Have you ever wondered what makes your dog howl in his sleep?
He could have a dream that makes him excited, nervous or anxious. Or maybe he is dreaming about YOU!
The howling behavior in your dog’s sleep can be explained by many factors.
You see, just like humans, dogs dream, and they often bark and howl in their sleep, just like many of us do (which we typically mutter in our dream).
When your dog howls in his sleep, he could be having a nightmare due to a BAD experience of the day or over excitement in his play. He might be dreaming about you as he misses you. Losing a companion makes him depressed, and he starts howling in his sleep. Discomfort in his body also triggers this behavior.
But for whatever reasons, it’s certainly not going to be a pleasant experience.
In fact, it can seriously disrupt your family’s quality of life.
Imagine him doing his howling every night….
How would your family members be able to get a good sleep, not mentioning the complaint that you are going to get from your neighbour.
So, what should you do?
Well, the first thing you should do is to pay attention and see if you can figure out what is causing him to react in this manner.
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Natural Part of His Sleep Pattern
Just like us, dogs have their own little dreamy escapades while they’re snoozing! When they hit that deep REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep stage, it’s where dreams typically occur.
In this stage, a dog’s eyes will move rapidly behind closed eyelids, which is where the name comes from.
Most dogs enter the REM stage of sleep about 15 to 20 minutes after falling asleep. While the amount of time they spend in REM can vary, on average, dogs spend about 10% of their sleeping time in this dream-filled stage
It’s in the REM stage where you might notice your dog exhibiting those telltale dream-like behaviors: twitching, “running” with their legs, whimpering, or even wagging their tail.
These movements suggest that they are actively dreaming—perhaps about the day’s events or their favorite activities.
And of course, not all dreams are sunny walks in the dog park. If your dog seems a little agitated in their sleep, maybe they’re facing down a dream-version of the scary vacuum cleaner.
Next time you see them twitching or hear a sleepy growl, just think—they might be saving the day in their dreams!
Bad Experience During The Day
Your dog is having a nightmare, and he is reacting to it with his animal instincts.
This can happen for various reasons, such as having a bad experience with another dog during the day, or suffering from a fright after watching a scary show.
What you can do is to wake him up and comfort him. Just be with him in his moment of panic.
He will get over it soon, and, in the meantime, you may want to turn on some soothing music or radio (not too loud) to help take his mind off his fright before you put him back to sleep.
Try to make all of his “awakenings” a positive experience!
Prevent playing any show that is too frightening for him and keep him away from any aggressive dog that is going to make him stressed or fearful.
I would suggest that you get him some puzzles or other mentally stimulating games to keep him occupied.
Puzzle feeders are an excellent choice, and they come in many styles and sizes and all of them have a way of keeping the game interesting for your dog and making him mentally tired.
Another thing you can do is give him some simple tasks to do every day. This will make your dog use up his energy so that he can get a sound sleep in the night.
Some simple tasks that your dog can perform include retrieving items such as newspapers and clothing, opening and closing doors and drawers, turning on and off the lights etc
Make sure that the tasks you are assigning to your dog are achievable, as you would not want to stress him out with these tasks.
Remember: Your dog is an animal and, just like all other animals, he does not have the same ability to cope with stress as you do.
Exciting Day For Him
Your dog could be having an exciting day chasing after squirrels or cats and that makes him excited even in his sleep.
He is still dreaming that he is still out there doing what he loves and that makes him feel good. His howling reflects his joyful contentment.
So be mindful of the “exciting” things that he is doing when he is awake. This can potentially have a “negative” effect on his sleeping pattern.
You can plan for games that are less likely to make him excited, such as playing a game of fetch with a ball instead of him chasing after squirrels or cats.
Do what you can to have him keep his focus on you rather than other exciting stimuli.
Also, get him some toys so that he can keep himself busy with the chewing.
Go for toys that don’t squeak or yelp when they are chewed upon and make sure that they are durable, have simple design, and do not contain any small parts that you dog could potentially swallow during the chewing.
By keeping your dog’s excitement level in check, and provide an outlet for him to let of his energy, that will help to tire him out, and he will be ready for a long, peaceful night of sleep.
He Is Dreaming About You (Separation Anxiety)
Your dog is dreaming about YOU!
If this is true, it is probably because he is very much in love with you and wants to tell you how he feels.
This can happen for various reasons, such as when he is lonely, misses you or needs reassurance that you still care for him.
What you should do is to spend more time with your dog during the day and ease his anxiety.
You can plan for some interactive games such as hide-and-seek, fetch, or tug-of-war.
This will not only help to release his excessive energy so that he will get tired and have a good night’s sleep and will also help to build up his trust and bond with you.
