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Do Dogs Like Being Pet While Sleeping? What You Need to Know

Luxifa Le

By Luxifa Le

Sleeping with dog

When we see our dogs sleeping peacefully, for some reason, we have this unbearable urge to disturb them. While our dogs might seem receptive to being petted while asleep, it’s hard to know if they enjoy it.

While dogs generally enjoy being cuddled and caressed, they need sleep as much as people do. Your dog may not immediately retaliate when you pet her while she’s asleep, but she probably doesn’t appreciate being woken up like that! Likewise, you wouldn’t like it if someone woke you up. So, don’t wake your dog up!

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The Science of Sleeping Dogs

Dog owners are well-known in science as the disturbers of their dog’s sleep. However, in a study on dogs’ sleep-wake cycles, 9 out of 14 dog owners in the survey interrupted their dogs’ sleep-wake patterns by accident.

Dogs in this study also showed that they sleep much shorter periods than humans. The dogs in the study underwent up to 20 sleep-wake cycles in eight hours. Compared to humans—whose circadian rhythms dictate a single sleep-wake cycle at night—this is a massive change that requires humans to be aware of their dog’s differences in health needs.

It’s unclear why dogs spend so much time sleeping. However, one study found that dogs spend up to 80% of their day in a state of behaviorally-defined sleep when they live primarily indoors.

It might be a facet of living such a leisurely life; dogs don’t have many responsibilities. Their humans take care of most of their needs. So, they’re able to live a life of leisure and rest.

However, it’s also shown that dogs, like cats, have a higher need for sleep than humans. In addition, studies have found that lost rest in dogs is generally recovered by lessening activity the following day. So, our dogs’ propensity to daytime sleepiness might have to do with our tendency to disturb them while they sleep.

Further study of dogs’ sleep-wake cycle showed that a dog’s sleep-wake cycle is similar to a person who has a sleep disorder. According to the study, this relationship is further compounded the older a dog is, as their sleep tends to degrade as they age.

Sleep deprivation in dogs is a serious problem that dog parents need to consider. A study on laboratory dogs showed a significant reduction in motor activity following an episode of sleep deprivation. Long-term sleep deprivation could adversely affect your dog’s overall well-being and longevity.

Two dogs sleeping
Image Credit: Pexels, Pixabay

Do Dogs Dream?

It’s hard to say whether dogs dream the same we do. This is because they can’t relay their experiences to us. However, some testing of dogs’ brains showed that they exhibited movement patterns even when their brains’ electrical signals indicated that they were fast asleep. This behavior could point to dreaming in dogs, even if their dreams aren’t the same as human dreams.

Can Dogs Have Nightmares?

Most dog owners have experienced their dog waking from a restless sleep by kicking their legs wildly, much like a human waking from a nightmare. Others have observed their dog reacting to their dreams in the real world by growling, swiping, or even snapping at an invisible aggressor.

These behaviors are usually associated with nightmares in humans, and it’s safe to say that they’re probably similar when exhibited by dogs.

Should I Wake My Dog From a Nightmare?

Just like with a human, you should not try to wake a dog who is having a nightmare. They may react aggressively to your efforts before they realize that they are safe and that you are the source of the contact.

Rather than waking your dog, please wait for your dog to wake up on their own and then reassure them with gentle petting and soft speaking. This will help them realize that what they were experiencing wasn’t real and that they are safe and secure with you.

Brown dog sleeping
Image Credit: cri92, Pixabay

Should I Stroke My Dog While They Sleep?

If your dog has been trained and desensitized to disturbances while sleeping, the risk of getting bitten for bothering them is lower. However, disturbing your dog while they sleep isn’t good for their overall health.

You should avoid interacting with your dog while they sleep except to help desensitize them to being woken.

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The 5 Ways to Desensitize Your Dog to Being Woken

There are many emergencies where you’ll want to be able to wake your dog up without fear of their reaction. Luckily, desensitizing your dog to being woken isn’t tricky. Here’s how to do it.

1. Start Young

You’ll want to start when your dog is still young and impressionable. Teaching them early that there’s nothing to fear when mom wakes them will help them develop a good relationship with you and their environment. In addition, it will help them feel safe in their own home.


2. Start From a Distance

Start by gently waking your dog vocally. Don’t get too close to your dog or stroke her to wake her up at first. This is just a safety measure that prevents her from snapping at you out of surprise.


3. Gently Wake Your Dog During Cuddles

Dogs often fall asleep while cuddling their humans. So, desensitize her to the process of being woken by waking her while you cuddle to readjust your position or get a drink of water.

Dog sleeping comfortably on big soft pillow
Image Credit: 632imagine, Shutterstock

4. Stroke Your Dog While Sleeping

Once your dog is adequately desensitized to being woken, reinforce it by occasionally stroking them while they sleep. You’ll want to wake them gently with a soft voice and gentle pets. Startling your dog awake could result in an adverse reaction and should be saved for emergencies (like a house fire.)


5. Wield Your Power with Great Responsibility

Just like it would be rude to wake you for no reason, it’s rude to wake your dog. Don’t wake your dog just because you can. She may not resent you for it, but it will negatively affect her health!

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Final Thoughts

Dogs may not mind being pet while asleep, but it can disturb the quality of their sleep. You shouldn’t pet your dog while they’re sleeping, not because they don’t like it, but because it’s not good for them.

See also:


Featured Image Credit: Rasulov, Shutterstock

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