If you are a dog owner and pet parent, you have probably observed your dog running in their sleep. You are wondering what on earth is happening and causing your dog to move so much while sleeping. Well, there is an answer. Dogs do dream while sleeping. This is the explanation for dogs barking in sleep as well.
When you wake up in the middle of the night and hear your dog barking for no reason, there is a reason. You find out your dog is barking and growling in sleep, and it is nothing to worry about. Yes, that is completely normal and healthy behavior for dogs.
The Root Of The Behavior
What is the root of this behavior? These sounds of your barking dog might wake you up at night and make you think what is your dog doing?
You may see your sleeping dog has his body twitching and wiggling. He might do things like digging or running.
Well, here is the short answer. Dogs use all of their senses when dreaming. So this is why you can see wiggling ears. He is listening. Or if he is excited and happy, his tail might wag.
Or if he had a bad dream, he might be whining.
All dogs can dream, and it doesn’t mean they always bark. However, from personal experience, I can tell you that smaller dogs bark more at night. They tend to dream frequently during sleeping. For example, small dogs can dream every 10 minutes, while large dog breeds experience a dream every 90 minutes or so.
Dog Sleeping Positions
Does the dog’s sleeping position matter? Well, you might see your sleeping dog in some strange and weird positions. For example, curled up in a ball, even when it is not cold. Or in a deep sleep with all fours up?
The sleeping position has more with evolutionary behavior than with anything else. Their ancestors in the wild, wolves, often curl up when they are asleep. This is their way of protecting vulnerable organs in case of an attack.
And when dogs sleep on their back with their belly up, it leaves them more vulnerable. But it is a sign your dog completely trusts you and feels the most comfortable.
Why Is My Dog Barking In Its Sleep?
Nighttime barking is a sign your dog is dreaming. No matter if it is excessive barking or just a sound or two. Research into the dog brain has proven that the dog sleep cycle is the same as the human sleep cycle.
Your dog usually passes a short period of relaxed wakefulness that can last five to ten minutes, and then enters a light stage of sleep. Their heart rate slows down and their temperature drops.
This means your dog’s body is ready to enter a deeper state of sleep, commonly known as non-REM sleep. This is when the body begins to repair itself, regrow tissue, and rebuild muscle and bone.
What research has shown is that neither dogs nor humans stay in deep non-REM sleep. Instead, they cycle between REM sleep and deep non-REM sleep. As we know, REM stands for rapid eye movement, which is when we and dogs dream.
When we dream, we relive things that have happened to us during the day or work through problems. For your dog, that might mean chasing a squirrel, barking at the neighbor’s dog, or anything in between.
Smaller dogs pass into REM sleep around every 10 minutes, while larger dogs keep a human timetable, which is the REM phase every 90 minutes.
What If Your Dog Barks Only While Sleeping?
Dog barking in sleep is a common thing that happens. But what if your dog is not vocal during the day? Well, some dogs bark only when they are sleeping.
Science hasn’t found an explanation yet. It could be related to some particular dreams.
What To Do When Dogs Barks In Their Sleep?
So, how should you approach the dog barking in sleep problem? The short answer is you should do nothing.
It is completely normal and natural for your dog to bark while sleeping. And it is not doing any harm to them.
You should not wake your dog up. Same as humans, it can be disorienting to be woken up when you are in non-REM sleep or REM sleep. This is a jolt for the brain, and we suggest you wait for your dog to finish its dreaming cycle.
What About The Noise?
Well, if the noise is disturbing your sleep, you might have to do something. Vets might prescribe you sleeping pills for your dog. But they should be given only in extreme circumstances.
And no veterinary expert will give you sleeping pills for nighttime barking.
You can try and see what you can do to minimize the impact of your barking on the other members of the household.
What If Your Dog Is Snoring?
Barking and snoring are two different things. Yet, both of them can cause a lot of noise and may keep you up.
Dogs tend to snore for the same reasons as humans. And that is an obstruction of the airway.
What Do Dogs Dream About?
You might be wondering, what can your dog dream about? Much like humans, dogs can dream about anything they find fun and exciting.
We have experienced dreams that can range from normal, to romantic, to sad, to scary. Dogs are the same in a way they can have a wide range of dreams. For example, learning a new trick. Or running through the park. Chasing a squirrel. Barking at the neighbor’s dog. Or anything in between.
Sadly, because we cannot communicate with dogs verbally, we cannot technically know what they dream about.