If you are new to dog parenting, something that might get you concerned about your pooch is the fact that she howls in her sleep. The first reaction when you hear your dog howling is usually laughter, but then many dog owners start to wonder if there could be something wrong with their friend.
Luckily for everyone, when dogs howl in their sleep it is usually just because they are having a nightmare. It is a very common behavior for dogs and it shouldn’t worry you at all. When it comes to howling while sleeping, all breeds are the same and there isn’t a specific one that does this more than others.
In this article, we will go through the reasons behind dogs howling in their sleep and what scientists think about the matter. We will also give you some tips on how to deal with this behavior so that you can be sure to have the correct approach when your dog does it again.
Is it normal for dogs to howl in their sleep?
As we have said before, it is absolutely normal for dogs to howl in their sleep. They have, in fact, very similar sleeping patterns to ours consisting of three phases. The first one is the “drowsiness” phase, which takes place when you start to feel you cannot keep your eyes open anymore. The second one is the non-rapid-eye-movement phase, consisting of a light sleep, during which you can be easily awakened by noises. The last phase is the rapid-eye-movement (REM) one, which is a deep sleep where all the dreaming happens.
It is during the REM phase that dogs can howl, simply because that’s the moment when they are dreaming about something. During this time, dogs may not only howl but could also start moving their legs, rolling their eyes, and twitching. It is all normal behavior and it means your pooch is trying to do something in his sleep, maybe he’s running after a cat, playing with a friend, or trying to eat something.
It is similar to what humans do when they are having a very vivid dream. Some may move around in the bed and wake up in funny positions, while others may talk during their sleep. We know that these behaviors are not at all concerning… unless you have a partner.
How do you know when a dog is having a nightmare?
Just like human dreams are not always of the best kind, our furry friends can experience having nightmares too. It is not easy to understand if your dog is just having a very engaging dream or a nightmare, but some clues can help you distinguish between the two events.
If your dog is howling in his sleep and is also moving his legs as if he was running, this is probably just caused by a vivid dream. During these dreams, the dog is acting as if he was in real life and he is probably having a fun time as well. If you notice, instead, that your pooch is really getting agitated during the dream, starts growling, and is lifting his upper lip, then you know for sure that he’s having a nightmare. This phase could last just a few seconds or could go on for several minutes until the dog wakes up.
Should I wake up my dog from a nightmare?
As the saying goes “let sleeping dogs lie”. Even if you think your dog is having a dreadful dream, waking him up could not be the best solution. The main reason for this is that if awaken abruptly, dogs may get defensive, and while they are trying to understand what is going on, they could take a bite at you.
Dogs, as we know, are very instinctual animals and if they sense some kind of danger they can react to safeguard their life. This can happen even if they are not properly awake and in the phase when they are just getting their bearings. Since the howling during a nightmare should last too long, it is a good idea to leave your pooch alone until he wakes up by himself.
Another reason why waking up your pup in the middle of a dream isn’t ideal, is because dogs, just like humans, need consecutive sleeping. They do not get proper rest if they don’t sleep at least 6 hours consecutively and not being able to do this could impact their brain functioning during the day. A tired dog can become very stressed and his eating habits could change as well.
The general health of a dog that doesn’t sleep properly can be compromised, so it is much better to let him howl rather than interrupt his rest.
Why has my dog suddenly started howling at night?
What we have said up to now are indications for dogs that have the habit of howling while asleep. In case you have a dog that has been with you for some time and just suddenly started howling during his sleep, then you might need some extra advice.
There could be an underlying reason for this new behavior of your dog and it could have to do with anxiety issues. Just like humans, dogs can feel agitated for something that has happened during the day and this could make them have bad dreams at night. If something has changed in your dog’s life, for example, you have moved houses, this could be impacting him and giving him nightmares.
Another reason why a dog suddenly starts having bad dreams and feeling agitated could have to do with health issues or new medications that he may be taking. If you suspect this is the cause of your dog’s nightmares, a trip to the vet is necessary.
If dogs howl during their sleep, there is usually nothing to worry about. They are just dreaming and, like humans sometimes talk while sleeping, dogs can howl, bark, or twitch. If you see your pooch getting agitated or growling, this could mean that he’s not having a normal dream, but he is probably having a nightmare. The best thing to do is to wait until your dog wakes up by himself and not interfere with his sleeping. Dogs need to sleep consecutively for a good amount of hours, to function properly during the day. In case you suspect your dog has anxiety or health issues that make him have nightmares, you should take him to the vet for a check-up as soon as possible.