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Can dogs have nightmares scream?

Quick answer

Yes, dogs can have nightmares and scream or cry in their sleep just like humans do. This is because dogs have a similar sleep cycle to humans that includes REM sleep when dreaming occurs. A dog having a nightmare may exhibit signs like whimpering, crying, barking or howling during sleep. The nightmares are often triggered by stress, anxiety, negative experiences or health issues. While scary for owners to witness, a dog having an occasional nightmare is normal and not a cause for concern. If it happens frequently though, try to identify and address the underlying trigger to resolve it.

Do dogs dream and have nightmares?

Yes, dogs do dream and have nightmares just like humans. When dogs fall into REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, it’s during this stage that vivid dreaming with imagery, emotions and sensations occurs. Nightmares are essentially frightening or bad dreams that cause dogs to react with whimpers, cries, howls and even screams while asleep. Most dogs only experience occasional episodes of nightmares triggered by things like stress, noise, change in environment, illness or traumatic events. Some dogs though are more prone to frequent nightmares and night terrors caused by anxiety disorders or past abuse.

What are the signs of a nightmare in dogs?

Some common signs that a dog is having a nightmare or bad dream include:

– Whimpering, crying or whining
– Howling or barking
– Aggressive growling
– Kicking legs as if running
– Tensing muscles, twitching
– Sudden arousals or waking up frightened

Dogs may also scream, yelp or shriek in their sleep during a very frightening nightmare. They may pant rapidly or exhibit other signs of stress like drooling. Their eyes may be partially open but it’s clear they are still asleep and not conscious of their surroundings. When they wake up, they may seem confused, panicked or seek reassurance.

What triggers nightmares in dogs?

Some potential triggers that can cause dogs to have bad dreams and nightmares include:

– Stress or anxiety
– Loud noises like thunderstorms
– Changes in environment like a new home
– Traumatic experiences like abuse or injury
– Illness, fever or pain
– Some medications or toxicity

Genetics and breed may also play a role in how prone a dog is to nightmares. Anxious dogs like some terriers or herding breeds seem more susceptible as do dogs with separation anxiety. Past trauma or abuse can also lead to recurring nightmares.

Are nightmares normal in dogs?

An occasional nightmare is generally normal in dogs. During REM sleep parts of the brain are activated that allow dogs to experience vivid dream states just like people. Nightmares are most common in puppies and younger dogs. As dogs get older, research suggests they have fewer and less intense nightmares.

While the odd bad dream is normal, chronic or severe nightmares in dogs may indicate an underlying medical or behavioral issue that needs veterinary attention. Frequent nightmares can be a sign of anxiety, depression, dementia or pain that needs addressing.

What to do if your dog has nightmares

For an occasional nightmare, simply comforting your dog when they wake up frightened helps them feel secure. Make sure the environment is calm with limited stimulus at bedtime. However, if your dog has recurrent or severe nightmares, consult your vet and:

– Check for any underlying illness or pain
– Switch medications if side effects are suspected
– Use calming aids like pheromones or natural supplements
– Address any anxiety, stress or trauma through training
– Provide a comfortable, soothing sleeping area

With help identifying and managing the cause, most dogs can overcome their nightmares and go back to sleeping peacefully.

Why do dogs scream in their sleep?

Dogs can scream, cry, howl or shriek in their sleep due to having a very frightening nightmare, known as a night terror. During these intense dreams, dogs may bark aggressively, paddle their legs, shake, grunt and scream as if fighting off an attacker. Their screams tend to sound distressed, piercing and painful.

Night terrors stem from stressful stimuli bombarding them during REM sleep. Things like storms, loud noises, new environments,intruders or illness can trigger screaming nightmares. The screams are an involuntary reaction as dogs experience extreme, realistic fear. Breeds like Beagles and Terriers seem more prone to screaming nightmares.

