If you have ever observed your dog sleeping, you sure have noticed all of those weird leg kicks, whining noises and weird tremors they experience in their sleep. It’s obvious that our dogs are completely lost in a dream world in those moments. But what are they dreaming about? Is it something good or bad? Can dogs have nightmares, in the first place?
Do dogs dream?
Yes, dogs do dream. Actually, the sleep cycle of dogs isn’t too different from the one we experience. The periods include wakefulness, Rapid Eye Movement sleep (REM), and non Rapid Eye Movement sleep. REM sleep is the one part of the sleep cycle responsible for dreaming. To read more about how dogs dream, and what they usually dream about — click here.
Can dog have nightmares?
We’ve cleared up that dogs in fact do dream — there are still some questions left. Dogs usually dream about the things they do during the day. Like catch other dogs or animals at the park, eat their favorite snacks or just spin around the house for no reason. But can their dreams also be less wholesome? Can dogs have nightmares?
Yes, they can. While your nightmares might consist of something dramatic — like losing a loved one or getting chased by a night stalker —for dogs it’s usually less disturbing. They may dream of something that they don’t like or something that makes them feel anxious. That can be a visit to the vet, getting a bath (if they don’t enjoy it) or if you adopted a dog from a shelter, he might be dreaming about the less privileged time of his life. Dogs don’t overwhelm themselves with overthinking, which is why their nightmares are something that they already experienced. They don’t go over all of the possible scenarios in their head, but instead re-live the ones they already experienced.
How can I tell if my dog is experiencing a nightmare?
We can’t know exactly what our dogs are dreaming about. But there are different hints that can point to our dog having a nightmare. Nightmares can cause your dog to start growling or twitch with his eyes or paws. His ears might start moving too. He could even howl, whine or bark. In some moments, dogs can suddenly awake from nightmares — just like we do — when it gets too stressful for them.
How can I help my dog when he is experiencing a nightmare?
The most important thing is to not wake your dog up. Only do this if there is no other choice. In some cases, dogs can start acting aggressive in those moments, and might even bite you. Nightmares only last for a couple of minutes, so your dog will be fine before you know it.
If you’re worried for your dog and it seems as if he’s experiencing a lot of anxiety from his nightmare — you can make an exception and wake him up. But you need to be careful! Say his name softly or put on your television. The safest way would be to wake him up with sound only. If you use touch he might bite you unknowingly.