Do Dogs Like Being Stroked When Asleep

In this blog post, we will delve into the fascinating world of canine sleep patterns and explore whether dogs enjoy being stroked while they are asleep. 

We will discuss the importance of sleep for dogs, the different stages of their sleep cycle, and how dogs react to physical contact during sleep. 

By understanding these aspects, we can better comprehend our furry friends’ preferences and provide them with the most comfortable and enjoyable sleep experience possible.

Canine Sleep Cycle Plays A Role

Dogs, like humans, go through various stages of sleep, each with its own unique characteristics. Understanding these stages can shed light on how dogs react to physical contact during sleep.


During wakefulness, dogs are fully alert and engaged with their surroundings. This stage occurs when they are active and not yet ready to sleep. 

Dogs may be playful, attentive, and responsive during this stage. They are unlikely to enjoy being stroked as they are more interested in exploring their environment or engaging in activities.

REM Sleep (Rapid Eye Movement)

REM sleep is the stage where dogs experience the most vivid dreams. It is characterized by rapid eye movement, irregular breathing, and muscle twitches. 

Dogs in REM sleep may also twitch their paws, wag their tails, or make soft noises. They are more likely to enjoy being stroked during this stage as it can enhance their dream-like experience and provide a sense of comfort.

For example, when a dog is in REM sleep and you gently stroke their back or belly, they may wag their tail or show signs of relaxation, indicating that they are enjoying the physical contact.

Non-REM Sleep

Non-REM sleep consists of several stages, each with different characteristics. These stages are essential for physical restoration and memory consolidation.

Stage 1 – Drowsiness

In this stage, dogs begin to relax and prepare for deeper sleep. They may exhibit slower eye movements and reduced muscle activity. 

Dogs in this stage may still be aware of their surroundings but are more receptive to calm and gentle stroking.

Stage 2 – Light Sleep

During this stage, dogs enter a deeper state of sleep but remain easily awakened. Their breathing becomes more regular, and their heart rate slows down. 

Dogs in light sleep may enjoy being stroked as it provides a soothing sensation.

Stage 3 – Deep Sleep

Deep sleep is the stage where dogs experience the most restorative benefits. Their breathing becomes slow and regular, and their muscles relax completely. 

Dogs in deep sleep are less likely to respond positively to stroking as they are in a deep state of relaxation and may not be fully aware of their surroundings.

It’s important to note that the duration of each stage can vary depending on factors such as age, breed, and overall health. Additionally, dogs may cycle through these stages multiple times throughout the night.

Understanding the different stages of a dog’s sleep cycle provides valuable insights into how they may respond to being stroked while asleep. 

It’s important to observe your dog’s behavior and body language during each stage to determine their preferences and ensure their comfort during sleep.

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Factors Influencing Dog’s Preference for Stroking During Sleep

Dogs’ reactions to physical contact during sleep can vary depending on various factors, including their individual personality, past experiences, and the specific sleep stage they are in. 

Understanding these factors can help us better understand our furry friends and provide them with the most comfortable sleep experience possible.

Breed (Individual Temperament)

Different dog breeds have varying temperaments and preferences for physical contact. Some breeds, such as Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers, are generally more affectionate and enjoy human touch even during sleep. 

Other breeds, like Chihuahuas or Shiba Inus, may have a more independent nature and prefer to have their personal space respected, even while asleep.

For example, a Golden Retriever may be more likely to enjoy being stroked during sleep due to their naturally friendly and affectionate temperament. However, a more independent breed like a Basenji may not appreciate physical contact during sleep as much.


Age can also play a role in dogs’ preference for stroking during sleep. Puppies, especially during their early development stages, are often more receptive to touch and enjoy the comfort and security it provides. 

As dogs age, their preferences may change, and they may become more selective about when and how they want to be touched.

For instance, a young puppy may enjoy being gently stroked during sleep as it mimics the comforting sensation of being with their littermates. 

As the dog matures, their preference for touch may evolve, and they may become more independent or less tolerant of physical contact during sleep.

This dislike of being stoked is even more prominent if the dogs are suffering from arthritis as the result of aging.

Past Experiences

Past experiences can significantly impact a dog’s preference for stroking during sleep. If a dog has had positive experiences with touch throughout their life, they are more likely to enjoy being stroked while asleep. 

Conversely, if a dog has experienced trauma or negative associations with touch, they may be less receptive to physical contact during sleep.

For instance, a rescue dog that has been mistreated in the past may be hesitant or fearful of touch during sleep due to previous trauma. It’s essential to approach such dogs with patience and respect their boundaries.

Understanding these factors can help us navigate our dogs’ preferences for physical contact during sleep. 

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Signs that Dogs Enjoy Being Stroked When Asleep

While every dog is unique and may have different preferences, there are some common behavioral cues that indicate a dog is enjoying being stroked while asleep. 

It’s essential to observe your dog’s body language and reactions to determine if they are finding the physical contact pleasant and comforting.

Here are some signs that suggest a dog is enjoying being stroked when asleep:

Relaxed Body Language

When a dog is enjoying being stroked while asleep, their body language will generally appear relaxed and at ease. They may exhibit the following signs:

  • Loose muscles: The dog’s muscles will be relaxed, and they may appear floppy or loose.
  • Soft facial expression: The dog’s face will be relaxed, without any signs of tension or stress.
  • Relaxed ears: The dog’s ears will be in a natural position, neither forward nor backward.
  • Closed eyes or gentle squinting: The dog’s eyes may be closed or slightly squinted, indicating comfort and relaxation.

