The Reasons Your Dog is Barking in Its Sleep

A dog barking in its sleep is usually fine.

Within 20 minutes of falling asleep a dog should be in a deep sleep cycle and may start dreaming.

They are probably dreaming about all kinds of activities such as chasing things and barking at them, and this causes them to bark while sleeping.

There are few things in life that evoke an “Awww” quite like watching our fur babies sleep, and we’re all guilty of having a laugh when we see they’re starting to dream.

It starts with the twitch of a paw. Then, the thigh begins to tremble, followed possibly by some huffing sounds, which can quickly escalate to barking. We often marvel at this for a few moments before our brain switches to the question, “Why is my dog barking in their sleep?”

The more you think about it, the more questions arise that you may never have thought of before, like “Do dogs dream?”

I can provide  you with insights that will help you get the answers and take a step closer to understanding your dog’s sleeping behavior.

What Happens During a Dog’s Sleep That Makes It Bark?

Dogs can bark in their sleep once they get to the deep sleeping stage about 20 minutes after they start going to sleep.

Just like us humans, your pup goes through sleep cycles, although they’re not exactly the same as ours. Dogs fall asleep quickly and for very short stretches, which means they can reach a deep sleep in about 10 minutes.

Dogs have flexible sleep patterns. They sleep while you’re home, but they also sleep when you’re running errands or at work. Your dog can sleep for 12 to 14 hours a day! The amount of sleep your pup needs will vary with age, lifestyle, health, and even the particular breed of dog.

As a pup owner, you may worry about your dog barking in their sleep, especially if this has only started happening recently, or if it happens a lot. It’s important to understand your dog’s sleeping brain and behavior, so you can rule out any possible health issues.

Understanding Your Dog’s Sleeping Brain

As humans, we have what is called a monophasic sleep pattern, which means we tend to get all our sleep done in one go, over 8 – 10 hours. Your dog sleeps polyphasically, which basically means that they nap a lot. Imagine how you would feel if you were waking up every 45 minutes! Your dog can be grouchy if they don’t get the sleep that they need.

Your pup goes through different sleep cycles, which are similar to ours. Your dog’s sleeping stages are as follows:

  • Short-wave sleep
  • Deep sleep (better known as REM)

Your dog will go into the first cycle of short-wave sleep shortly after they’ve fallen asleep. Within 20 minutes, they’ll enter the deep sleep cycle, and this is where they dream.

This is where you’ll start to notice that their breathing has changed, paws start to twitch, and they may snort, grunt, or even bark in their sleep.

Until our dogs can tell us what they are dreaming of, we can only imagine that they’re chasing after the mailman, eating that prime rib steak, or reliving what happened during their day.

Although your pup is in a deep sleep, they’re always in a state of “readiness,” which is a survival technique, and why they wake up so quickly.

Your loyal companion is a light sleeper so that, if needed, they can spring into action to protect their family as well as keep themselves safe.

Your dog’s sleep can be best described as taking “power naps” because although they sleep deeply, their actual sleepes cycle are short. Our dogs accumulate the necessary amount of sleep with their naps throughout the day.

How Dogs Dream

Your pooch does have dreams, and because dog sleep is similar to human sleep in other ways, it is thought that they can also have nightmares.

Both humans and dogs have a part of the brain stem that is known as the pons.

The pons is the reason both humans and pets are not able to run around acting out our dreams. It paralyzes the large muscles of the body. An interesting fact about this is that in rare cases, dogs can also suffer from sleep paralysis, but this is usually due to sleep deprivation.

What science has uncovered is that dogs dream about doggy things, be it chasing a ball, fetching the mailman, or burying that chewed Gucci shoe. This is why you’ll sometimes hear your dog barking in their sleep.

Signs That Your Dog Is Dreaming

There are physical signs you can see and hear when your dog starts dreaming, such as:

  • Rapid Eye Movement (REM)
  • Grunts or snorts
  • Rapid Breathing
  • Twitching paws or legs
  • Muscular trembling
  • Licking, suckling or chewing
  • Barking, growling or whimpering

When you notice your dog barking in their sleep, twitching, or doing any of these things, it would be a safe bet to say they’re in dreamland!

Can Dogs Have Nightmares?

We love our fluffy companions, and the thought of them having a nightmare can leave us feeling somewhat disturbed. But the truth is, that they can have scary dreams. The signs that tell you when your dogs are dreaming can also indicate if they’re having a happy dream or a nightmare.

What you would need to look out for here are signs that your dog seems to be agitated, growling, or crying. If you notice these, then they could be having a bad dream. Some dogs may urinate in their sleep while having a nightmare.

Dogs aren’t creative and imaginative, so they aren’t conjuring up boogeymen in their sleep. Their nightmares could be due to recalling traumatic events like thunderstorms, or they could be feeling threatened in their dream.

It would also depend on your fluffy companions’ history. If they’re a rescue dog, they could be dreaming of past abuse, or they could have lived on the streets for a while and been caught in a massive storm. Unfortunately, most times we’ll never know what our rescue pups have been through.

Whatever their past situations, their nightmares could be them reliving those scary moments.

Can I Wake My Dog From A Nightmare?

