All dog owners would have noticed that, from time to time, their dogs twitch in their sleep. Sometimes this is just a small Twitch but at other times, their legs are really moving as if they are chasing something or being chased by something.
Sometimes this twitching is accompanied by whimpering, yelping or even barking.
Owners often wonder whether they should wake their dog or say something that would make their dog relax.
A lot of research is being conducted on this phenomenon and it turns out that this behavior is perfectly natural.
Why Dogs Twitch In Their Sleep?
Researchers have found that practically all mammals, including humans, twitch in their sleep. These movements are called my myoclonic twitches.
It seems that puppies and senior dogs twitch more than middle-aged dogs. There is a part of the brain which immobilises the large body muscles during sleep. One theory is that, in puppies, this part of the brain is underdeveloped. The movements are the puppies brain working out which muscle should be switched off and which should be left on. In senior dogs, this part of the brain is working less efficiently and so the twitching increases as they get older.
Of course, all dogs can display this behavior - not just puppies and older dogs. Some researchers believe that all mammals are capable of dreaming. In 2001 researchers at the Massachusetts Institute Of Technology conducted experiments on rats. They found that it was highly likely the rats dreamt about things they were doing before they went to sleep. The researchers looked at firing patterns in the rat’s brains and found the pattern was almost identical to when the rats were awake and performing a certain task.
It is likely that dog dreaming follows a similar pattern.
While asleep, hunting dogs move their limbs in the same way they do when they are actually hunting. Pointers will point and springer spaniels will flush birds.
One indicator that your dog is dreaming is rapid eye movement. If you watch your dog 10 minutes to 20 minutes after he falls asleep, you will often notice this eye movement begin. It is easy to see even this, if your dog’s eyes are closed.
There is some evidence that puppies and older dogs dream more than middle-aged dogs.
What Do I Do If My Dog Is Having A Nightmare?
Watching your dog dreaming about chasing a rabbit is one thing, but what if he is visibly distressed while asleep. Our immediate reaction is to wake the dog up. This can lead to unfortunate results and it is probably better to leave the dog asleep. If your dog is woken suddenly from a scary dream, he made instinctively snap add you. It is probably better to leave him alone and when he wakes up naturally, comfort him.