Have you ever wondered what your dog dreams about? Are you worried they might be having a nightmare? And can dogs actually have nightmares?

Do Dogs Dream?

Ever wondered if your dog is actually dreaming while they sleep? Well… the answer is YES! If you’ve ever seen your dog twitch, whimper, or whine while they’re sleeping, it’s because they’re dreaming about something. Don’t believe me? Some MIT researchers have actually done studies with mice, proving that they dream while they sleep. Meaning that other mammals do too!

What Kind of Things Do Dogs Dream About?

The MIT studies showed that the mice would dream about things that happened throughout their day. This tells us that dogs dream about activities or events that typically happen during their day, or events they have experienced before—both good and bad.

Do Dogs Dream About their Owners?

Since dogs dream about things in their life, and normal happenings from their days… Then the logical answer is yes—dogs do dream about their owners! They might be dreaming about a fun activity they did with you. Or if their breed has “guard dog” tendencies, they might be dreaming about protecting you.

Do Dogs Have Bad Dreams?

Sadly, yes. Just like us, they can have both good and bad dreams. One night they might be dreaming about going on a hike with you. The next night, they might be dreaming about someone trying to hurt you.

What Do Dogs Dream About When They Cry?

I wish dogs could tell us for sure. It’s hard to know exactly what a dog is dreaming about. If they are whimpering a little—they might just be dreaming about chasing a chipmunk and trying to catch it. But if they’re crying a lot—it could be a nightmare about a made up scary scenario. Or it could even be a nightmare from past traumas, if your dog was ever abused before you adopted them.

Whenever I get up in the morning, Ruby likes to steal my spot in bed. In this photo, it was still a bit chilly when I popped in the shower. She snuggled up into my spot, with teddy and all. Enjoy!

How Do You Know When a Dog is Having a Nightmare?

There are some telltale signs of a dog having a nightmare. You’ve probably already noticed most of these. But just to be sure, we’ve got a list of typical actions your dog might do when they are having a bad dream. Next time you think they might be having one, watch for these signs:

  1. Whimpering or whining
  2. Barking
  3. Growling
  4. Tense or clenched jaw
  5. Panting
  6. Twitching nose, mouth, and whiskers
  7. Sweaty paws
  8. Heavy or fast-paced breathing
  9. Eyes twitching

You can also use the sleep tracking feature in the Fi app to take a peek at your dog's sleep habits - interruptions during the night might indicate they're dreaming or having a nightmare!

​​Is it Bad to Wake Up a Dog Having a Nightmare?

I know this sounds harsh… But even if your dog seems to be having a nightmare, the general consensus is that it’s best to let them sleep. You know the expression, “let sleeping dogs lie?” It’s true that you should just let them sleep.

Dogs go through REM (Rapid Eye Movement) cycles in their sleep, just like we do. And they dream when they are in the deepest part of their sleep. They need this deep sleep to help with their brain activity, rest, and overall health. And waking them disrupts all of that.

How Do You Comfort a Dog Having a Nightmare?

If you think your dog might be having a nightmare—of course you would want to comfort them. However, this could turn into a dangerous situation. Your dog is in such a deep sleep, and they are obviously in distress. If you try to comfort them and wake them up in the middle of their dream, they could react aggressively toward you—thinking they are still in that nightmare situation.

Even if your dog isn’t typically aggressive, they might snap at you or even bite you because for a second, they think you’re that intruder from their nightmare. Again, it’s best to let them continue sleeping. And you can just be ready to comfort them once they wake up on their own.

Should I Pet My Dog While They’re Sleeping?

In any situation, it’s always safest to let the dog initiate the desire to receive petting. Especially now that you know how they could react when being woken up from a nightmare.

Even though we all want to comfort our sweet pups and make them feel safe, it’s best to wait until they wake up on their own. And wait for them to show you they are ready to receive any petting. You don’t want to startle them and put yourself—and them—in a potentially bad situation.

We all know Monday’s are rough to get through. Mister Rusty Boi seems to think the same thing. Monday’s as a pup are Ruff.

How Can I Help My Dog to Not Have Nightmares?

There’s no sure way to actually stop a dog from having nightmares. Just like we can’t completely prevent ourselves from having nightmares. But we can try a few things to help them have less nightmares.

  1. Essential oil diffusers aren’t just for us—they work on dogs too! A calming scent like lavender can help your dog feel more calm and at peace.
  2. Soothing music, a fan, or a white noise machine. These calming sounds can help your dog feel more at rest while they sleep.
  3. A soft dog bed and a comfort blanket or toy. If your dog has certain soft, comfort items, these can help them feel safe while they rest and sleep.
  4. Quietly and gently say their name. Again, we really don’t want to wake them. But saying their name in a quiet and soothing way could help them calm down in their dream. And if they do wake up slightly—at least it’s not from you physically startling them. And saying their name should help ground them into reality as they wake.
  5. Make your home a calm, safe space. Of course, the best way to help avoid as many nightmares as possible is by creating a calming, safe environment at home. Use encouragement and positive reinforcement over negative reinforcement and yelling.
  6. Give your dog some good pets and snuggles during the day while they’re awake.
  7. Take your dog for peaceful walks that will help strengthen your bond with them, and help them wear out any anxious energy they might have. And if you’re worried about your dog running off, you can try out the Fi Smart Dog Collar to keep track of your pup’s location at all times.

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

And remember… As difficult as it might be, it really is best to just let your dog continue to sleep, so they get the best rest possible.