Why Do Dogs Move Their Legs When They are Sleeping? You may have noticed your dog moving his legs when he is sleeping almost as if he is running, swimming and who knows what else, what gives? Some people who have never owned dogs at times confuse these movements with seizures. Indeed, it’s not uncommon for veterinary hospital receptionists to occasionally get a phone call from concerned owners wondering if they should bring their dogs in. The seizure is often quickly ruled out once the dog gets quickly back up on his toes upon hearing his owner calling his name or the owner opening a bag of food. Truth is, those leg movement can really be scary for somebody who isn’t aware of dogs moving their legs while sleeping!
Drifting into Dreamland
Turns out, that dogs who move their legs, smack their lips, breath heavily, quiver their whiskers and even send out an occasional whine, bark or howl are simply dreaming. What they may be dreaming about may remain a mystery, but it’s highly suspected that just like us, they may be re-enacting things that have happened during the day.
Professor of Psychology and author of several dog-related books, Stanley Coren explains how studies on rats have determined that they may be truly re-enacting events of the day. Researchers who were teaching rats to learn a maze, recorded the activity of their brain during the activity and found that the same brain wave patterns were observed when the rats were sleeping. This suggests that the rats must have dreamed the events that happened when they were awake.
The Rem Stage
Dogs don’t always dream though when they are sleeping. As in humans, dreams occur during the REM stage of sleep. Very young puppies and senior dogs tend to enter the REM stage more frequently. Whether your dog is dreaming of chasing a rabbit or stealing that unattended burger you have left on the counter, one thing is for sure: just as humans, dogs need their daily dosage of ZZZ’s. The saying “let sleeping dogs lie” offers words of wisdom as lack of sleep can make dogs as cranky as we are when we have bags under our eyes.
Did you know? The way your dog sleeps also plays a role on whether he’s more likely to dream. Dogs who sleep curled up have tense muscles which makes them less relaxed, and therefore, less likely to twitch, explains Arden Moore.