Why Does My Dog Cry While Sleeping?

Pet parents are usually the first to admit that the canine members of the family act a lot like the human ones. "Talking" during sleep is one common characteristic dogs share with humans. If you hear your dog crying or making other noises in his sleep, you've likely caught him dreaming about something that happened earlier that day or about things dogs typically do. Don't wake your dog if he's crying or whimpering in his sleep. Not only is uninterrupted sleep vital for his health, but waking him from a dream could startle him and he might unintentionally bite you as a result.

British Bulldog Sleeping
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Dog sleep cycles

The phases dogs go through when sleeping are very similar to the sleep cycles humans experience, and that includes the rapid eye movement cycle when dreaming occurs, also known as REM. Dogs experience two phases of sleep in a complete cycle: the slow-wave phase and the REM phase. The slow-wave cycle begins as soon as your dog falls asleep and lasts for 10-to-20 minutes, then he shifts into the REM cycle. The length of the complete cycle can last 30-to-45 minutes and depends on the dog's size and how old he is. Larger dogs typically dream for approximately five minutes every 45 minutes while smaller dogs only dream for a minute or less every 10 minutes.

Dreams trigger crying

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The REM cycle is when your dog is most deeply asleep. During this cycle his brain activity peaks as he begins dreaming, so it's during that time that your dog is most likely to cry, whimper or growl in his sleep. You shouldn't be concerned that a nightmare is causing your dog to cry as dogs rarely experience terrifying dreams like humans do.

Other signs of dog dreaming

Whimpers and quiet yips aren't the only clues that your dog is dreaming. You can tell that your pooch is in dreamland if his:

Some dogs even appear to be running with their paws moving in a synchronized motion while they're asleep.

Rare dream disorder

Some dogs experience the dreams they have as reality. It's a rare disorder that's known as REM Sleep Behavior Disorder. Under normal circumstances, a dog enters a state during sleep in which his muscles are semi-paralyzed. However, paralysis doesn't occur in dogs with REM Sleep Behavior Disorder, leaving them fully functional with a tendency to literally act out what they're experiencing in their dreams. Dogs with the disorder have been known to knock over furniture, bump into walls, bark or cry aloud and make other loud sounds.