My dog occasionally seems to have bad dreams, where she is asleep but moves around and whines sounding afraid & distressed. Should I wake her up from these episodes or just let her ride it out? Her personality when she is awake is goofy & cheerful and we got her as a puppy from a trusted friend… so I don’t think she has any bad experiences in her past that she may be reliving. I think it’s just a bad/scary dream. For future reference, wake her up to soothe her or let it be?
In the past, I have not woken her up because somewhere in my mind I recalled someone telling me that you shouldn’t wake a child out of a nightmare. But I have no idea if that advice holds water or not.
My poor polly dog (RIP) would get awful dreams regularly and would wake us up in bed either from her yelping or her paws scratching us. We would wake her up and she always seemed appreciative with a goofy face and wagging tail.
I used to hear a dog may snap at you if you wake them from a dream or any sleep. You know ‘let the sleeping dog lie’, it’s not about about their lack of veracity.
But I wake my dogs up all the time. Never an issue.
I’ve never had a dog that had nightmares, but my cat and my late ferret do/did. Whining in sleep etc. I always woke them, though I learned not to touch the cat in reach of his mouth because he did bite once.
When my dog does this, which is daily, I think he’s having a chase in his dream or some other lively activity he’s enjoying. I never wake him, it just passes on it’s own. It’s never occurred to me it would be BAD dreams!
I only wake them up if they are making noises that are causing problems, like keeping me from sleeping. Otherwise, I let 'em sleep. How do I even know it’s a nightmare? It’s not like I’ve seen them wake up and freak out, so it seems they either aren’t scared or don’t remember them.
When dogs are whining and kicking their feet in their sleep, I think they’re just having ordinary dreams where, for some reason, they aren’t in full sleep paralysis. I know I’ve been told I was mumbling in my sleep occasionally, and I was never having anything more than an ordinary dream. Sometimes I couldn’t even remember what I was dreaming. On the other hand, when I’ve had a nightmare while I was asleep on the couch, or otherwise in view of someone who was awake, and I asked if I was moving, or making noises, I was told that no, I didn’t do anything unusual.
I think the whining is just the dog’s version of mumbling. They’re barking in their sleep, but it could just as much be joyous barking as frightened barking. One of our dogs, who wasn’t much of a barker in general, did lots of joyous barking when DH came back from Iraq (I couldn’t do his laundry the whole time he was gone, because she slept in the laundry basket with his clothes that smelled like him). So not all barking is bad.
I’ve been a dog owner all my life, and never had a problem with waking them up… until.
Jackson, a real good guy. A rescued dog that we had had for about 6 months. Border Collie Pit Bull. Almost 70 pounds. I lent over to give him a quick back scratch before going to bed and I guess I startled him. He snapped and ran off and wouldn’t come near me for a week. It was heartbreaking.
I just let him have his space, and we are back at being best buds again.
When one of my dogs appears to be having a bad dream, as opposed an “I’m chasing the rabbit” type dream, I wake them by calling to them. I generally don’t touch them to wake them up. I usually give them a biscuit or something.
I egg them on to go get those cheeky Dream Rabbits. But if they seem unhappy in the dream, just gently bring them out with your voice. Just softly say: “Ssh Enola’s here, don’t be scared” - what could possibly be bad about that?
The advice doctors givefor people is not to wake them. Various reasons are given: they’ll be disoriented, it’ll be hard for them to get back to sleep, nightmares are a normal way to work out issues, etc.
But I can’t find anything specific for dogs. I guess my only concern was that she would lash out and bite me or somehow associate me with something negative. But since you guys are all waking up your dogs, I guess I’ll jump on the bandwagon!
Absolutely! My younger vizsla yips when she sleeps and my wife always says that she must be having a bad dream. I’m of the belief that she thinks she’s cornered a squirrel or 'possum and is having a grand time. She never wakes up suddenly or reacts violently, so why would I think it’s a nightmare?
An article I saw recently on sleeping in the animal kingdom mentioned that waking up is quite stressful – a lot of systems are “booted up,” so to speak, and there’s a surge in blood pressure and heart rate. So I can see that it might be physiologically risky to wake someone.
Unclear whether a nightmare would be more, or less, stressful than waking, though.
I’ll throw in one note of caution. During the time we were trying to take care of our unsound, dangerous dog Diamond, she once woke herself from an apparent nightmare. She seemed wild and disoriented, so I spoke to her and leaned in to comfort her – and she struck me like a viper, opening a wound between my eyeball and eyebrow that bled like only a head wound will.
She was apologetic within seconds, but the damage was done. Note that she was fully awake when she struck. This incident was a factor in our ultimate decision.
Don’t use Diamond as a model for dog behavior – she was severely damaged before we took her in – but I felt like this anecdote was relevant.