The behavior of our canine companions may be a bit befuddling at times which may lead us to worry. One such act is your dog crying in his sleep, but why would he be doing that?
Well, there are plenty of reasons. Some mild and harmless, while others are a sign of a more deep-seated, and potentially dangerous, issue.
An example of the former is a nightmare that he may be having from time to time, while a more serious cause could be a seizure.
Of course, there’s plenty of nuance here and it’s important to know the difference between harmless and harmful.
Thankfully, the more serious cases are exceedingly rare, so if your pup is crying in his sleep, you shouldn’t worry too much.
But, just in case something does happen, let’s see what it could all mean.
1. He’s Just Having A Nightmare
The main reason is often tied to bad dreams.
Dogs, much like us, get to have some bad experiences generated by their brains during their sleep cycles which can lead to scary nightmares.
This will often result in crying and whining in the dog’s sleep and likely a lot of fidgeting.
The behavior is more common in puppies who have been freshly separated from their mother and they’re still in that transitioning period of trying to adjust to their new surroundings.
Even for trained pups, that’s a harrowing experience, no matter how nice and kind their new owners are.
Thankfully, the adjustment period is relatively short and, if that separation is the cause of these nightmares, they should wane within the month.
There will be other random nightmares every now and then, but that’s just par for the course.
And, whatever you do, don’t wake him up if you hear him whining.
While it may feel cruel to allow him to “suffer in his sleep” it’s best to allow it to pass naturally, as waking him up suddenly during it will just negatively affect his mood and overall health.
There’s also the possibility of you ending up with an injury from him having a more aggressive reaction to your prodding.
He may confuse you for the source of his nightmares for a brief moment and try to defend himself.
2. He’s Hasn’t Been Trained To Stop
Puppies that whimper and cry in their sleep will eventually stop as they grow older but sometimes they won’t.
Not without proper training at least, which can become somewhat of an issue mostly in waking you up rather than a problem for the dog himself.
If it’s something that bothers you, then make sure to ask his trainer how to get the whining to stop or enroll him in some behavior training to focus specifically on getting the crying to stop.
3. It’s Separation Anxiety
Just like a pup can cry for his mom when he just gets rehomed, the same can happen if he has to stay somewhere without the presence of his beloved owner when he grows up.
This is often present in dogs with strong tendencies for separation anxiety and those who haven’t been trained out of it.
Those babysitting him can often hear him cry in his sleep if he doesn’t have a familiar presence around him or if he didn’t see you coming back before he went to rest.
The more common case, one that you can see, is if you don’t constantly have him around you which can lead to him whining both when awake and during sleep as he misses you.
Know that, while harmless physically, this type of behavior isn’t healthy and should be remedied if possible before it becomes any worse.
4. He’s Afraid Of Something
Other forms of anxiety are common triggers for doggy tears, particularly fears. The most common one would be the sound of thunder or any other form of loud noise.
If it happens in his sleep and it’s just loud enough for him to subconsciously notice, he’ll start to cry and fidget around without waking up.
If you can, have his sleeping area sound isolated as best you can to make this particular reason a non-factor.
5. He’s Having A Seizure
The most dangerous reason behind your dog crying in his sleep would be if he’s prone to seizures.
Quite dangerous to handle during sleep, and equally as difficult to discern from the other reasons, these can be potentially fatal.
Thankfully, there are a few signs that make it a bit easier to figure out, namely how intense the dog’s flailing is during a seizure compared to milder scenarios.
His body will look like it’s suffering spasms and cramps with how stiff, but sudden the movements feel.
Another potential sign is incontinence as, unlike us humans, dogs don’t really need to potty train not to pee in their beds, but it can be a follow-up to a seizure.
Finally, a surefire method on top of all these is to check whether your dog is drooling more than usual or if he seems out of breath after waking up.
Should that be the case and you weren’t aware of any prior seizure experiences, you should get him to a vet for a check-up just to make sure.
6. It’s Some Other Health Issue
The various health problems dogs can experience come alongside a variety of symptoms, some of which can flare up while your doggo sleeps.
The most common ones are any bone related problems, particularly hip and elbow dysplasia or a luxating patella.
The joints tend to ache, particularly when your dogs hit their senior years.
It isn’t the only form of discomfort though as various problems revolving around their gut or any other serious health issue can cause the same reaction.
If you suspect any of your dog’s crying in his sleep to be unusual or if it’s followed up by some peculiar symptoms that point toward an underlying health problem, get him checked up as soon as you can.
How Can I Prevent My Dog Crying In The Future?
Well, it depends on what the cause is.
Some problems can be solved, while others linger around for the rest of the dog’s life.
If it’s a behavioral thing from when he was a pup, then training can weed it out so both you and your dog can get a good night’s rest.
If it’s caused by a latent fear, then taking the source of the fear as far away from him as you can will help tremendously.
Should the problem stem from a less severe health problem, then treating the problem should see the crying subside as well.
However, if it’s something a bit more serious like chronic issues with your canine companion’s joints or a seizure, then the best you can do is take care of him.
You can help reduce the potential seizure occurrences, but never fully eliminate them.
Does Just Waking Him Up Not Work?
Absolutely not. I can guarantee that you don’t like getting woken up by someone abruptly, the same goes for your pooch.
You risk potentially earning an injury as the dog can’t control himself if what he’s facing in his sleep is something he’s trying to defend himself against.
You may end up getting bitten or scratched without restraint which can end up with an avoidable trip to the ER.
Sleeping dogs don’t know restraint as they’re not aware it’s you, so exercise caution around such acts.
Believe me, I’ve learned it the hard way when I was a first-time dog owner and it earned me a few stitches.
If you really need to wake him up (if his reaction is becoming increasingly worrying) then make a noise without being near him, either with a loud clap or by calling for him.
That should shake him out of his stupor without putting yourself in harm’s way.
If it doesn’t work, then it’s yet another potential sign of an ongoing seizure and you’ll need to call up a vet as soon as you’re able to.
If your dog is crying in his sleep, it’s most likely nothing, especially if he’s still a young pup.
Chances are that he’s still missing his mom or that he still isn’t used to all the new things surrounding him.
While I do know it’s hard to hear him cry, it’s best left alone so it airs itself out of his system.
Though, if the problem persists, it’s good to utilize behavioral training to resolve the issue.
In very rare instances, the problem may be tied to a more serious issue like bone and joint problems or seizures, but those can be figured out with the steps mentioned prior.
Whatever the case may be, if you’re worried that it may be something actually serious, don’t hesitate to call your dog’s vet to ask for advice on the matter.
Until next time, pet parents.