In fact, nothing is better for your relationship with your dog than spending more time together. So, do not underestimate the power of positive attention!
In addition to this, you should also make sure that your home is a safe and secure place for him. This will help to make him feel relaxed and calm down, preparing his body for a good rest.
I would suggest that you put him in a crate if he is already crate trained.
Crate offers your dog the feeling of being in his own little “fortress” and it will give him more peace of mind.
Also, keep all of his favorite toys, beds, blankets, and chewed items in the crate with him, so he will be less likely to feel lonely or abandoned.
Loss Of A Companion
Your dog is reacting to something that is upsetting him. Maybe he is missing his old owner or the loss of his companion.
If you have another dog that used to be his buddy and has left your home, he is likely going to feel depressed and will be searching for someone or something to connect with on a deep emotional level.
It may take him some time, but, once he finds that “connection”, he will be back to his old shelf.
What you should do is to give him lots of love and attention during this period.
Play with him, take him on walks, feed him treats and praise him when he does something good. He will quickly learn to depend on you and will start to feel safe and secure.
This is the time when you need to be there for him the most. He will be very vulnerable at this stage and any kind of negative interaction or event can have a devastating effect on his emotions.
Alternatively, you can get him another “buddy”, preferably of the same breed, so that he can at least have someone to “play” with and keep him company.
That way, they can have some fun together and that will keep his mind off any unpleasant thoughts.
A new puppy will keep your dog’s mind occupied and will also provide him with a lot of much needed “doggie cheer”.
You know, a dog’s life can get pretty bleak sometimes… especially when he has just lost a companion.
He will still be very much affected by the loss of his “buddy” and may continue to experience occasional bad days.
Just give him time to heal and remember that it is normal for a dog to grieve a loss like this and to go through a period of emotional upheaval.
Medical Issue (Discomfort)
When your dog is feeling discomfort (due to some medical conditions), he might start howling in his sleep.
You may be able to tell this by his breathing rate and rhythm, whether it is shallow or not.
If his breath is shallow, that means that there is something obstructing his airway. Perhaps a grass thorn got into his throat while he was running around outside.
Other health conditions such as canine cognitive dysfunction, kidney disease or bladder infection can cause your dog much discomfort, and he tries to communicate with you through his howls.
If this is the case, you should check with your vet to find out what is wrong with your dog and take appropriate action.
If you also find your dog rolling back his eyes in his sleep, you might be interested in this POST.
Managing Midnight Howling
While midnight howling may not necessarily require immediate intervention, there are steps you can take to manage this behavior and promote better sleep for both you and your dog.
Provide a Calm Sleeping Environment
Creating a peaceful sleeping environment can help alleviate midnight howling. Ensure your dog’s sleeping area is comfortable, quiet, and free from stimulating distractions that may trigger howling.
Regular Exercise and Mental Stimulation
Engaging your dog in regular exercise and providing mental stimulation during the day can help alleviate excess energy and promote a more restful sleep at night.
This can reduce the likelihood of nighttime vocalizations.
Establish a Bedtime Routine
Creating a consistent bedtime routine can help signal to your dog that it’s time to wind down and sleep.
Set a specific time for feeding, playtime, and bedtime, and follow the routine consistently. This helps establish a sense of security and predictability for your dog, reducing the likelihood of howling during the night.
Address Separation Anxiety
If separation anxiety is contributing to the howling, it is important to address and manage this underlying issue.
Gradual desensitization techniques, behavior modification, and seeking professional guidance can help alleviate separation anxiety symptoms.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is it normal for dogs to howl in their sleep?
Yes, it is perfectly normal for dogs to howl in their sleep. Just like humans, dogs experience different stages of sleep, including REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, during which most dreaming occurs.
Howling during sleep is typically harmless and is just a manifestation of their dream experiences.
Should I wake up my dog when they are howling in their sleep?
It is generally not recommended to wake up your dog when they are howling in their sleep. Interrupting their sleep cycle may affect their overall sleep quality and disrupt their rest.
Unless their howling is accompanied by signs of distress or discomfort, it is best to let them continue their peaceful slumber.
Are certain dog breeds more prone to midnight howling?
While not all dogs howl at night, some breeds are known to be more vocal than others. Certain breeds like Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes, and Beagles have a stronger instinct to howl.
However, individual personality and training also play a significant role in a dog’s tendency to howl at night.
Can howling in sleep be a sign of a medical condition?
While occasional howling in sleep is usually harmless, persistent or excessive howling during sleep could indicate an underlying medical condition.
It is advisable to consult with a veterinarian if your dog’s howling in sleep becomes frequent, disruptive, or associated with other concerning symptoms.