams—whether they are good or bad,” says Dr. Carley Faughn. “If you feel like a nightmare is going on too long or you do need to wake your pet, then I suggest starting with your voice at a calm level and saying their name until you can get them out of REM sleep.”
Faughn warns that among other reasons to not wake a dog from a nightmare, if you try to wake your dog or cat while they are in a deep sleep and/or having a bad dream, they might be startled and accidentally overreact when awakened, potentially leading to a nip or bite.
While nightmares are unpleasant for pets and their parents, they are usually harmless. However, there are medical conditions, such as seizures, that can be confused for nightmares.
Faughn notes the biggest way to differentiate seizures from nightmares is that seizures tend to occur when cats/dogs are awake, and night terrors happen while they are asleep.
How Do I Know The Difference Between a Dog Seizure and a Bad Dog Dream?
A seizure can be indicative of other health issues, especially in our senior dogs so it is important to understand if your dog is having a nightmare or a seizure.
“Typical signs to look for with a seizure would be a difference in breathing, such as labored breathing or difficulty taking a breath,” says Faughn. “If you notice other symptoms that seem out of the ordinary when your pet sleeps, then consult your veterinarian for a follow-up, just in case.”
World Dream Day is a great day to continue to explore the human-pet bond and understanding their dreams is a great way to celebrate! Have you been dreaming of a dog?
Learn more about what the dogs in your dream mean in our article on dog dream symbolism: do the dogs in my dream mean anything? If you think it means you are ready to get a dog and are looking to expand your family, why not adopt and make a dream come true for cats and dogs in need of a forever home? Get started by visiting bestfriends.org to find a shelter or rescue near you.
What Does it Mean When Dogs Twitching in Their Sleep?
If you lie next to a child transitioning to sleep or a puppy or senior dog it is likely that you have experienced some sleep twitching. In people sleep twitching is said to be the result of Hypnic jerks that generally occur during the stage of sleep in which your muscles start to relax and you begin drifting off. During this time, motor areas of the brain can become spontaneously stimulated. Your brain may misinterpret this stimulation as wakefulness during a less-than-seamless transition to sleep.
While it may be a bit different in dogs, the same theory is likely in that motor areas of the brain become stimulated which brings about the sleep twitch.
Special thanks for Best Friends for their helpful information for this article.
About Best Friends Animal Society
Best Friends Animal Society is a leading animal welfare organization working to end the killing of dogs and cats in America’s shelters by 2025. Founded in 1984, Best Friends is a pioneer
in the no-kill movement and has helped reduce the number of animals killed in shelters from an estimated 17 million per year to around 355,000. Best Friends runs lifesaving programs all across the country, as well as the nation’s largest no-kill animal sanctuary.
Working collaboratively with a network of more than 3,900 animal welfare and shelter partners, and community members nationwide, Best Friends is working to Save Them All®. For more information, visit bestfriends.org.
Dog Dreaming FAQs
No you should not wake your dog from a dream or what you believe is a nightmare. If you believe you must you can speak gently or waive a tasty and good smelling treat to rouse them but avoid sudden movements to wake.
Dogs like human may dream about conscious or subconcious thoughts in the day so all the fun things they do which likely includes some time spent with you, chasing a squirrel, lots of loves. They may also have nightmares too.
It is hard to tell if dogs are aware that they are dreaming. Research believe they may not have recall after a dream unlike humans.
Find more dog advice and fun stories in our popular book called Motherpuppin’ Adorable: What to do when your dog is better than everyone else’s the perfect companion for navigating the best life with your dog. Learn more about this loved book.