Many people see something adorable about a dog growling or barking in their sleep. Most of us probably imagine that they are chasing rabbits in the park or playing with their favourite toy. How can you be sure that your dog is having pleasant dreams and not a nightmare? Is it possible for them to have nightmares? Here we tell you a little more about dog dreams.

How do dogs dream?

Dogs dream during REM sleep just as we dream during REM sleep, but dogs reach this stage much more quickly than we do. For dogs, REM sleep usually occurs within 15 to 20 minutes after falling asleep and may last only a few minutes (less than five). Research has shown that dogs do, in fact, dream. While people may dream of the unknown or the future, most scientists believe that dogs dream of memories, both of their owners and of past experiences.

So do dogs have nightmares?

A dog having a nightmare may be dreaming about something he doesn’t like or even something that makes him anxious. This can vary from dog to dog, but any situation that causes stress or anxiety for the dog could trigger nightmares, such as nail clipping, grooming, stress at the vet and more. Also, if your puppy is rescued, even though he is now living in a good environment, he may still dream about his life before rescue.

How can you tell if your dog is having a dream or a nightmare?

Being able to tell if your dog is having a good dream or a nightmare can be tricky at first, but there are some subtle differences that you will notice if you pay attention. The more you observe your dog while he is dreaming, the easier it will be to spot the various signs to look out for.

In general, if your dog is having a pleasant dream, you may see his paws twitching, his ears flapping and his eyelids twitching. You should see no obvious signs of stress in your dog. Nightmares, on the other hand, may cause your dog to growl in his sleep along with twitching legs and eyes. They may even whine or bark. If the nightmare is stressful enough, your dog may wake up suddenly, just like any of us.

What to do if your dog is having a nightmare

If your dog is in the middle of a nightmare, it is important not to wake him up unless absolutely necessary. If you do, he may become frightened and react badly, even bite. Although it may be distressing for you, remember that most nightmares only last a few minutes. They will usually return to a restful sleep in a short time.

How to help prevent your dog’s nightmares

Although there is little you can do while your dog is in the middle of a nightmare, there are things you can do to help prevent nightmares. Dogs often have nightmares about things that cause them anxiety. Helping your dog overcome his fears can not only help him in his waking hours, but also during his sleep.

While we can’t talk to our dogs to find out what they dream about or what they have nightmares about, thanks to scientific research, we can say for sure that dogs dream and have nightmares. Have you ever found your dog dreaming? Do you think it was a nightmare or a pleasant dream?