Why Does My Dog Cry In Her Sleep

It’s a common scene for many pet owners: you’re peacefully asleep, only to be jolted awake by the sound of your dog whimpering or crying in her sleep. This can be a distressing experience, leaving you wondering what could be causing your beloved companion to exhibit such behavior. Understanding why dogs cry in their sleep is crucial for ensuring their well-being and addressing any underlying issues they may be facing.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the reasons behind this behavior, explore potential causes, and offer practical advice on how to handle it effectively.

Why Does My Dog Cry In Her Sleep

Dogs, like humans, experience various sleep stages, including REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which is associated with dreaming. During REM sleep, dogs may exhibit behaviors that resemble those seen when they are awake, such as twitching, paw movements, and vocalizations.

The crying or whimpering you hear from your dog during sleep is likely a manifestation of their dreams. While it’s challenging to decipher the exact content of a dog’s dreams, studies suggest that they may dream about activities or events that occurred while they were awake. For example, a dog may dream about chasing a ball, interacting with other dogs, or even experiencing moments of stress or fear.

Additionally, dogs may cry in their sleep as a response to physical discomfort or pain. Conditions such as arthritis, injuries, or gastrointestinal issues can cause discomfort, which may be exacerbated during sleep. Consequently, your dog may vocalize her discomfort through whining or crying.


1. Dreams And Emotional Processing

One of the primary reasons dogs cry in their sleep is due to their dreams. During REM sleep, dogs engage in neural activity similar to humans, suggesting that they experience dreams. These dreams may involve a range of experiences, from pleasant activities to stressful situations.

Dogs are highly social animals with complex emotional lives. They form strong bonds with their human caregivers and other animals, and these relationships can influence the content of their dreams. For example, a dog may dream about playing with her favorite human or companion, or she may experience dreams related to past experiences, such as being separated from her family or feeling anxious in unfamiliar environments.

2. Physical Discomfort Or Pain

Another common cause of crying during sleep is physical discomfort or pain. Dogs may suffer from various health issues, including arthritis, injuries, dental problems, or gastrointestinal issues, which can cause discomfort, particularly when lying down. During sleep, when the body relaxes and the mind drifts into REM sleep, these discomforts may become more noticeable, prompting vocalizations such as crying or whimpering.

It’s essential to monitor your dog’s overall health and behavior for signs of pain or discomfort, such as limping, reluctance to move, changes in appetite, or alterations in grooming habits. If you suspect that your dog’s crying during sleep is due to physical discomfort, consult with your veterinarian for a thorough examination and appropriate treatment.

3. Anxiety And Stress

Anxiety and stress can also contribute to crying or whimpering during sleep. Dogs, like humans, can experience a range of emotions, including fear, anxiety, and stress, which may manifest during sleep. Events such as loud noises, separation from loved ones, changes in routine, or traumatic experiences can trigger anxiety in dogs, leading to restless sleep and vocalizations.

If your dog exhibits signs of anxiety or stress during waking hours, such as pacing, panting, trembling, or avoidance behaviors, it’s essential to address these underlying issues to improve her overall well-being. Implementing strategies to reduce stress, such as providing a safe and comfortable environment, engaging in regular exercise and mental stimulation, and using calming techniques like massage or aromatherapy, can help alleviate anxiety and promote better sleep quality.

4. Aging And Cognitive Decline

As dogs age, they may experience cognitive decline, similar to humans with conditions like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. This cognitive decline can affect various aspects of a dog’s life, including sleep patterns and behavior. Older dogs may become more prone to nighttime vocalizations, including crying or barking, as their cognitive function declines and they experience confusion or disorientation.

If you have an older dog exhibiting changes in sleep patterns or vocalizations, it’s essential to consult with your veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical conditions and develop a management plan tailored to your dog’s individual needs. Providing a consistent routine, a comfortable sleeping environment, and gentle reassurance can help ease nighttime anxiety and promote better sleep for aging dogs.

What To Do

If your dog cries in her sleep, there are several steps you can take to address the issue and ensure her well-being:

1. Monitor Behavior

Pay close attention to your dog’s behavior during waking hours, as well as her sleep patterns and vocalizations. Note any changes in behavior, signs of discomfort, or triggers that may contribute to her crying during sleep. Keeping a journal can help track patterns and identify potential underlying causes.

2. Provide Comfort And Reassurance

During episodes of crying or whimpering, gently wake your dog and provide comfort and reassurance. Offer soothing words, gentle petting, or a comforting presence to help calm her down. Creating a relaxing bedtime routine and providing a comfortable sleeping environment can also promote better sleep quality for your dog.

3. Address Underlying Health Issues

If you suspect that physical discomfort or pain is contributing to your dog’s crying during sleep, schedule a veterinary examination to assess her overall health. Your veterinarian can perform a thorough physical examination, diagnostic tests, and imaging studies to identify any underlying medical conditions and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

4. Manage Anxiety And Stress

Implement strategies to reduce your dog’s anxiety and stress levels, both during waking hours and at bedtime. Provide plenty of opportunities for physical exercise, mental stimulation, and social interaction to help alleviate stress and promote relaxation. Additionally, consider using calming supplements or pheromone diffusers to create a calming environment for your dog.

5. Consult With A Professional

If your dog’s crying during sleep persists or worsens despite your efforts to address underlying causes, consult with a professional, such as a certified dog behaviorist or veterinary behaviorist. These experts can conduct a comprehensive assessment of your dog’s behavior and develop a tailored behavior modification plan to address her specific needs.


Crying or whimpering during sleep is a common behavior observed in many dogs and can have various underlying causes, including dreams, physical discomfort, anxiety, and cognitive decline. Understanding the reasons behind your dog’s crying during sleep is essential for addressing any underlying issues and ensuring her overall well-being.

By monitoring your dog’s behavior, providing comfort and reassurance, addressing underlying health issues, managing anxiety and stress, and seeking professional guidance when needed, you can help your dog enjoy restful and peaceful sleep without distressing vocalizations. Remember that each dog is unique, and it may take time and patience to determine the best approach for managing your dog’s sleep-related behaviors effectively. With love, understanding, and proper care, you can help your canine companion enjoy sweet dreams and a good night’s sleep.