Should you wake up your dog from a nightmare?

Should you wake up your dog from a nightmare?

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If you have ever witnessed your dog having a nightmare, then you know how unsettling it can be. They are peacefully sleeping in their bed, and all of a sudden they start whining, shaking and sometimes even growling. Overall, if your dog is having a nightmare, it just seems as if they are suffering, they look generally disturbed.

And what pet parents wouldn’t want to try and stop that? Try and help their pooch to stop feeling that awful disturbing way?

Well, the truth is you shouldn’t. That’s right, even though they seem as if they are suffering, you should never wake up your dog from a nightmare. 

Now that we have set that straight, we can dive into the reasons why. Because every concerned pet parent reading this must be thinking “WHY SHOULDN’T I HELP MY DOG WHEN THEY ARE HAVING A NIGHTMARE????”. 

Worry no more, because once we tell you the reasons why you shouldn’t wake up your dog when they are having a dream, you’ll surely understand. 

Why do dogs dream?

Before jumping into the reasons why you should never wake up your dog when they seem to be having a nightmare, let’s understand why and how dogs dream.

Just as it happens with us humans, dogs have different stages during their sleeping process. The first stage that occurs as soon as you close your eyes and wander into a new dimension is called Slow Wave Sleep (SWS). During this stage, neither humans nor dogs dream. Your mind is quiet, but your muscles are still tense. You’ll know if your pooch is in the SWS stage because they look as if they’re sleeping (which they are), but they don’t seem 100% relaxed. 

The next stage of the sleeping cycle is quite the opposite of  the previous one. While during SWS the mind is relaxed while the body isn’t, in the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage, the mind is active and the body isn’t, it becomes fully relaxed. This is the stage where dogs and humans dream. 

What do dogs dream about?

Now that we know how the sleeping cycle of dogs works, let’s talk about what dogs dream about. Do they dream about endless sausages, dreadful trips to the vet, or do they dream about us?

Well, the truth is that no dog can wake up and tell you what they dreamt about, but many professionals agree on the fact that dogs dream about things that happened during their day, such as going to the park, running with friends, playing with their parents, eating a delicious and healthy treat, and exploring new places. 

But how can you tell if they are dreaming about something nice such as playing fetch or something they don’t like such as taking a bath? Well, there are some physical signs you can look for to identify whether your pooch is having a good or a bad dream. 

Good dream signs:

  • tail wagging
  • softly barking
  • moving their legs as if they are running
  • kicking
  • twitching

Nightmare signs:

  • crying
  • whining
  • growling
  • general discomfort

After all, every pet parent knows their pooch very well and can tell if they seem in distress or not. 

Why should you let a sleeping dog lie? 

Every child has heard the phrase “let a sleeping dog lie” from their parents. No matter how much of a dog lover you are, you should never bother a dog you don’t know when they are sleeping. You have no idea how they will react.

Well, the same applies for your own dog. As we have said before, you should never wake up your dog when they are having a nightmare. But, why?

It can be dangerous

When you have a nightmare, you believe whatever’s happening is true. You’re so submerged in your own world that you are convinced that the monster chasing you is 100% real. And only after a few seconds have passed when you wake up, you understand that what you were so afraid of is nothing but a product of your imagination.

Well, the same happens with dogs. When they are having a nightmare, they are convinced that it is true. If you abruptly wake them up, they won’t have the seconds they need to process the information and understand that they are not actually in danger, they might react in a not so pleasant way. 

This does not depend on how friendly a dog is when they are awake. A dog might have never bitten any human being or animal in their life, but if they are woken up in an abrupt way when they are having a nightmare, they might do so. Not because they meant to hurt you, but because they feel like they are in danger. 

They need to complete their sleep cycle

Imagine being woken up during the middle of an intense sleeping session, even if it’s a nightmare. You wouldn’t feel so happy afterwards, would you?

The REM stage is extremely important during the sleep cycle that needs to be completed. If you are constantly waking up your dog whenever they are having a bad dream, they will never complete their sleep cycle and will not be fully relaxed. 

What happens if you must wake up your dog?

We have already established that it is heavily advised not to wake up your dog when they are having a nightmare. But, there are some occasional cases in which you might need to do so. For example, you have a human newborn sleeping, and your pooch is having a terrible nightmare, whining and making loud noises. If you don’t want them to wake the baby, you can try and shake them out of the nightmare just for this one.

What you have to do is use your voice. Gently call your dog’s name until they wake up. Once they do so, make sure to reassure them with lots of love so they know they’re safe. 

You must never wake up your dog from a nightmare using physical touch. 

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