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What Do Dogs Dream About When They Cry?

Just like humans, dogs experience happiness, stress, illnesses, and their daily experiences are often reflected in their dreams. It is quite common to hear your pooch crying, howling, and even growling in their sleep. But what does it mean? What do dogs dream about when they cry?

For pet parents, it can be difficult to see them cry while asleep, but once you understand what they’re likely dreaming about, you won’t worry so much. Here is what you need to know about why your dog cries in its sleep. 

woman with sleepy beagle what do dogs dream about when they cry

Why Dogs Cry in Their Sleep 

Just like humans, there can be a few different reasons why a dog may cry while sleeping. These include:

1. They want Attention

Your dog may be asking for attention. It’s not uncommon for dogs to pretend to be sleeping and crying. In reality, they are just lying down with their eyes closed and whimpering or even sobbing — and what they want is for their pet parent to give them some attention. 

In some situations, for instance, if you are crate training your dog, they may be pretending to cry to get out, or they may want food or water. Ensure your pup is well-fed and has had enough water to drink before bedtime. That way, you can be certain that their cries during crate training are simply because they want their way.


2. They are in Pain 

Adrenaline can numb pain. Sometimes a dog might be hurt or sick, but they don’t realize this during waking hours. When a dog settles down to sleep, and its body is completely inactive, the mind registers this discomfort, and this can result in disturbed sleep or even crying during sleep

Sometimes the root cause can be hard to identify. For instance, mites or fleas can be bugging the dog, but the dog hasn’t noticed them, nor has the parent. Similarly, the dog may be experiencing internal pain due to an internal injury, a sore joint, or another similar issue. 


3. They are Sleep Deprived

Dogs can easily get over-excited, and, in this state, they can overwork themselves. This can lead to sleep deprivation. The result is that they get poor-quality sleep and can end up crying during sleep. Sometimes just giving the dog more time to sleep and/or better conditions to sleep in can fix the problem. 

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

4. They had a bad dream 

Dogs experience dreams just like humans, and that includes bad dreams. This is slightly more challenging to address, but it can be handled by comforting them.


What Do Dogs Dream About When they Cry?

In most cases, dogs will dream about their recent past. This could be the day they have just experienced or even the past few days. However, dogs also have good long-term memory, so they can think about things from a couple of years ago as well. 

If your dog has had a rough day, this could lead to a disturbed night’s sleep. However, if its routine is healthy and it hasn’t had any prominent bad experiences recently, this could be because of something else. Some things in general can be stressful for a dog, such as fireworks or thunder or even revisiting a place where your pooch had a bad experience. If your pup cries in their sleep, they might be remembering those stressful situations. 


If you’ve adopted a dog from a shelter and don’t know much about its past, there could be trauma that is still troubling the dog in its dreams. Past trauma takes a bit of time to fix. The dog needs reassurance and training to overcome trust issues and develop a new or improved perception. It’s best to consult a professional dog trainer to help you earn your dog’s trust and learn to manage its issues.

Understand Doggy Sleep Behavior 

Understanding your pooch’s sleep behavior will improve their sleep cycle. Dogs have two phases of sleep known as the slow-wave cycle and the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) cycle. Dreaming occurs in the REM cycle. The slow-wave cycle is when the dog slowly drifts off to sleep, and the conscious brain is still partially active. 

Once the dog is in the REM phase, you will notice the following:

  • The eyes moving behind the closed lids
  • Twitching whiskers
  • Irregular breathing
  • Muscles twitching
  • Limbs moving 

These are just a few of the things that indicate the dog is in a deep sleep. Each dog has its unique way of sleeping, which would help you understand yours.


What Owners Can Do 

If you notice your pet crying while asleep, you may be tempted to touch it, cuddle it, or wake it up, hoping it will stop crying. On the contrary, this can worsen the situation as it will startle the dog. 

Abruptly waking a dog can cause them to become more scared, and it may even bite if they feel threatened. If it is having a nightmare, it is even more likely to feel threatened and act out if you wake it up, thinking you are its attacker.

Let your pooch sleep, as the dream will end eventually. If you want to soothe them,  gently call their name to wake them up or until their heart rate has settled. Once the dog is awake, comfort them with cuddles and a soft tone of voice to put them at ease.


In Conclusion

It is perfectly normal for your canine to cry during their sleep; generally, it is not something to worry about. However, if your dog is experiencing any distress or you notice any unfamiliar behavior, consult a vet or specialist to ensure nothing is seriously wrong. We hope this article puts your mind at ease and helps you improve your pup’s slumber. 

two basset hounds asleep in wicker bed

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