This article has been edited and verified by our own veterinarian Dr.Stevce Ilievski.
If you’re a dog owner, chances are you’ve been woken up in the middle of the night by the plaintive cries of your pup. But why do puppies cry in their sleep?
The most common reason is that they are probably having a very vivid dream. But, a dog crying in its sleep may also result from other less common causes.
We tell you all about them below!
What Are the Dog’s Sleeping Cycles?
Like humans, dogs alternate between deep sleep and a rapid eye movement (REM) dream phase that lasts between 2 to 4 minutes and repeats every 30 to 45 minutes.
However, while perfectly normal, dogs sleep for 12–14 hours a day (older and/or larger breeds needing up to 18), meaning they experience more sleep cycles than us.
Consequently, just as we mumble when we dream, you may notice your dog yelps in its sleep or even occasionally cries, whimpers, growls, barks, or emotes.
4 Signs That Your Dog Is Dreaming
Your loyal companion will typically have its first dream 20 minutes after falling asleep, and you can easily see it’s off to dreamland if it shows any of these behaviors:
- Rapid eye movement—if you notice your dog’s eyes moving quickly back and forth under their eyelids, they are in the midst of a rather lively dream;
- Twitching or paddling—you may also notice your dog’s legs twitching or paddling as they dream, even letting out a little whimper or moan;
- Growling or barking—some dogs will growl, bark, or even howl, which is usually just a harmless manifestation of whatever they’re dreaming about;
- Random body movements—in addition to leg twitching, some dogs will also curl up into a ball, move their paws, stretch out, or even run in place.
Note: You can improve your dogs’ healthy sleep patterns by reciprocating with the same amount of love they give you daily and getting them all the essentials they might need.
What Do Dogs Dream About When They Cry?
Dogs not only follow a similar sleeping pattern as humans, but their dreams are also based on their own fears, wants, and happy little moments they experience daily.
But, unlike us, they don’t dream about flying around, forgetting to put on clothes before going to work, or even being rich beyond measure, but instead relieve everyday activities like pointing at birds, running in meadows, or having particularly happy incidents with their owners.
Do Dogs Have Nightmares?
In the same way that dogs can dream about the day’s happenings, like catching a ball, rolling in the grass, or going for a fun swim, they can also experience nightmares.
Alas, if your dog screams in its sleep, shakes or twitches violently, or even growls and barks, it might be having nightmares, which often occur during a difficult period in its life, or after a traumatic episode, such as running away from a car or loud fireworks.
If that is the case, resist the urge to wake them up, as they might lash out and bite you without realizing they are awake. The best you can do is tend to their pain (if they have any), get them a comfortable bed, and place it far away from any distractions or noises.
For more tricks and tips on helping a crying puppy at night, check our detailed guide.
Why Do Puppies Cry in Their Sleep -5 Uncommon Reasons
Although dreaming is the usual reason for dogs whining in their sleep, they would also cry, whimper, and growl for less common and possibly more serious causes:
- Common puppy behavior—recently adopted puppies taken away from their moms and littermates often whimper and whine for attention as they adjust;
- Your puppy is having seizures—intense twitching and vocalizing can also be a sign of seizures resulting from underlying medical conditions that must be treated;
- Health-related pain or distress—whimpering accompanied by restlessness, panting, and/or licking indicates a health issue, such as joint pain or bloating;
- Your puppy might be bored—even bored doggos whine while pretending to sleep, especially if they didn’t get enough physical and mental engagement during the day;
- Crying out of anxiety—puppies that feel nervous when separated from their owner or during heavy storms can be helped with proper training and socialization.
Note: If you believe there’s a need for concern, record your sleeping pup and show the video to your veterinarian so they can rule out any severe medical conditions, such as DCM.
While the answer to the question “Why does my dog whimper in his sleep?” is most often harmless dreaming, the whining might be a cause for concern if it’s also accompanied by other symptoms like excessive twitching. So to ensure your pupper is only reliving the day’s happy moments and to rule out underlying health issues, have it promptly checked by a vet.
Why does my dog make noises when sleeping?
The most common reason is experiencing a vivid dream that has them whimpering, whining, crying, growling, or even barking, as they would do during their everyday interaction.
Do dogs have nightmares?
Unfortunately, the answer is yes, but not as often as regular dreams, as they only have them if they’re going through a particularly tough time in their lives.
Why do puppies cry in their sleep?
Why crying is most often the result of REM dreaming, dog owners should rule out the more serious causes puppies might be crying, such as feelings of anxiety and health concerns.