Have you ever observed your dog running or twitching in their sleep? A dog running in his sleep is an amusing behavior that can be observed in some dogs. What does it really mean? Are they just dreaming or is something else more serious going on with your dog's body?
Dogs will often run, twitch, growl, bark, moan, or yelp in their sleep. These may seem to be odd behaviors to us but this is no more odd than a human who sleepwalks or talks in their sleep. In fact, the majority of the time a dog running in his sleep a perfectly normal behavior.
The Root of the Behavior
The root of running or twitching in a dog’s sleep is most likely due to your dog dreaming. All dogs dream. Some dogs kick, paddle, twitch, or exhibit running behavior while they are dreaming. It often makes you wonder what your dog is dreaming about. Is your dog chasing a squirrel? Or running after a stick? Or is he having a nightmare where something is chasing him? That is something we may never know. However, we do know that studies have been done to show that a sleeping animal’s brain waves are similar to the brain waves that humans have when they dream.
Another reason for this behavior may be far more serious and you should look out for it. This behavior is seizures. Dogs can have seizures while they sleep. However, the movements of dreaming and the movements of seizures are different. If the twitching is not rigid, more loose movements are more likely a sign that your dog is dreaming. Also, dreaming movements last for a very short amount of time, typically less than 30 minutes. Seizures are much more rigid movements and their limbs will be stiffer. Seizure movements are also much more violent. Not to mention, dogs that are dreaming can easily be woken while it is much harder to wake a dog that is seizing. A seizing dog will also be very disoriented when they wake up.
If you feel that your dog is seizing, do not try to wake them up. Instead, protect your dog's head from getting hurt during the seizure. Once the seizure has passed, let your dog wake up naturally. You will also want to contact your vet for further information or to schedule a visit to see what caused the seizure. Keep in mind that most sleep twitching or running is just normal dream behavior and does not need any medical attention.
Encouraging the Behavior
There is nothing you can really do about a dog dreaming. This is normal behavior and is part of the body system that dogs have no control over. It is also very good behavior in dogs. Dreaming is very good for their brain. So the best thing you can do is let your dog sleep.
If your dog is prone to seizures however, be sure he sleeps in a safe environment where his head will not be hurt during seizures. A soft dog bed close to the ground would be ideal for sleep. Also, be sure to keep a better eye on a dog who has frequent seizures. Consult your dog’s vet for further instructions. Your dog may even be put on medication to help reduce seizures.
All in all, it is important not to wake your dog while he is sleeping whether he is dreaming or seizing. If you must wake him up for whatever reason, try not to startle him. Just call him by name. If he is seizing, stand back a little bit and call him by name. He may wake a little disoriented and for his safety, it is better you stand back and give him room.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Puppies can get muscle twitches in their sleep, as well. If your young puppy is not dreaming, this twitching is most likely muscle related and is perfectly normal behavior. This muscle twitching behavior in young puppies has been said to be an important part of developing strong muscles and muscle toning. So, if your little pup is twitching during sleep, don’t let it alarm you. It’s just his muscles toning themselves. Strong muscles will make a stronger, healthier dog! If you do think it is something more serious than this, be sure to contact your vet for a better diagnosis. Remember seizures are different than sleep twitches.
This running or twitching sleep behavior is such a comical behavior in dogs, some owners even go as far as to video record it. Just keep in mind that we all dream and if you think it is more serious than that, like a seizure, talk to your vet. Otherwise, let sleeping dogs lie.