You're asleep, when suddenly, you wake up from your dog growling at you. You look over, and she's fast asleep. This is worrisome, because you don't know why she's growling. Is she having a nightmare? Is she in pain? Does she hear something troubling that you don't? Did you accidentally kick her or touch her in a sore spot when you were adjusting in your sleep? Should you wake her up and see what's wrong?
If your dog is sleeping and growling, you need to explore why this is happening and what you should do when it occurs.
Dogs growl while dreaming
Humans make noises while they sleep. They may talk to other people or mutter to themselves. If they're having a particularly realistic dream, they may cry or yell. Dogs are similar. They're going to whimper, bark and growl when they are having a particular dream. If your dog is making noises, including growling, it doesn't necessarily mean she is having a bad dream. It could just mean that she is reliving a memory from a time when she growled.
If your dog is growling while sleeping, do not disturb her. She is in a deep state or sleep called REM (rapid eye movement), and waking her up may be worse than letting her have a bad dream. It may cause her to growl or snap at you, which can be very dangerous. Also, dogs need about 14 hours of sleep per day in order to thrive and have productive, healthy lives. Interrupting the sleep cycle could put a damper on that.
Dogs growl when woken up
Think about a time when you were fast asleep, dreaming about something pleasant like a nice vacation or a delicious ice cream. Suddenly, you heard a loud noise, got startled and woke up. When you're deep in sleep during REM, and someone or something disturbs you, it's natural for you to react harshly. You don't even know what you're doing. It's the same for dogs.
Your dog may growl at you when you attempt to wake her up, even if she is not aggressive in real life. She may bite you as well, even if she has never exhibited that behavior while awake. This is not a cause for alarm, because it's common among dogs. They don't know what's going on when they are woken up suddenly and their primal instincts kick in.
If you absolutely have to wake up your dog while she is in REM – perhaps you need to move her to another room or give her medicine – then call your dog's name, clap your hands or stomp your feet so that she wakes up before you get to her. If you have to wake her up often while she is asleep, you can train her not to snap. Lightly tap her with a long object, like a stick, and then throw her a treat. If you do this repeatedly and notice she is getting better, eventually you will be able to tap her with your hand and may be able to wake her up from a deeper sleep. Always consult your vet, however, before you venture to interrupt your pup's naps.
Is sleeping with your dog healthy?
Let's say you sleep with your dog, and she growls at you when you are both fast asleep. Maybe one time, she even tried to bite you in her sleep. As tough as it may be, you might just have to let her sleep in a separate room or in her crate at night. It's healthier anyway, considering that dogs are lighter sleepers than humans. Your dog is alert, which means she may disturb you several times throughout the night.
If your dog's growling continues when she is awake, take her to your vet to make sure she is healthy and not experiencing a medical issue.