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Can dogs have nightmares?

Updated on June 29, 2010

Have you ever wondered if dogs have nightmares? Studies conducted on canine behavior have shown that human’s best friends, just like us humans can dream. It is therefore inevitable that dogs just like us, would have nightmares too. A doting dog owner that can hardly take the eyes off the beloved pooch will be upset to see the pet twitching, whimpering, kicking and practically freaking out while asleep. Although a nightmare is not as worse as night terror, the pet owner would still feel helpless to see the agitated sleeping pet.

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Dog dreams and nightmares

A soundly sleeping dog would suddenly wag the tail, twitch the feet as if running and make muffled whimpers. After barking softly, the dog would settle down as if nothing happens. It is certainly amusing to see a dreaming dog. Can Fido be chasing butterflies or tormenting the neighbor’s cat? No one would know what goes on inside a dog’s mind. However, dog experts tell us that when a dog dreams, the pet’s brain is processing what the dog has experienced.  A nightmare can be a pleasant dream gone badly. It can also be a bad dream that typically induces a strong emotional response such as fear and/or terror from the sleeping pet. Nightmares can be considered as sleeping disorders as it disrupts the sleep of the dog and at times the sleep of the dog owner as well.

Why do dogs have nightmares?

As mentioned, no one would know what goes on inside the mind of a dog. It is also not known why nightmares occur. In humans, nightmare can be associated with a traumatic experience. It is therefore possible for an abused dog to have nightmares.

When does a dog’s nightmare occur?

Commonly, a dog would have nightmares late at night or early in the morning when the dog is already sleeping deeply and would not be awakened easily. Sleep has two stages – the non-rapid eye movement stage (NREM) and the rapid eye movement stage (REM). Dreams and nightmares occur in the REM stage.

How to handle the dog’s nightmares

Dreaming dogs are kind of amusing to watch. Pet owners would commonly let the dog sleep. Although it would be rather hard to tell a dream and a nightmare apart, a telltale sign of a nightmare is the dog’s agitation. The dog would appear to be very scared. A dog with a nightmare would be hard to wake up. An owner has to wake the dog to end the nightmare. Soothe the fear of the dog by talking in a soft voice. Gentle patting will reassure the pet of your presence.

Nightmares cannot be prevented but its recurrence can be handled. Studies have shown that very young dogs and dogs advanced in age have the tendency to have nightmares as compared to middle aged dogs. Recurrence of bad dreams in young children can be prevented by providing a night light. A stuff toy or a doll will serve as the kid’s sleeping companion. Do you think this will work for your pet too? Why don’t you give it a try?

Dog Nightmare and Panics

Puppy having a nightmare


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      hailey 4 years ago

      Dogs can have nightmares because my dogs make siron sounds when they are sleeping beacause they are having bad dreams (nightmares)so yes they do have nightmares while sleeping