Why Do Dogs Bark In Their Sleep? [Facts]

If you’ve ever owned a dog, you have probably experienced the odd bark, howl, or twitch during their nap time. But why do dogs bark in their sleep? 

why do dogs bark in their sleep
What does it mean when a dog barks in its sleep?

While it may seem strange (and undoubtedly cute at times), there is actually a reason for it. Researchers have found that human sleep cycles, and dog sleep cycles, are actually very similar.

Just like humans, when dogs lay down to rest, they usually pass through a short period of relaxed wakefulness, eventually slipping into a deep REM sleep. 

REM is most commonly associated with the act of dreaming.  

WHY Dogs Bark in Their Sleep

large dog blanket sleeping
A puppy sleeping under a comfortable waterproof dog blanket

What many people don’t realize is that when a dog is making these sorts of noises during their sleep, it’s for the same reason we do, because they too are dreaming. 

When you see your dog barking, or making noises in their sleep, this is also likely to be accompanied with some sort of twitching, licking, wiggling, or some other sort of physical action. 

This is because dogs typically are going through the motions of digging, or running in their dream.  You may even notice similar aspects to that of a human, as the dog’s eyelids could start to twitch, or nose begin to wrinkle. 

Much like us, dogs can be dreaming about a plethora of things.  Dog’s literally use all of their senses when dreaming, which is why you’ll see everything from their ears wiggling, down to their tail wagging in a happy dream.  

Dogs can Dream WITHOUT Barking

The funny thing is that all dogs can dream, but it does not always mean they will bark, or show some physical motion. 

Sometimes dogs will dream, and you will have no idea. Also, some dogs are more likely to dream than others, such as the fact that smaller dogs dream more frequently during their sleep cycles than larger dogs (roughly every 10 minutes versus 90 minutes). This means that larger dogs may be less vocal than smaller dogs while they sleep.  

Dog Sleeping Positions (from nature)

why do dogs sleep foot of bed
Some dogs sleep on the floor at the end of your bed.

Another question that often pops up is: why is it that dog’s make such strange positions when they sleep? You can generally catch your furry friend curled up in a ball when they’re sleeping, even if it’s not particularly cold. 

This is apparently an evolutionary behavior carried over from their ancestors in the wild.  When you analyze wolves in the wild, they will curl up when they are asleep in order to protect their vulnerable organs in case of an attack. 

However, another (somewhat) common position is dogs who sleep on their backs with their bellies up. This is obviously the cutest of the two options, but it is also far more rare as few dogs are comfortable sleeping this way, as it leaves them the most vulnerable. 

The total opposite to the curled up position, when a dog is laying belly up, it lets you know that they are extremely easy-going, well-socialized, and have veered far away from their wild tendencies. 

If you’re lucky enough to be around your doggo when they are passed out lying on their back, then that means they trust you, and feel safe around you.    

Should I Wake Up My Dog That is barking In Its Sleep?

labradoodle puppy sleeping
A miniature Labradoodle puppy (named Max) having a nap.

Sometimes these sounds you can hear can become concerning however, especially when you hear whimpering, grunting, or howling. The question that often comes next is should I wake up my dog if they are barking in their sleep? 

And the answer to this question is typically to only wake them if you are worried for their safety, but generally speaking there is no harm in waking them. 

With that being said, much like humans, the most ideal scenario is to not wake them up so that you don’t disrupt their sleep cycle. 

Most vets actually advise you not to wake up your dog when they’re barking, as it can be very disorienting when they are in deep REM sleep.  

When a dog barks during their sleep, it is not necessarily a bad thing, as there is a good chance he is simply chasing a cat, or a rabbit in the wild. However, if your dog is being overly vocal, there is likely a bigger issue at hand. If you absolutely have to wake up your pup, make sure to do it with your voice, rather than by shaking them, as this could startle them too.  

Be aware of the dog’s surroundings, and make sure that your furry friend is indeed asleep when he is barking. It could be that he’s barking, or howling because he is hungry, bored, or uncomfortable. 

Also, if there is a specific show, or noise the dog is falling asleep to, and you notice the dog barking more, consider moving their bed to a new room. 

Many people neglect the simple solutions, as oftentimes it can be the little things in the dog’s environments which can cause unnecessary stress, and discomfort.      

What do dogs dream about?

lab puppy sleeps on floor
A Lab puppy catching some Zzz’s on the floor

This leads many to wonder what is it then that dogs are thinking about when they are dreaming. Much like humans, dogs can dream about anything fun and exciting, to dark and traumatic. 

