Why do Dogs Bark in their Sleep?

Dogs are great pets but can be very demanding too, especially when you come home after a hard day’s work. They really can’t be blamed for seeking your attention, getting you to play with them or looking out for those tidbits you’re famous for doling out. The situation is exacerbated if they’re left alone at home for most of the day. But what about the night? They should sleep and allow you also to wander into the ‘land of nod’ but no! Your furry friend barks and growls at night, leaving you disgruntled and awake.

dogs sleeping in bed

The surprising part is that when you check in on them, expecting to find them wide awake, your pet is fast asleep. As a pet owner, you’re naturally worried but generally, there is no cause for anxiety. If you stand there long enough, you’ll see your dog twitch and turn, all restless, and be vocal about whatever it is that’s bothering him. Just when you think your friend has been silenced for the night and is not likely to disturb you, a fresh volley of barks greet you, but he’s still asleep! Weird? Not so...

Sleeping Environment

If you’ve ever tried sleeping on a lumpy mattress or in a strange place, you’ll know how disturbed your sleep can be. The long and short of it is that you should be comfortable when you sleep and that goes for your dog’s sleeping environment too. Dogs get so used to places and things that any alteration could cause discomfort. A new, untried bed or a new room with new things could have them barking while asleep as if to draw your attention to the fact.

Dreams Cause Barking too

You may not believe it, but dogs also dream, very much like humans do and that triggers these yelps and barks too. The smaller the dog, the more frequent the dreams and the more vociferous their barking. You could look at the barking as a means of telling you something just the way humans talk in their sleep when they are perturbed or worried in their dreams.

Dreams are important as they help both human beings and dogs to relive memories that occurred during the day and take stock of the situation. While your dreams are more visual in nature, doggie dreams are usually associated with smells and sounds. Dogs go through the 3 stages of sleep that human beings go through. The first is NREM or non-rapid eye movement, the next, REM or rapid eye movement, and finally SWS or short-wave sleep.

It’s a given that dreaming occurs during the REM (rapid eye movement) stage and heavy breathing in the SWS stage. The hippocampus, generally associated with dreams and emotions is thought to play a role here. Dogs, too, go through the REM cycle when they dream and their hippocampus works the same way as it does in humans. There’s a lot of twitching and eye movement during this time and depending on the kind of dream they have, dogs growl, whimper or just bark aloud. If it’s a happy dream, you hear happy barks and as the smells and sounds become more exciting, the barks become louder.

When to be Alert

If barking while asleep is an everyday affair, then it does need to be looked into. Fitful sleep is not good for the dog. So, you need to check it out with a vet, who will run some tests and decide the next course of action. And while you’re at it, ensure that the dog is happy and content, gets a lot of exercises and a good nutritious diet- this is sure to help it sleep better and be less noisy at night.

Why is My Dog Howling in their Sleep

If you have had a nightmare or an extremely unpleasant dream, you’ll know what it is to wake up in a cold sweat. The thing seems so real that you’re petrified and sometimes even scream. A Dog, howling in sleep is not an entirely new phenomenon for if they have a horrid dream where they are being attacked or beaten, they start howling as if it were actually happening to them. Sometimes, the situation is so frightening that dogs start quivering and move their legs and tails in a jerky manner. The emotions evoked are so strong that your pet just cannot contain its fear or apprehension.

Should You Worry? 

Regardless of whether your dog barks loudly in the night or howls his heart out, there is no real cause for concern, unless it becomes unbearable. Dog noises are common enough but the tricky thing is you never know whether it’s just a frightening or exciting dream that’s causing them to bark or howl in their sleep or whether they are under real distress.

Although you are tempted to awake them in the middle of REM sleep to ensure that all is okay, just resist from doing so. It’s a bad idea to wake them in the middle of whatever is happening to them and they could turn violent. In case you find that they are under a huge emotional stress and you do want them to get up, don’t try to touch them but just call out to them gently over and over again, making noises that are sure to catch their attention.

However, it’s good to keep an eye on them while they are awake to see whether any other medical condition is bothering them. If you aren’t too sure, you need to take your pet to the vet and check him/her out.

Dog Peeing in Sleep

Sometimes dogs can be in discomfort or in pain because of a medical condition. They are prone to urinary tract infections (UTI). Hence, a dog peeing in sleep is quite common. If the UTI symptoms are excessive, they can howl or whimper in pain as they urinate without even being aware of it. Dogs with diabetes (yes, even they are prone to diabetes!) may also pee while they are asleep. It is important to find out the underlying condition and treat it as soon as possible. Older dogs can experience joint pains when they stretch or turn around while in sleep and this could cause them to let out ear-piercing howls or painful whimpers.

UTIs and diabetes that have dogs peeing in sleep need to be contained as quickly as possible. If your dog has been house-trained and still pees in his/her sleep you need to see the vet as soon as possible. They could be put on antibiotics and antiseptics, without which the infection could manifest into something more problematic. So take heed and keep a close watch on your pet’s peeing habits, especially while asleep.

My Dog Is Breathing Fast in Their Sleep

When dogs have dreams that excite them, their breathing tends to accelerate just as it would do if they re-lived that dream in actual life. Smaller breeds and puppies have faster heart rates than their older counterparts even while they are asleep. So a dog breathing fast in sleep is generally not a matter of real concern.

However, you need to ensure that there are no medical conditions that could cause rapid breathing. Dogs that are suffering from cardiovascular diseases or even a heat stroke could have rapid respiration rates while asleep. When dogs suffer from asthma or have allergies that block airways, you will find their breathing to be fast even while they are asleep.

None of these conditions may actually be dangerous immediately but they could pose health issues later on. It’s important then to have them treated as early as possible. Vets can identify problem areas and help minimize the risk of future ailments. Prevention- it is said, is “better than to cure”

In conclusion, pet dogs obviously cannot tell you what they are dreaming about or what is physically bothering them. It is up to you as the pet owner to make it a point to find out. If your pet pooch is extremely vocal and barks every night when he is asleep, it can be rather frustrating. You, too, need to get your full quota of sleep at night if you want to feel human the next day!

Give your dog as comfortable a bed as possible, because contended sleep can lead to less restlessness. Play with him till he tires and all the activity can ensure a sound sleep for him- and you! If you find that there is excessive jerking and movement, loud barking or howling when your dog is asleep for an extended period, it is time to seek the help of a vet. As a temporary measure, just shift the dog bed so that your pet’s barking at night won’t disturb you. On no account should you dose it with herbs or pills that are meant for human beings. You love your pet- so flaunt your love by looking after it to the best of your ability! And when you find pet dogs sleeping contentedly, just let sleeping dogs lie!!