For example, while gently stroking a sleeping dog’s back, you may notice their body relax, their face soften, and their eyes gently close, suggesting that they are enjoying the physical contact.

Contented Sounds or Behaviors

Dogs often express their pleasure through subtle sounds or behaviors while being stroked during sleep. Look out for the following signs:

  • Soft sighs or groans: The dog may emit quiet, contented sounds, indicating that they are experiencing pleasure.
  • Relaxed tail wagging: A gently wagging tail is a positive sign that the dog is enjoying the physical contact.
  • Subtle body movements: The dog may make small movements or readjust their position to get closer to your hand, seeking more contact.

For instance, while stroking a sleeping dog’s belly, they may emit soft sighs or groans of contentment, wag their tail gently, or make small movements to indicate that they are enjoying the touch.

It’s important to note that these signs may vary depending on the individual dog’s personality and comfort level with touch. Some dogs may show more obvious signs of enjoyment, while others may be more subtle in expressing their pleasure.

Always pay attention to your dog’s non-verbal cues and adjust your behavior accordingly. If your dog appears uncomfortable or shows signs of distress, it’s crucial to respect their boundaries and stop the stroking. 

Signs that Dogs Dislike Being Stroked When Asleep

While some dogs may enjoy being stroked while asleep, it’s important to recognize and respect the signs that indicate a dog may be uncomfortable or dislike the physical contact. 

Here are some signs that suggest a dog may dislike being stroked when asleep:

Tense Body Language

When a dog is uncomfortable with being stroked while asleep, their body language will generally appear tense and rigid. Look out for the following signs:

  • Stiff muscles: The dog’s muscles may become tense and rigid, indicating discomfort or unease.
  • Flattened ears or pulled back head: The dog may flatten their ears against their head or pull their head back, signaling that they are trying to avoid contact.
  • Wide eyes or dilated pupils: The dog’s eyes may appear wide open or have dilated pupils, suggesting stress or anxiety.

For example, if you attempt to stroke a sleeping dog’s back and they become stiff, flatten their ears, or pull their head away, it indicates that they are not enjoying the physical contact.

Growling or Snarling

If a sleeping dog becomes defensive or feels threatened by the stroking, they may vocalize their discomfort through growling or snarling. 

This is a clear sign that they do not want to be touched while asleep and should be respected.

For instance, if you attempt to stroke a sleeping dog’s belly and they growl or snarl in response, it’s important to immediately stop the contact and give them space.

Attempts to Move Away

A dog that dislikes being stroked while asleep may try to move away or shift their body to create distance between themselves and the source of touch. 

They may display the following behaviors:

  • Restlessness: The dog may show signs of restlessness by frequently changing positions or trying to readjust their body away from your hand.
  • Attempts to leave the area: The dog may try to physically move away from the stroking by getting up or moving to another location.

For example, if you stroke a sleeping dog’s side and they repeatedly shift away from your hand or get up and leave the bed, it indicates that they are not comfortable with the contact.

It’s crucial to respect these signs and immediately stop any physical contact if your dog shows discomfort or dislike while being stroked during sleep. Pushing the boundaries can lead to increased stress, anxiety, or even aggression. 

Alternatives to Stroking During Sleep

While some dogs may not enjoy being stroked while asleep, there are alternative ways to provide comfort and relaxation for them during sleep. 

Here are some alternatives to stroking during sleep:

Provide a Cozy Bed

Ensuring that your dog has a comfortable and supportive bed is crucial for their quality of sleep. 

Choose a bed that suits their size, breed, and individual needs. Some dogs may prefer a softer bed with extra cushioning, while others may prefer a firmer surface. 

Providing them with their own cozy space can contribute to a more restful sleep experience.

For example, orthopedic or memory foam beds can provide optimal support for dogs with joint or muscle issues, promoting better sleep and overall comfort.

Soothing Music or White Noise

Creating a calming environment during sleep can help promote relaxation for your dog. Playing soothing music or using white noise machines can drown out external noises and create a peaceful atmosphere that aids in better sleep.

For instance, classical music or nature sounds like gentle rain or ocean waves can have a calming effect on dogs and contribute to a more restful slumber.

Gentle Massage before Bedtime

Instead of stroking your dog while asleep, you can offer a gentle massage before bedtime. This can help relax their muscles and provide a soothing experience.

Start by using long, slow strokes along their body, paying attention to areas they enjoy being touched. Use gentle pressure and observe your dog’s reactions to ensure they find it pleasurable.

For example, massaging the base of their neck, the muscles along their back, or gently rubbing their ears can help release tension and create a sense of relaxation before sleep.

Calming Essential Oils

Some essential oils have calming properties that can help create a serene environment for your dog during sleep.

However, it’s important to note that not all essential oils are safe for dogs, as some can be toxic. Consult with a veterinarian or a certified aromatherapist who specializes in working with animals to ensure you’re using safe oils and appropriate dilutions.

Lavender oil is known for its calming effects and can be used in a diffuser or diluted and applied to bedding to create a soothing atmosphere.

Remember to always introduce new scents slowly and observe your dog’s reaction to ensure they are not sensitive or adverse to the aroma.

By exploring these alternatives, you can provide your dog with a comfortable and relaxing sleep experience that respects their preferences. 

Remember to observe their reactions and adjust accordingly to create an environment that promotes restful slumber.

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