Do dogs have nightmares?

Dr Pete Wedderburn / 24 July 2018

A reader wonders whether their dog is having bad dreams.



Question

Sometimes after my dog has just woken up he seems afraid of us and doesn’t want to cuddle. We wondered whether he might have had a bad dream, is this possible?

Answer

Dogs have dreams, just like we do. Studies of their brains’ electrical activity and eye movements show that they have the same patterns of sleep – and dreaming – as ourselves.

Sometimes dogs show external signs of dreaming – such as paddling their legs, or twitching. Other times, they look as if they are sleeping peacefully while they are having intense dreams, or even perhaps nightmares. When a dog wakes up from a dream, it can take two or three minutes for them to fully realise that they are wide awake, back in the real world.

Respect his wishes at these times; leave him to gather himself, staying near him so that once he’s full awake, he can come up to you for that reassuring hug.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.