Have you ever wondered why your dog makes weird noises while sleeping? Maybe you've noticed them barking, growling, crying, or even howling in their sleep. Let's explore these sleep sounds and understand their meaning by looking at some of the best studies on dog sleep and expert sources on dog behavior. So let's delve in.

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  1. Why Do Dogs Bark and Growl In Their Sleep
  2. Why Do Dogs Cry In Their Sleep
  3. Why Do Dogs Howl In Their Sleep
  4. Why Is My Dog Whining and Moaning In Their Sleep
  5. FAQs
  6. Conclusion

Why Do Dogs Bark and Growl In Their Sleep

Just like humans, dogs have different stages of sleep in their sleep cycle. Sometimes they are in deep sleep, and sometimes they have far more brain activity, suggesting that they dream just like us. Let's have a closer look.

Dreaming and REM Sleep

Like humans, dogs experience different sleep stages, including REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. During REM sleep, when humans experience dreaming, dogs are active and make sounds and movements. EEG scans show their brains are nearly as busy as when awake, but their brain sends signals to paralyze their muscles, called muscle atonia, to keep them from physically acting out dreams.

However, muscle atonia isn't always complete, so dogs still make some sounds and movements. It's a lot like humans talking in their sleep.

These movements include twitching, paddling their legs, and vocalizing, such as barking or growling. We can't prove that dogs dream, but our current evidence suggests they do. So when dogs make sounds in their sleep, they may be reenacting something they dream of, such as chasing a ball or participating in exciting adventures.

If dogs dream, then it follows that they can have nightmares. This means that growling or barking while sleeping may indicate the dog is dreaming of something threatening, such as an intruder.

Emotional Stressors

The possibility of doggy nightmares raises the question of whether anxiety can cause them in dogs the way it can in humans. It's highly likely that dogs, like us, can experience emotional stressors that affect their sleep.

NCBI studies have shown that dogs that sleep less struggle with more behavioral problems. So just like us, anxious or stressed dogs may have a harder time sleeping, and when they do, they may have nightmares, just like we do.

Emotional stressors can include anxiety, fear, or changes in their environment. These stressors can show up in their sleep as crying, whimpering, or even howling.

Providing a calm and secure environment, along with regular exercise and mental stimulation, can help reduce emotional stress and promote better sleep.

Read more: Why Do Dogs Snore While Asleep and Awake

Medical Conditions

It's essential to consider that certain medical conditions can contribute to the noises dogs make during sleep. Canine Cognitive Decline (similar to dementia in humans) can lead to sleep disturbances and vocalizations during sleep.

Chronic pain from conditions like arthritis or other ailments may also cause discomfort and result in sleep-related noises. If you notice your dog constantly making distressing sounds or exhibiting unusual behavior during sleep, consulting with a veterinarian can help identify and address any underlying medical conditions.

Why Do Dogs Cry In Their Sleep


Sometimes you may notice your dog crying in their sleep, which can be a bit concerning. Dogs can experience dreams or nightmares, just like us. If your dog cries in their sleep, it could be a reaction to something they encountered during the day or an emotional experience.

A Pet Camera can help you monitor your dog while you're away and check if they're crying while sleeping. This is especially helpful if you suspect a more sinister problem, such as seizures, which we will discuss below.

Why Do Dogs Howl In Their Sleep

Have you ever heard your dog howl at night or noticed them howling in their sleep? During the day, dogs howl for various reasons, including communicating with other dogs or expressing their emotions.

Dogs howl when they hear high-pitched noises like an ambulance or other dogs howling, or they can howl for help. You will often hear this when a dog with separation anxiety starts to howl after their owner leaves or a puppy is lost and can't find their littermates. It's a way to sound the alarm and call for help.

This can give us a clue about why dogs howl in their sleep. It may be that they are dreaming of being part of a pack and howling in unison. Or it could mean that in their dream, they feel alone and are calling for help.

Why Is My Dog Whining and Moaning In Their Sleep

Sometimes dogs may whimper or moan in their sleep, which none of us like to witness. It's important to note that occasional whimpering or moaning during sleep is normal. However, if it becomes excessive or your dog seems uncomfortable, it's best to consult your veterinarian.

Occasionally, a howl or strange yelp can indicate a neurological problem. Dogs with epilepsy may howl or cry out in their sleep during a seizure. It's a deeply disturbing sound that could mean anything from a seizure to meningitis.

Read more: The Adorable Truth Behind Why Dogs Sleep all Day

Having an Emergency Fund for unexpected vet bills can provide financial support for situations like these. If your dog is suddenly ill and making unusual sounds that could be from a seizure, stroke, or similar problem, you don't want the threat of looming vet bills to stop you from getting immediate help.

An emergency fund will pay up to $3000 for less than $1 per day, allowing you potentially lifesaving access to medical care for your pet.



Should I wake my dog up if he is barking in his sleep?

It's generally best to let your dog sleep and not disturb them while they're dreaming. They will likely settle down on their own. You can wake them if you suspect a medical issue or if they seem to be in extreme distress. Otherwise, let their sleep cycle naturally take its course so that they can process waking memories and experiences.

Why won't my dog sleep at night?

There could be various reasons your dog has trouble sleeping at night. It could be due to ambient noise, anxiety, or cognitive decline, especially in older dogs. Providing a calm and comfortable sleeping environment can help address these issues.

Why does my dog get anxious at night?

Just like some humans, dogs can experience anxiety, and it may be more pronounced at night when they can hear other dogs barking. Senior dogs can also experience more trouble sleeping as they age. Creating a soothing bedtime routine and ensuring they have enough physical and mental stimulation during the day can help alleviate nighttime anxiety.


Dogs have active dream lives, and their sleep sounds, such as barking, growling, crying, and howling, are a normal part of their sleep cycle. By understanding and observing these behaviors, we can better appreciate our furry friends' dreams and ensure their overall well-being during sleep.

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