Most people have experienced everything from a normal dream of them walking to the supermarket, to a crazy dream where they’re flying through the universe. Dogs are the same in that they can have a wide range of dreams like learning a new trick, or running through the park, to flying, falling, or fighting off the paranormal. 

The interesting thing about dog’s and dreams is that because we can’t communicate with them, we don’t technicallyknow what they dream about. 

And so, while we simply assume that when their paws are moving, and their tail is wagging vigorously, that they’re chasing a squirrel up a tree. Nobody really knows what dogs are actually dreaming about.

Another interesting point in regards to dogs and their dreams, is that in comparison to humans who’s strongest sense is our sight, a dog utilizes all of their senses while dreaming. Which is why you will see facial reactions like the sniffle of their nose, or wiggle of their ears, because believe it or not, they can hear, and smell in their dreams too.        

Many owners begin to then ask the question: is it possible that they dream about their owners? Selfishly, all dog owners want to believe that when dog’s are dreaming, they are imagining a friendly interaction with their owner. 

However, while this could be true, there is a greater chance that they are imagining running across a big field of grass instead. 

Many dogs try to physically act out their dreams, meaning that they are often reliving memories of what they did earlier that day. Which is why when they are dreaming, we often see them running, barking, and twitching up a storm.  

Tips for dogs that bark in their sleep

a lab sleeping in the forest
A Lab will take a snooze anywhere!

Though there is certainly a cuteness factor at play, sometimes it can get out of hand, and you may need to create a safe space for your pup to help out with their excessive barking. Make sure to constantly monitor their behavior, if you start to notice their body moving uncontrollably, excessive panting, trouble breathing, or they’re whimpering in pain, then 100% wake them up.  

However, when you do so be careful about how you wake them up, as it could cause unwanted stress. The key is to create a calm sleep space, and make notes when observations are made (does your dog bark when OVER tired? Or is more exercise an effective strategy to reduce sleep barking).  

It is completely normal for your dog to bark in their sleep, however if they seem in distress it may be having a nightmare

They should be left alone even in these circumstances, just like humans, it can be safer to allow the dog to just go through the nightmare, rather than disrupting their REM cycle. 

Also, consider experimenting with blankets, warming plates, or putting them in a darker environment like a crate to help them reach a deeper level of sleep. 

At the end of the day, dogs can wake up scared, but they should not wake up scared and ready to attack. If the situation gets out of hand, or the dog seems to be in pain, then you will have to reach out to a professional. 

FAQ About Dogs and Puppies Sleep Barking

coffee dog names for coffee fans
For the coffee and puppy lover – a match made in heaven!

Is it normal for a dog to twitch in their sleep?

YES – This action is totally normal, they may be digging, running, or chasing another animal. During REM state of sleep, animals tend to dream and their eyes move around behind their eyelids. During this dream state, it is completely normal for your dog to lose control of his bodily functions. This only becomes problematic if it is associated with excessive barking, howling, panting, or other more chronic pain conditions.  

Is it normal for a dog to run in it’s sleep?

YES – The running behavior of dogs while asleep is completely normal, as there is a good chance they are simply reimagining chasing a squirrel from earlier in the day, or an imaginary butterfly.

Can you wake a dog running in its sleep?

However, if you are worried about your dog’s current state, you can always call its name to wake it up. Try to avoid shaking your dog, as this could arouse it and it may react unpredictably. If you wake them up while they are running by shaking them, this may trigger your dog to snap at you. Whereas by using your voice, you can maintain a certain level of calmness, comfort, and safety.  

Is it normal for a dog to sweat or pant excessively in their sleep?

NO – Dogs use panting to help regulate body heat, however unless your dog is sleeping in a warm room, this is likely a sign that dogs body temperature is imbalanced. Panting and Sweating at night which is unwarranted, is a sign for concern, especially because dogs have a general tendency to develop liver weakness or disease. The liver’s prime time of activity is around 1-3 A.M., so if you notice your dog panting, or sweating around this time, then take note. This is not normal, and you should consult a professional.

Is it normal for a dog to snore in their sleep?

YES (within reason) – The reason for a dog to snore would be similar to that of a human, they likely have something obstructing their airway. This could range from moderate to more serious, however many professionals have stated that a dog that snores a lot while sleeping also has difficulty breathing while awake.

My dog seems to stop breathing when sleeping…

Dogs rely heavily on the ability to breathe rapidly in order to help regulate their body temperature, and if they are unable to do so it could result in serious health complications. So, while it is normal for dogs to snore moderately, be aware of chronic snoring, as this could be a sign of something more problematic.