As tempting as it is to wake them up, especially if you hear your dog barking in their sleep, crying, or showing signs of being in distress, you don’t want to startle them and risk getting bitten. Sometimes it’s better to let your dog continue to sleep, as they should settle down again.

However, if you feel that you must wake your dog, gently call them by their name in a soft tone. Once your pooch is awake, reassure them with a warm, soothing voice, and only offer love and cuddles when they’re fully aware, and it’s safe to do so.

How Can I Help My Dog Sleep Better?

If your dog has a nice comfortable sleep, it is less likely to bark while they are a sleep.

We know that feeling all too well – when we haven’t had a good night’s rest and have to battle the drowsiness and complete tasks in a zombie-like state.

Our dogs can get grumpy as well if they aren’t getting good quality sleep. There are steps you can take to help your dog get a decent night’s rest, without them sleeping on your bed.

Develop a routine

Dogs love routine, and keeping your day consistent will also help your fluff to know when it is bedtime.

You should also keep to a routine when it comes to taking them for walks, play time, meal time and cuddle time. It would also be best to feed you pooch a few hours before bedtime, as this will help digest their food more comfortably.

As humans, we tend to have weekend routines that differ from the weekdays. It may be a bit more difficult to stick to the routine strictly on weekends, but try and follow it as closely as possible to avoid pup confusion.

At night, make sure you avoid playful activity or giving your dog too many treats at least an hour before bed. 10 minutes before bedtime, let your dog out so that they can take care of business so neither of you need to get up in the middle of the night.

Keep Them Well Exercised

All dogs need exercise to help them get rid of their pent up energy. However, there are some breeds that require more exercise than others.

A Chihuahua would need about 20 to 30 minutes daily, while Golden Retrievers and Labradors need 1 hour of proper exercise a day.

If you have working breeds such as Border Collies, they will need 30 to 60 minutes of exercise per day, while a healthy German Shepherd needs close to 2 hours of physical activity daily.

Understanding your dog’s exercise needs will help you create a regime that will help you get rid of their pent-up and excess energy, which will help them sleep better.

There are different tools you can use to keep your dog entertained and exercised with minimal effort on your part. For example, you can get your dog a puzzle toy, which gives them a mental workout while you are away.

When you get home, have a game of tug-o-war with your dog. Not only will this benefit your dog, but it will help you relax as well.

There are a variety of canine games you can play with your pooch. If all else fails, hire a dog walker to exercise your dog while you’re at work. The result will be rewarding when you see your dog get a good night’s sleep.

Create a Safe Sleeping Space for Your Dog

Just as humans have the need for a safe space to sleep in the evenings, so too do our lovable companions.

Creating a safe space for your pup to sleep will lead to a happier and healthier dog. You want to make sure that the area your pup is sleeping in is at a controlled temperature. If your pup gets too cold or hot, it will affect the quality of their sleep.

They should have their own bed with soft, snuggly blankets that they can curl up in, with as little outside noise as possible.

When you tuck your pup in at night, put him to bed with his favorite toy, as this can help him relax as he goes to sleep. Something as simple as a comforting space can reduce the chances of your dog barking in their sleep.

How Do I Know If My Dog Is Dreaming Or Having A Seizure?

While it ‘s a terrifying thought that our beloved fluff could be having a seizure while he’s sleeping as opposed to dreaming, there are ways to tell the difference. I’ve listed them below for you:  

  • Jerking with rigid and stiff limbs
  • Movements will be more violent than the twitches when dreaming
  • They may make paddling motions with their legs if on their side
  • Excessive or uncontrollable drooling
  • Tongue chewing, chomping or foaming at the mouth
  • They may urinate or defecate during a seizure
  • They are not easily woken

Once your pup has woken up, check to see if they look dazed or confused. Is your pooch more wobbly, bumping into things or walking in circles? To reassure your dog, talk to them softly. It is advisable not to touch your pup, as he could be disorientated and may accidentally bite.

A dog barking in their sleep could be a sign of a seizure, but it will be accompanied by other symptoms that are abnormal. Partial seizures may cause abnormal behavior, like unusual barking or jaw snapping.

Call your vet when the seizure ends, or if it lasts longer than five minutes. If your fluff is having more than one seizure in a row while he’s unconscious, then rush him off to the vet as soon as possible.


Our beloved and loyal companions can have some strange sleep behaviors that cause them to bark in their sleep. If you think about it, it’s not really that different to us humans who talk in our sleep.

Their twitches, whimpers, and barking in their sleep are part of the reasons we love them so much, even if it makes us laugh.

It’s important, though, that if you notice anything out of the ordinary, or if the barking and twitching get progressively worse and more frequent, you take your pooch to the vet. Having frequent vet check-ups will also ensure a happier, healthier pet who will be around for a lot longer.

Hopefully next time you hear your dog barking in their sleep, you’ll understand that they’re in the middle of a doggy dream, finally catching that pesky mailman.

Writer: Kirsty Collier

Hi There, I am Kristy,

I’m an avid animal lover and use my experience with rescue dogs and all other dogs to help you have the most fulfilled and happy relationship with your furbabies. I provide practical tips and advice to help you gain a better understanding into the world of dogs.