If screaming nightmares become frequent in your dog, have them assessed for any underlying medical issues. Also look for sources of stress to resolve. Try calming remedies before bedtime and ensure their sleeping area feels peaceful and secure.

Why is my dog crying and shaking while sleeping?

A dog crying, whimpering and shaking during sleep is likely having a nightmare or unpleasant dream that is scaring them and causing this fearful reaction. The crying and shaking is due to your dog experiencing imagined physical or emotional distress during the dream.

Possible triggers for bad dreams that lead to this reaction include:

– Loud, sudden noises like storms or fireworks
– Recent traumatic or stressful experiences
– Change in environment or routine
– Being left alone or abandoned
– Illness, injury or medication side effects

The crying and shaking usually resolves once the dog fully awakens. Gently waking them may help end the nightmare sooner. Make sure to comfort your dog after and try to minimize any stresses before bedtime to prevent recurring nightmares. Frequent episodes may need medical or behavioral intervention.

Why does my dog scream and run while sleeping?

Dogs sometimes scream, jolt awake and run while asleep due to experiencing intense, vivid nightmares known as night terrors. During these bad dreams, dogs can exhibit distressed behaviors like screaming, running, biting and barking as if they’re under real threat.

Potential triggers for these panic-stricken nightmares include:

– Loud, abrupt noises
– Pain or illness causing discomfort
– Medication side effects
– High anxiety or stress levels
– Trauma or abuse history

Terrier and herding dog breeds tend to be prone to vivid nightmares and night terrors. While occasional episodes are normal, frequent or severe night terrors may require treatment for an underlying condition. Ensuring your dog feels safe and secure in their sleeping area can also minimize these incidents.

Can puppies have nightmares?

Yes, puppies can and do experience occasional nightmares just like human infants. Puppies tend to enter REM sleep and dream more frequently than adult dogs. During long naps or sleep, a puppy may whimper, cry, bark or jolt awake frightened due to a bad dream.

Common nightmare triggers for puppies include:

– Being left alone
– Loud noises like thunder
– Pain from teething or illness
– Stress from a new home or owners

Puppies seem to have more vivid dreams until about 1 year old when sleep patterns mature. As they feel more secure with their environment and owners, puppy nightmares usually become less frequent. Providing comfort after a bad dream helps relieve your puppy’s stress.

Do older dogs have more nightmares?

Research suggests that contrary to the common belief, senior dogs actually tend to have fewer and less intense nightmares compared to younger dogs. However, when older dogs do experience nightmares there are often underlying health issues that contribute to them.

Possible medical causes of nightmares in senior dogs include:

– Cognitive dysfunction syndrome
– Dementia
– Brain tumors pressing on areas controlling sleep and dreams
– Pain from arthritis or other conditions
– Medication side effects

As dogs age, their sleep patterns and brain wave activity during REM sleep change. If an older dog suddenly starts having vivid nightmares, schedule a veterinary exam to check for any conditions needing treatment.

Do puppies scream when having nightmares?

It’s possible but uncommon for puppies to scream or shriek during nightmares. More often puppies will whimper, whine, cry or startle awake when having bad dreams. However, some puppies prone to intense night terrors may scream or howl while dreaming if they are experiencing severe fear.

Possible triggers for screaming nightmares in puppies are:

– Being left alone for the first time
– Loud, abrupt noises like thunderstorms
– Illness or pain causing discomfort
– High stress levels from a new home

Breeds like Beagles and Terriers that tend to be more excitable and anxious are most prone to vivid screaming nightmares. As puppies become more comfortable in their environment as they mature, screaming during sleep usually diminishes.

Do all dogs have nightmares?

Nearly all dogs experience an occasional bad dream or nightmare, just like people. Any dog that reaches REM sleep can have periods of dreaming where nightmares occur. However, some dogs seem more prone to frequent, intense nightmares.

