Is your dog having nightmares? 5 dog sleeping myths debunked!

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Last Updated: August 4th, 2023

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Unravel the truth behind dog sleeping myths and behaviours. Understand how to differentiate dogs dreams from nightmares and find out what causes them. Is whimpering and twitching normal? Read on to find out.


Dog owners often find themselves fascinated and perplexed by their furry friend’s sleeping behaviours. From wondering about the causes of nightmares in dogs, to deciphering whether a dog is having a dream or a nightmare, there’s a lot of myths floating around that we need to tackle. In this insightful article, we debunk five prevalent myths about dogs and their slumbers, with insights from scientific research and expert opinion.

Myth 1: Dogs don’t dream

The question of “dog dreaming” is one that intrigues many pet owners. Contrary to the myth, research indicates that dogs do dream. A study by Matthew Wilson and Kenway Louie of MIT suggests that animals indeed dream about their daily experiences, much like humans do. So next time you see your pooch twitching or whimpering in sleep, they might just be dreaming about you!

dog sleeping and dreaming
Dogs dreaming works similar to human dreaming

Myth 2: Twitching and whimpering in sleep is a cause for concern

Pet owners often worry, “why does my dog whimper and twitch in his sleep?” These behaviours, while concerning to watch, are typically harmless. They are usually signs of your dog dreaming. However, if these symptoms are excessive or accompanied by other worrisome signs, it’s a good idea to consult a vet.

The owner wakes his dog after a nightmare. Dog having a nightmare
Whimpering and twitching is usually harmless

Myth 3: Dogs have nightmares just like humans do

“What causes nightmares in dogs?” is a common query among dog parents. Just like they dream, dogs can also experience nightmares. According to an article published in Psychology Today, nightmares in dogs can be a response to anxiety or stress experienced during waking hours. If you think your dog is having a nightmare, it’s best to let it pass naturally, unless they seem overly distressed.

Anxious dog having a nightmare
Nightmares in dogs can be caused by stressful experiences

Myth 4: You should wake a dog from a nightmare

How do you handle it when your dog is having a nightmare? While it might be tempting to wake them up to offer comfort, this could startle or confuse your pet. It’s generally recommended to let the dream run its course and comfort your dog once they wake up.

Comforting dog after a nightmare
Let the dream run its course and comfort your dog when they’re awake.

Myth 5: It’s easy to tell if a dog is having a dream or a nightmare

Telling whether your dog is dreaming or having a nightmare can be tricky, but not impossible. Pleasant dreams can lead to twitching, soft woofing, and leg movements, as if your dog is running in their sleep. On the other hand, nightmares might result in distressed sounds or more frantic movements.

You can usually tell wether your dog is having a sweet dream or a nightmare
You can usually tell wether your dog is having a sweet dream or a nightmare.

In conclusion: dogs are dreamers!

Dogs, like us, have complex sleep patterns, dreams, and even nightmares. Understanding these aspects of dog sleeping can help you care for your canine companion better. It’s always important to remember that while some behaviours are normal, any excessive or distressing signs should warrant a trip to the vet.




Maja Sebenik is a proud owner of a Dachshund named Bimba. With three years of experience working as a researcher for a pet magazine, Maja's love for animals runs deep. Through her heartfelt writing, Maja shares practical tips, advice, and heartwarming anecdotes to inspire fellow pet lovers. Join her on a journey to explore the wonders of the animal kingdom, one paw at a time.

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