What Does It Mean When Your Dog Whimpers While Sleeping?

By Susan Walker

If you own a dog, you have probably witnessed it whimpering, crying, pawing, even barking in its sleep. In most cases, there's no need for alarm. As the saying goes, they're literally "dreaming half of their lives away." Our canine friends sleep, on average, 12 to 14 hours per day -- literally half of their lives. Researchers believe that their sleep is very similar to human sleep, filled with periods of restful sleep and periods of rigorous dreaming.

Dog Sleep Phases

According to a recent article on Vetinfo.com, studies show that dogs experience the same two major phases of sleep that humans experience -- rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement, including slow wave sleep. As with humans, both types of sleep are very important to your dog's psychological and physical health.

Slow Wave Phase

In the slow wave phase, your dog will sleep deeply. Its heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and breathing rate will decrease and it will not usually react to noises and outside influences. This sleep phases usually lasts about 10 to 15 minutes, followed by the REM phase.

REM, or Dream Phase

Experts believe that dog dreams typically occur during the REM sleep phase. In this phase, your dog's mind is active, awake and aware but its body is at rest. During the REM phase, your dog can replay images of the day's events or past events and its body can react to those events by happily yapping, whimpering or crying, or even barking and pawing.

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

Experts note that whimpering, shaking, and crying are a normal part of your dog's sleep cycle. When dog owners witness these behaviors, they often try to wake up the dog to stop what they perceive as distress. However, researchers believe that dogs need undisturbed sleep and that dreaming is an important and healthy part of a canine's life.

There are some exceptions, however. Excessive shaking during sleep can be an epileptic seizure or the result of cardiac problems. Get to know your dog's sleep habits, and see your veterinarian if you notice any abnormal shaking.