Factors that make dogs more likely to have lots of nightmares include:

– High anxiety or nervousness
– History of abuse or trauma
– Noise phobia, especially to storms
– Separation anxiety
– Frequent changes to their environment and routine
– Breeds like Beagles, German Shepherds and terriers

If your dog seems to have nightmares more often than normal, consult your vet to rule out medical issues. Then work to minimize stress and provide a quiet, relaxing sleep environment.

Nightmare Frequency in Dog Breeds

Breed Nightmare Frequency
Beagles Frequent
Terriers Frequent
German Shepherds Frequent
Greyhounds Infrequent
Havanese Infrequent
Labrador Retrievers Moderate

This table shows certain breeds tend to experience more frequent nightmares than others.

Do dogs with anxiety have more nightmares?

Yes, dogs suffering from separation anxiety, noise phobias and other chronic anxiety issues do tend to experience more frequent, intense nightmares compared to calmer dogs. Their increased stress, alertness and activity during the day seems to carry over into their sleep.

Anxious dogs also react more fearfully to potential nightmare triggers like thunderstorms, fireworks, strangers or being left alone. Their minds and bodies are already in a heightened state of arousal and fear, leading to a greater likelihood of bad dreams.

To help an anxious dog sleep better, use calming remedies like pheromone diffusers or weighted blankets and ensure their sleep area is quiet and soothing. Consult a veterinary behaviorist if anxiety is severe.

Do guide and service dogs have nightmares?

Even guide dogs and service dogs that are highly trained and have very controlled environments can occasionally suffer from troubling nightmares and dreams. Potential causes for bad dreams include:

– Brief separation from their owner
– Break in routine like staying in a hotel
– Loud noises like emergency sirens
– Stressful interactions with unfamiliar people

These working dogs form close bonds with their handlers. So separation anxiety in particular can trigger fearful dreams of abandonment or being unable to find their owner. Their jobs also involve encountering more stressful or alarming situations than a regular pet dog. But overall, their rigorous training helps minimize nightmares.

Do dogs dream about their owners?

Whether dogs actually dream about their owners is still somewhat scientifically speculative. However, dogs certainly think about and look for their owners and handlers even when asleep, just like infants do. Their REM sleep when dreaming increases after spending time with their owners. So it’s reasonable to think dogs may incorporate their favorite people into their dream content after spending quality time together while awake. Just like humans dream about significant people in our lives.

Do blind dogs have dreams?

Yes, dogs that are blind or visually impaired do still experience dreams during sleep. While their dreams may rely less on visual imagery, they can still have vivid auditory, olfactory, tactile and emotional components. For example, a blind dog may dream of hearing their owner’s voice, smelling a favorite meal or feeling the tactile sensation of wind blowing through their fur as they run.

Blind dogs also experience REM sleep just like sighted dogs. While their dreams may differ in sensory detail, blind dogs still actively dream and can suffer from nightmares triggered by things like loud sounds, unfamiliar environments and separation anxiety.

Do deaf dogs have dreams?

Yes, dogs that are deaf or hearing impaired can still have dreams and nightmares. Their dreams may be more focused on visual or tactile elements as opposed to auditory components. But during REM sleep, deaf dogs still experience the same biological processes allowing for vivid dreams.

A deaf dog may dream about seeing their leash come off the hook signaling a walk or feeling the vibrations of a stranger approaching their territory. While lacking sound, their dreams would still evoke emotional responses like excitement or fear. With sensitive tactile senses, deaf dogs can have rich dream worlds incorporating smells, sights and touch.


Like humans, dogs have complex dream activity and experience frightening nightmares on occasion. Screaming, crying and shaking during sleep is a sign your dog is having an intense nightmare and exhibiting fear. While this is normal, chronic nightmares may indicate undiagnosed health issues or high anxiety levels that should be addressed. Try to minimize stresses and make your dog’s sleep area as comfortable and quiet as possible. With time and management of any underlying conditions causing bad dreams, the nightmares should subside.