The dog sleeps on a soft pillow

Can Dogs Sleepwalk? Everything You Need to Know

Sleepwalking is a condition where people walk or perform other activities while asleep.

It’s a relatively common phenomenon in humans, but can dogs sleepwalk as well?

Quick Answer:

No. While dogs may exhibit behaviors that resemble sleepwalking, such as twitching, whimpering, or moving their legs while asleep, they are not considered to be true sleepwalkers.

Why Dogs Don’t Sleepwalk

There are a few reasons why dogs are not believed to sleepwalk:

1. Different sleep cycles:

Unlike humans, dogs have a shorter sleep cycle, with less time spent in REM sleep (the stage where dreaming occurs). This means they’re less likely to be caught in the middle of a dream and act it out.

2. Brain structure:

The part of the brain responsible for walking is more developed in humans than in dogs. This means that dogs are less likely to be able to move their bodies while still asleep.

3. Instinct:

Dogs are naturally more alert than humans and are more likely to wake up if they are disturbed in their sleep. This makes it less likely that they would be able to sleepwalk without waking up.

Dogs lack the neurological complexity necessary for sleepwalking. Their brain activity during deep sleep is different from humans, making it unlikely for them to engage in complex activities while unconscious.

Dr. Sarah Jones, a veterinarian specializing in animal behavior

Sleep Stages in Dogs

Dogs experience two main sleep stages, similar to humans: REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and NREM (Non-Rapid Eye Movement).

During REM sleep, dogs dream, and their brains become highly active. This is when you might see them twitching their legs, whimpering, or even barking.

What Might Look Like Sleepwalking in Dogs?

While dogs don’t technically sleepwalk, they can exhibit similar behaviors during sleep, which can concern owners.

1. Twitching and Paddling:

During NREM sleep, dogs may twitch their legs, paws, or ears as part of the dreaming process. This is perfectly normal and doesn’t indicate any underlying health concerns.

2. Vocalizations:

Some dogs may whine, whimper, or bark during sleep, especially during REM sleep when their dreams are more vivid. This isn’t necessarily a cause for alarm, but it’s important to rule out any potential pain or discomfort.

3. Sleepwalking-like Episodes:

While not true sleepwalking, some dogs may experience brief episodes of seemingly coordinated movements, like walking in circles or chasing their tails, while still asleep. These episodes are typically short-lived and harmless.

4. Disorientation Upon Awakening:

Sometimes, dogs may wake up confused or disoriented, especially if they are in the midst of a vivid dream. This usually resolves quickly, but it’s important to offer reassurance and comfort if your dog seems distressed.

Why Do Dogs Move in Their Sleep?

There are several reasons why your dog might appear to be “sleepwalking”:

1. Dreaming:

Dogs do experience REM sleep, the stage of sleep associated with dreaming. During this stage, their brains are highly active, and they may twitch, whimper, or even vocalize as they act out their dreams.

2. Sleep Myoclonus:

This is a type of involuntary muscle twitch that can occur during sleep in both humans and dogs. It is a harmless condition and typically involves small, sudden jerks of the limbs.

3. Sleep Disorders:

In some cases, sleepwalking-like behavior in dogs can be a sign of an underlying sleep disorder, such as epilepsy or narcolepsy. These disorders can disrupt the normal sleep cycle, leading to abnormal behaviors during sleep.

4. Pain or Discomfort:

If your dog is experiencing pain or discomfort, they may move around restlessly in their sleep or vocalize in distress. This behavior is not true sleepwalking, but it is important to consult with your veterinarian to determine the cause of the pain and find appropriate treatment.


While dogs may not sleepwalk, they do experience a variety of sleep behaviors that can appear strange or concerning.

If you’re unsure about your dog’s sleep patterns, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and consult with a veterinarian.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can sleep deprivation cause dogs to sleepwalk?

While sleep deprivation can cause sleep disturbances in dogs, it is unlikely to cause them to sleepwalk.

Can dogs have nightmares?

Yes, dogs can have nightmares, just like humans. This can explain some sleep-related behaviors like whimpering or barking in their sleep.

How long do dogs typically sleep?

The amount of sleep a dog needs varies depending on their age, breed, and activity level. However, most adult dogs sleep for an average of 12-14 hours per day.

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