Why Do Dogs Run in Their Sleep? Causes & What Should You Do?

Why Do Dogs Run in Their Sleep? Causes & What Should You Do?

Last Updated on December, 2022

Does it look like your dog is having the time of his life engaging in some cardio while sleeping? Something that many of us don’t do even if we need to lose some weight.

Dogs spend most of their time sleeping or, at times, the dog running in their sleep. Maybe the dog is dreaming that he is running through a field chasing a frisbee, or Freddy Krueger is hot on his tail (pun intended).

We, humans, dream weird nonsensical things or day-to-day adventures. Your pet dog does the same, but their dream consists of barking, twitching, and running.

A sleeping dog is something that all of us find fascinating to look at, with all their odd behaviors capturing the hearts of humans.

Let’s take a look into what triggers this muscle memory in sleep.

Quick Summary

Dogs usually sleep for 10-12 hours a day, but this number can increase or decrease depending on the age, breed, and activeness of the dog.

Dogs go through a series of 20 or more sleep cycles when they are sleeping, which is more than humans.

During the later stage of sleep, dogs experience Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and may have dreams. They may also bark, whimper or snarl depending on their dreams.

A Typical Dog Sleep Cycle

a dog sleeping on the ground

Your best friend (four-legged one 😊) usually sleeps 10-12 hours daily. It is pretty high in the early stages when they are puppies, sometimes reaching for 18-20hrs of sleep.

Like humans, dogs’ sleep is relatively high when they are young puppies and decreases later.

Adult dogs in the senior years of their lives have a higher need for sleep, just like the pups.

Mainly depending on the age, breed, and activeness of your dog.

Some of the smaller dogs sleep moderately less than the large ones.

A dog’s sleep cycle consists of more stages than a human’s. They go through a series of 20 or more cycles.

The initial stages begin with a light napping, where they wake easily from any noise in the environment. This is usually known as the Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) stage.

Then it gradually progresses to deep REM sleep, where the dreaming and twitching of muscles begin.

What is the Standard Behavior of Dogs When Dreaming? 

a dog sleeping near the window

Unlike at the time of seizures, where they lose control of their body, They have light movements in their eyes and twitching in their legs while dreaming.

Some dogs run and even bark, which is how dogs experience dreams.

It is perfectly normal behavior for all sleeping dogs. Nothing that you need to worry about. 

If you think it’s a bad dream, wake them up carefully using your voice.

What Goes On in a Dog’s Head During Sleep?

Your buddy might be dreaming of the time he was playing catch with you or the time he was chasing a squirrel up the tree.

For a long time, it has kept scientists wondering if dogs dreamt like us when asleep.

It was later proved when rats who were experimented on started showing brain wave activity in their sleep. Scientists have concluded that dogs have brain waves acting up when sleeping, confirming your dog dreams.

As a far more advanced species than rats, it is understandable that dogs and other animals dream.

Causes for Your Dogs to Run in Their Sleep

Dreaming

Researchers have stated that they believe that your four-legged best friend is likely to dream about a time at the park with you.

Or chasing another dog across the field. 

There are times that they may be prone to nightmares as well.

Deep Sleep (REM)

Deep sleep is the latter stage of proper sleep, where they sleep deeply. This is the time they might experience Rapid Eye Movement (REM).

The dogs have limited movement in their body while sleeping, which is why they don’t run right out of their sleeping bed, chasing an imaginary ball.

They may also bark, whimper or snarl depending on their dreams.

Seizures

Sometimes your dog may be taken suddenly by seizures. It may happen when they are either asleep or awake.

This is the opposite of dreaming, with high muscle twitches and contractions.

Their eyes will be wide open, yet they will see nothing.

They may drool, defecate or even urinate at times of seizure. This is quite a severe issue that may warrant a visit to the Veterinarian.

Life Cycle (Age) 

Another aspect that affects the sleep cycle is age. Little puppies usually need more hours of sleep which is quite similar to all babies across species.

Older dogs need more sleep due to low metabolism and are easily prone to tiredness, whereas your average-aged dog needs a lower amount of sleep unless you bore them to sleep.

What Should Owners Do to Help Them When it Happens?

a human touching a dog's head

As dog owners, you might be here to find out what to do to help them in these instances.

Yes, dogs RUN in their SLEEP (I believe we have established that fact).

Let them sleep. It’s that simple. As long as it is not a nightmare.

In case of a nightmare, it is better to wake up your buddy by calling his name or dropping something on the floor to make some noise.

Make sure that you don’t wake him physically. Because the fear of the nightmare tends to make them aggressive and accidents may occur when they are woken up abruptly.

If your pet is having a seizure, make sure that they don’t hurt itself when twitching and convulsing. Give them adequate space and a soft area to sleep on.

A Vet visit would be needed as soon as possible to keep the dogs safe and you updated.

FAQs

Most dogs usually have wide-open eyes during the seizure, whereas they have flickering eyes when dreaming.

Your dog might lose control of his bowels and even vomit when they have seizures.

Unlike dreaming, a seizure cannot be easily woken up easily. They are usually disoriented and tired after a seizure and would need some reassurance and love.

When your dog sleeps, it might show an indication of dreaming.

You should wake him up only if you think it’s a nightmare. Try calling his name or making noise so that he may wake up.

If it is just a dream, sit back and enjoy their cuteness (aww).

Yes, they do.

Just like we humans have Freddy Kreuger or Jason chasing us around in our dreams, dogs may even have a clown dog or Freddy Dogger hot on their tail.

Conclusion

As you can see, dogs have an imaginative world of dreams. 

Let them experience their REM sleep and dreams.

Seizures, on the other hand, are not something simple to discard. At times like this, your dog needs you to protect him from harm.

This is a guide to all dog mums and dads to keep their pets safe at night and day. If you are looking for an intelligent tracker to keep a check on your pet and its health, Whistle Health & GPS Tracker is the surefire way to have peace of mind.

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Thomas
Thomas Villalpando is the main author of IPet Guides. He spends his time reading, training, and working with several Dogs' behaviors. You can find more about him here.

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