Dog Barking In Sleep: All Questions Answered

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Tetiana Zhudyk

Ever caught your dog barking, howling, or even “running” in their sleep? It looks pretty quirky, but there's more to it than meets the eye. Join us as we delve into the fascinating world of canine sleep, exploring everything from dreaming to nighttime antics!

Your Dog Is Just Dreaming

It's pretty typical to witness our furry companions making noises and movements while they sleep. Rest assured, this behavior is entirely normal and often indicative of dreaming. Dogs, much like humans, experience rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, during which they may vocalize, twitch, or exhibit other movements. These actions suggest that they’re dreaming, much like we do.

While it may seem odd to hear your dog barking or whimpering in their sleep, it's usually just a reflection of their subconscious mind processing what they’ve experienced during the day.

So, the next time you catch your canine friend in the midst of a dream-induced performance, remember that they're simply navigating their own fantastical world of slumber.

And it's crucial not to disturb their sleep by waking them up.

How often do dogs dream?

Throughout the night, dogs, no matter their breed, journey through multiple dream cycles, much like us humans. But in this realm of sleep, some interesting patterns emerge: smaller pups tend to have more dreams, while larger ones roam through longer dreamscapes.

Though pinpointing their exact frequency remains a challenge, research hints that dogs may slip into the REM (rapid eye movement) phase, where dreams happen every 20-30 minutes during sleep.

There's evidence suggesting that dogs dream about everyday activities, reflecting the events of their day. As the night unfolds, they gracefully transition into a world where their actions come alive; they move as if they're carrying out the very scenes that dance through their dreams.

Do dogs have nightmares?

Scientifically, it's not proven whether dogs do or don't have nightmares. However, certain vocalizations might suggest they're experiencing a bad dream, like whimpering, howling, or growling. It's also important to be mindful of their normal physical movements and vocalizations, as well as signs of potential physical distress, which could indicate underlying health issues.

Dog’s normal sleep behaviors

While sleeping, dogs may exhibit various normal physical movements and vocalizations, including leg twitches, running-like leg movements, fluttering eyes, wagging tails, turning in different directions, flicking or moving ears, slightly elevated breathing (not excessive), sniffing, various head movements, and occasional barking.

These behaviors are typically harmless and part of their natural sleep cycle.

Signs of physical distress

However, it's essential to differentiate these from signs of physical distress, such as rapid breathing, uncontrolled convulsions, or sounds indicating extreme pain, which warrant immediate veterinary attention.

Understanding Dog Snoring: When to Worry and When Not to

Snoring is common for dogs, much like in humans, and usually, it's nothing to worry about. Similar to us, dogs may snore due to relaxed throat muscles, nasal congestion, or their sleeping position.

Brachycephalic breeds, characterized by short snouts, often snore more frequently due to their anatomy.

While it might be amusing or worrisome to hear your furry companion snoring away, in most cases, it's perfectly normal. However, if the snoring becomes excessively loud or is accompanied by other symptoms like gasping or difficulty breathing, it's advisable to consult a vet. They can help rule out any underlying health issues and ensure your pet's well-being.

Dos and Don'ts

  • If your dog's barking becomes bothersome, avoid waking them up; instead, try moving their bed away from yours.

  • Even if you suspect your dog is having a nightmare, refrain from disturbing them; this could confuse them further and worsen the situation.*

  • Make sure your dog's sleeping area is comfortable, quiet, and devoid of anything that might frighten them. Provide a soft surface for them to rest on.

  • If you notice any signs of physical distress in your dog during sleep, it's best to promptly consult your vet.

*If the nightmare seems intense, calmly sit beside your dog and soothe them with your voice without waking them. Vocal reassurance tends to work better than physical touch in such situations.

Understanding Sleeping Disorders In Dogs

Dogs, like humans, can be affected by various sleeping disorders, with the most common ones being REM sleeping disorders, narcolepsy, and sleep breathing disorders. Quality sleep is essential for your dog's overall well-being, as disruptions can impact their physical and cognitive abilities, immune system, pain levels, and even increase the risk of diseases.

Help your dog sleep better with calming sounds and relaxation techniques, all available in the Wellbeing section of the Woofz app. Download now.

Dealing with Anxiety

High levels of anxiety or stress can lead to insomnia in dogs, often manifested through behaviors like pacing, whining, barking, confusion at night, or attempts to wake their humans. It's crucial to identify the underlying cause of anxiety, whether it's changes in the environment, excessive stimulation during the day, or exposure to fear-inducing triggers, and address it accordingly.

Recognizing Pain

If your dog exhibits uncontrollable shaking, difficulty breathing, or whimpering during sleep, it may indicate underlying pain. In such cases, gently waking them up might be necessary. If these symptoms persist even when they're awake, it's essential to seek vet assistance. However, never attempt to administer human medications to your pet, as they can be harmful.


If your dog is a big dreamer and you often see them making noises or movements when they’re asleep, the best thing to do is create positive moments together so they have more good dreams than bad ones. And remember, even though the noises your dog makes might seem odd, 99% of the time, it’s completely normal behavior!

Written by

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Tetiana Zhudyk

Woofz Content Manager with a deep passion for dogs and a strong affinity for positive reinforcement training methods.

Reviewed by

Frederica Caneiro

Certified dog trainer, exclusive positive reinforcement methods & tackling aggression problems.