By Dr. Norette L. Underwood
Should I Wake My Dog while Dreaming?
I had a client who asked me about her dreaming dog. She said her dog does a log of dreaming—you can see her limbs twitching and she often emits little cries. It looks like she is in distress. Should I wake her at those times to relieve her of the anxiety she may be experiencing?
What she is describing does not sound like a nightmare or bad dream. Good dreams for dogs often involve twitching and soft sounds. Dogs also can twitch more during sleep when they feel cold. So gently placing a blanket on them may help.
If you pet is having somewhat unpleasant dreams consider that just like people, dogs may dream to process things they have experienced, commit new things to memory and work through emotions. If you interrupt the brain’s working to resolve issues during sleep this will hinder the psychobiology that restores equilibrium to the brain.
Some dogs do experience nightmares, where they scream in their sleep and are clearly afraid. Should you wake a dog in the throes of a nightmare? If your dog is growling or crying or appears distressed during a dream, try to wait it out. Dogs like people, go through cycles in their sleep, including REM cycles. Letting a nightmare continue and end is part of this natural sleep progression.
If your dog is clearly screaming or seems frightfully disturbed, you might consider gently calling their name. Don’t touch a dog to rouse them from a nightmare. You could be bitten. When they come to reassure them with sweet words and gentle petting. If this happens regularly consider taking to your veterinarian who can tell you the proper steps to take.