Can Dogs Have Nightmares?

three dogs are sleeping in a bed

You’ve probably noticed your dog twitching and moving around in its sleep before.

 The fact is that these animals dream like us. While a dog may not experience dreams the same way as humans, there is definitely something goes on in their minds while asleep.

A Dog’s Sleep Cycle

First, we will discuss the sleep cycle of a dog, which is actually pretty interesting. These animals stay asleep for about 16 minutes at a time before waking up for around five minutes and then passing out again.

It only takes a dog around 10 minutes to enter the REM or rapid eye movement sleep cycle. This is when dreaming most often occurs. This means that your dog will only dream for around 6 or 7 minutes at a time, which is pretty crazy to think about.

While a dog’s sleep cycles are interrupted far more often than our own, they still get all the rest and energy necessary to stay active each day.

Signs Your Dog is Having a Nightmare

There are a number of key signs that your dog may be having a nightmare that you can look out for. You might notice them growling and even bearing their teeth when this occurs. A lot of dogs will move their paws and claws ever so slightly while dreaming.

If your dog is scared by something in its dream, they might whine or howl. It is certainly not unheard of for dogs to make noise while they are sleeping, and it’s most likely due to a bad dream or nightmare. 

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Twitching and slight movements are very common when dogs are dreaming, and it’s the easiest way to tell. These movements can be bigger and more exaggerated, depending on what they are dreaming about.

cute papillon sleeps e1582862866209

Tips for Dealing with Your Dog’s Nightmares

If your dog has a major problem with having nightmares, there are a number of tips that you should keep in mind. Believe it or not, some dogs actually suffer from anxiety due to their dreams. This can have a seriously negative impact on the dog’s overall health.

1. Don’t Wake them Up

As tempting as it can be to jostle your dog and wake them up when they are having a nightmare, you should avoid doing so. This will most likely startle your dog and cause it to experience even more stress. You should instead call out their name in a soft and gentle tone. This will get your dog to wake up without being completely freaked out.

2. Play Some Calming Music

When you are trying to get your dog to stop having terrible nightmares, you might want to try playing relaxing music at a fairly low volume. You can also try leaving the TV on when you go to bed. This might be enough to break the pattern for your dog. The more at ease they are, the less likely they will be to have bad dreams. If you are looking for some music for your dog’s sleep you can find in on my YouTube channel “Listen to Live”

3. Essential Oils

If you have an essential oil diffuser, you should consider using it around where your dog sleeps. This might relax your pooch so that it has nice dreams for a change. While there is no hard science to back up this method, it is at least worth a try. There are a number of essential oils that can be helpful for relaxation, including lavender and eucalyptus.

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4. Just Let them Dream

Sometimes you just have to allow your dog’s bad dream to pass. This is ultimately better than shaking your dog awake and interrupting their sleep cycle. It is better for your dog to have nightmares and get a full night’s rest rather than being woken up constantly.

5. Get a DAP Collar

A DAP collar is a device that you put around your dog’s neck to reduce feelings of anxiety. This collar releases certain pheromones that are known to keep dogs calm. It could be pretty effective when it comes to reducing your pet’s pension for bad dreams.

labrador sleeps in a bed with lights

What is Your Dog Dreaming About?

While it can be difficult to tell what dogs dream about, there are a number of theories that animal behaviorists have. It makes sense that these animals would dream about things that they see every day, such as their owners and other animals.

When a dog is asleep and dreaming, sometimes its legs will move like it is running in place. This is likely because your dog is actually running in their dream or nightmare.

Interestingly enough, research shows that small tend to dream more about large dogs. Smaller breeds also dream more than bigger breeds on average. While animal behavior researchers aren’t exactly sure why this is, it is pretty fascinating, to say the least.

Dangers of Doggy Dreaming

While your dog’s nightmares obviously aren’t real, they do have the potential to cause your pet actual harm. If the dream is intense enough, your dog could unintentionally hurt itself. If they start thrashing around in their sleep, you’ll want to keep a close eye on them.

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  • A dog only sleeps for about 16 minutes at a time with five minutes of awake time in between cycles.
  • Dreams occur when the REM or rapid eye movement sleep cycle begins, which is the same as humans.
  • A dog that is having a nightmare might twitch around, whine, yelp or even bark.
  • It is important that you avoid waking your dog up when it is clearly having a nightmare. Startling your dog while they are in this state will only stress them out even more.
  • If you want to reduce the chances of your dog having nightmares, try playing calming music nearby, or leave the TV on.
  • You can also try using an essential oil diffuser to relax your pooch so that it has only sweet dreams.
  • A DAP collar can also be quite effective at getting a dog to remain calm so it is perhaps less likely have nightmares.
  • Dogs likely dream about things they see and experience on a daily basis.
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