Why Is My Dog Barking In Their Sleep?

There have probably been many occasions when you are watching your dog sleep, and suddenly they start whimpering, growling, and even barking in their sleep. For example, when it happens to my dog Luna, she starts twitching, then the whimpering starts and often builds up to growling and barking. One sound she seems to make a lot is a kind of “yipping” noise, and that’s accompanied by leg movements that look like she’s trying to ride a bike or running in her sleep. Sometimes we can notice a rapid eye movement as well as if her eyes are slightly open.

Why Do Dogs Bark In Their Sleep?

When your dog barks while sleeping, it’s most likely because they’re dreaming, just like we are. The REM sleep cycle and the ability to dream are present in both humans and dogs, though some individuals, for whatever reason, may not be able to dream. 

Your dog can’t tell you exactly what your dogs dream is about, but the same as people (or hopefully they are chasing squirrels), it could be about a whole host of things. You will also see plenty of other unusual behaviour when they’re sleeping, such as:

  • Yipping
  • Growling
  • Whimpering
  • Grunting
  • Howling
  • Swallowing
  • Twitching
  • Wiggling
  • Riding a Bike
  • Running
  • Sniffing

The best course of action is to consult with your dog’s veterinarian if you have any concerns about your dog barking while they sleep or think its related to other health issues. However slight, there is the possibility that this could be a sign of something else going on with your furry friend, such as a seizure problem. But I want to stress it’s improbable there’s something more sinister at play here; it’s typically normal behaviour if they bark in their sleep.

Is It Normal For Dogs To Bark In Their Sleep?

We all worry about our dogs, and when they exhibit some kind of unusual behaviour, of course, we’re concerned. The fact is all dogs bark in their sleep, and once you appreciate it’s completely normal behaviour you can relax and watch without any concerns or think you should wake them up. They are probably having a good night’s sleep.

What Do Dogs Have Nightmares About?

Suppose your dogs dream while they sleep. In that case, their fantasies can range from the pleasantly cathartic (like romping across the grass, which might explain why dogs look like they’re running in their sleep) to the genuinely frightening nightmares (like being chased by the giant dog they met on the walk yesterday).

Having a nightmare can be a sign that your dog is thinking about an experience they didn’t like or made them frightened. While every dog is different, it’s safe to say that most dogs despise going to the vet or the groomer; possibly, your dog is having a nightmare about the last round of vaccinations. No one enjoys having a needle stuck in their arm (or, in the dog’s case, their leg). 

How Do You Know If Your Dog Is Having A Nightmare?

When it comes to determining if your dog is having a pleasant dream or a nightmare, there are some tell-tale signs you can look out for. The more you pay attention to your dog while they are sleeping, the more you’ll notice the numerous warning signs. 

Pleasant dog dreams seem to accompany paw twitching, ears flicking, and eyelid twitching; possibly the running motion is also a good sign; after all, most dogs are in their element when running or chasing something. For the dream to be pleasant, there shouldn’t be any outward indicators of anxiety. 

Your dog may snarl and jerk their feet and eyelids in their sleep if they have a nightmare. They can bark an alert and set off howling, with their whole body stiff and rigid. Just as humans jerk themselves awake from an unpleasant or frightening nightmare, your dog may do the same thing.

What To Do If Your Dog Is Having A Nightmare?

Unless absolutely necessary, don’t disturb your dog if they are having a nightmare! Because they may be startled by this, they could snap or even bite! Remember that most nightmares only last a few seconds, despite how upsetting they may be to you. Your dog will usually fall back to sleep in a matter of minutes.

As a last resort, if your dog’s nightmare lasts more than a few minutes, you may choose to wake them up, but carefully. Always use your voice to wake them up, and never try to shake them awake. 

Attempt to wake your dog by saying their name softly, and then gradually call their name more loudly if they are not waking up and still having a nightmare.

What To Do If The Sleep-Barking Is Disturbing Your Sleep?

There are steps you can take if your dog barking is disturbing you and your family. One thing you shouldn’t do is give your dog medication. It’s even doubtful your vet would prescribe anything to give your dog just for making noise in the night.

The only honest answer is to move your dog into another room if they sleep in your bedroom. That might take some getting used to for your dog, but if the noise keeps you awake, there’s nothing else you can do.

What Can You Do If Your Dog Snores In Their Sleep?

While snoring and barking in their sleep are not the same, they can both make a lot of noise and disturb the owner’s sleep, especially if they sleep in the same bedroom.

As with people, dogs snore because of an obstruction in their airways.

Allergies, respiratory disease, obesity, or brachycephaly could be to blame. If your dog breed is brachycephalic, there’s not much you can do because snoring and snuffling are these dogs’ features.

Does your dog have breathing difficulties when they are awake? If so, there’s an underlying problem that needs your vet’s attention.

Is Your Dog Sleeping Properly?

Have you made absolutely sure your dog is actually sleeping when they are making these nighttime noises?

Typically dogs don’t have much problem sleeping; they can usually nap any time they want. So if your dog is making noise when they should be asleep, you might need to double-check your dog is, in fact, asleep. 

Dogs suffering from insomnia is a relatively uncommon issue and is generally the result of another more severe problem such as arthritis, joint pain, or anxiety. 

Your veterinarian will likely be able to identify the source of your dog’s insomnia and make therapeutic recommendations.

When we continually have a terrible night’s sleep, we tend to look at the condition of the bed. If we have an uncomfortable mattress or one that’s showing its age, we usually buy a new one; have you considered the condition of your dog’s bed? 

Final Thoughts

In general, you shouldn’t be concerned if your dog barks at night as part of their natural REM dream cycle.

If you find yourself tempted to wake them up, resist the temptation since this can harm their sleep cycle and leave them exhausted and confused.

If your dog barking in their sleep is annoying you, consider moving their bed to another room, especially if the dog sleeps in your bedroom.