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5 Reasons Dogs Bark in Their Sleep That Might Surprise You

What do doggos dream of? Dog owners imagine them chasing sticks and playing in fields while they dream, but perhaps they’re living their best fantasy lives — as far as a dog can fantasize, anyway!

From little running jerks, body shakes, and leg twitches to full-blown howls and barks, dogs can get pretty active while in dreamland. They use all of their senses while they dream, so it’s no surprise that their ears wriggle and eyelids twitch, too.

Some dogs can be particularly vocal while they dream in the middle of the night. Sometimes, those dog barks get to the point of going from uber-cute to uber-annoying. But why do dogs bark in their sleep when they should be lights out and resting? Are they having a bad dream?

Here’s the lowdown on everything you never knew you wanted to know about why your dog’s barking in its sleep. 


Image by Yves from Pixabay

Why Do Dogs Bark in Their Sleep? 5 Common Reasons

The most common answer for this is simple — they’re dreaming. Even though your dog is barking, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be awake to do it. And sleep barks are often the cutest barks, with odd little howls and sleepy yips added in for good measure. When and if they bark will depend on what sleep phase they’re currently in, though.

1. Dog Sleeping Phases

There are two types of sleep, non-REM sleep and REM sleep. A mix of the two provide for a good night’s sleep.

Non-REM Sleep

Dogs tend to go through similar stages of sleep to humans, in fact. When they settle down for the night, they stay aware and relaxed for about 10 minutes before slipping into a light sleep. 

During this sleep phase, their heart rate gets slower, their body temperature goes lower, and their eyes may only be partially closed. But don’t be fooled — even if their eyes aren’t completely shut, they’re still heading towards deeper levels of dreamland.


This is typically when the body rests and repairs itself. Cells will multiply, and muscle (and bone will grow if it’s a younger pup) will grow and fix micro-tears in the fibers, much like our human bodies do during this sleep phase. 

REM Sleep

While non-REM is a very important sleep phase, REM or “rapid eye movement” sleep is just as necessary. It’s one of the stages of deep sleep where new skills and knowledge from the day are processed and solidified in long-term memory. Important information is retained, and less important short-term memories like “I pooped by the hibiscus today” are filtered out. 

This is also the sleep cycle where dreaming takes place. This phase of sleep is also associated with sleepwalking, or sleepwoofing in this case. So you may catch your dog making familiar motions during this time, such as those ultra-cute attempts at running and even barking. When your dog dreams it may act out some of the things happening in its dreams. Pet parents can relax as this is quite normal.

puppy-sleeping-on-couch why do dogs bark in their sleep

Image by Luisetta Paneta from Pixabay

2. How Often Should My Dog Bark While They Sleep?

During the night, your dog will shift between non-REM and REM sleep multiple times. If they’re active sleepers, that might mean your sleepy sidekick will have excessive barking episodes a couple of times while asleep each night. Otherwise, if your pupper is quieter, you may only hear your dog barking on the odd occasion.

Both sorts of sleep-barkers are completely normal, but some factors may influence this somnambulistic tendency in your pupper. Their size, and therefore their breed, can contribute to this amusing nightly show.

According to the studies and research of Professor Stanley Coren at the University of British Columbia, large dog breeds tend to follow human sleep patterns more precisely in length. An average cycle lasts about 90 minutes for them, so once during that cycle, they’ll experience REM sleep and possibly bark during it. 

You might enjoy reading my articles on why does my dog sleep under my bed and why does your dog sleep at the foot of your bed?


Smaller breeds have been found to alternate more frequently between REM and non-REM sleep. They can switch between the two as frequently as every 10 minutes, so if your floof is on the smaller side, chances are they’ll get to REM sleep faster and more frequently. That means more frequent barking if they’re active sleepers or higher chances of it even if they’re not. 

Puppies and senior dogs also tend to be more vocal in their sleep than middle-aged or adult dogs. This may be because an older dog and puppies sleep more often, so be prepared to make some accommodations for the young and old alike.  

3. Should I Wake My Dog Up if They’re Barking in Their Sleep?

Firstly, you should check to make sure your fluffy friend is actually asleep when they’re barking, especially as dogs are capable of sleeping with their eyes slightly open. If they’re awake and barking, they may be bored, hungry, or otherwise trying to attract your attention. They could even just be barking at nothing.


Image by Vane Monte from Pixabay

If your dog is barking in their sleep, though, it’s really nothing to be concerned about — your furry friend is probably going through a REM cycle, dreaming of something wonderful. At least, that’s what we hope. But there is always the possibility that their dream devolves into a nightmare, and they may become distressed. 

You’ll have to listen carefully to note the difference. The barks may sound menacing or joyful or might be preceded by deep growls or little happy yips. This will give clues as to whether your dog is enjoying their dream. 

However, it’s recommended that you don’t wake them up, even if they seem to have an uncomfortable dream. Not only is it very disorientating and confusing for them to be woken up during REM, but they may also react by lunging for your hand, thinking your physical touch is part of their nightmare. 

It’s better to let them wake up naturally, and if the dream seems to be closer to a nightmare, just be there to comfort them in case any memories of it linger. But don’t worry — as with humans, most dreams are quickly forgotten.


If your dog is an active sleeper who frequently barks in their sleep through the night, you might also be inclined to wake them up to get them to be quiet so they can sleep. 

If their night-barking is this much of a problem, then it’s recommended that you have your pupper sleep in a room that is far away from your bedroom rather. This way, you won’t be bothered by any howls or barks coming from them and can sleep undisturbed. 

4. Can I Give My Dog a Sleeping Aid to Stop the Barking?

If you’ve tried moving your pooch to another room so you can get some shut-eye and their howls are still too frequent and/or audible, you may have a problem on your hands. You might be tempted to give them a sleep aid like medication or a herbal supplement, but that’s the wrong thing to do. 

Medicine intended for humans shouldn’t be given freely to animals as it doesn’t always work the same way and may do more harm than good. Yes, even if you Googled it and some dodgy website told you that you could, you still shouldn’t do it. 

Rather take your dog to the vet and come up with a solution together that’ll suit everyone, pupper included. 

5 Reasons Dogs Bark in Their Sleep That Might Surprise You 1

Image by Lum3n from Pixabay

5. What if My Dog Howls, Cries, or Whimpers as Well?

If you hear your doggo howling, crying, or whimpering during their sleep, it’s not usually a cause for concern. As mentioned before, they may be experiencing a nightmare, or perhaps they’re enacting a behavior that is normal in the context of the dream. For example, maybe they’re howling with their dreamland dog pack in communal joy. After all, dogs are pack animals.

If these behaviors don’t carry over into your dog’s waking life, then there’s nothing to worry about. But if you notice them enacting any of these cries or whimpers during the day, these noises may indicate that something is up with your pup. 

It may be discomfort or pain that’s the source of the howls rather than dreams, so a vet check-up for your four-legged friends is a good idea to ensure nothing serious is wrong.   


Final Wrap-Up on Why Dogs Bark in Their Sleep

Whether you’ve got a nightly howler or an occasional woofer, a dog that barks while it sleeps is usually more cute than concerning. But if it’s too frequent or too loud to the point of interfering with your sleep, even the greatest dog lover can crack, and understandably so. 

Luckily most dogs aren’t this problematic with their sleepy pillow talk, so enjoy the adorable dreamers while they twitch and bark in their eternal attempt to catch that dream rabbit.


They say, “let sleeping dogs lie,” but if you’re interested in more sleeping dog facts, why not read this article about dog sleeping positions and what they reveal about your pooch?

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