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5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Pet Dogs While They’re Asleep

Should You Pet Your Dog While Sleeping

Dogs are 10 times cuter when they’re sleeping.

So anyone will find it hard not to pet them.

But, before you get close and do it to your pooch…

Ask yourself, “Are they going to like it?”

Well, the answers are in here. So…

Keep reading to find out:

  • Whether dogs like to be touched when sleeping.
  • The benefits of making them rest peacefully and undisturbed.
  • Possible dangers of petting them while they’re in deep slumber.
  • An essential biological process that you may interrupt for doing so.
  • And a lot more…

Should you pet your dog while sleeping?

It would be best not to pet your dog while sleeping because they don’t want to be disturbed in these times, and you might startle them. They may scratch, snap, or bite you involuntarily. And this could be due to sleep aggression, deep sleep, resource guarding, startle reflex, or extreme tiredness.

5 reasons why you shouldn’t bother a sleeping dog (no petting, please!)

#1: They could be dreaming

You Shouldn't Pet Dogs While They're Asleep Because They Could Be Dreaming

While your Fido sleeps…

You notice that they twitch and even murmur.

Are they really dreaming?” you might think.

Well, yes. Our furry friends visit the ‘dreamland’ too. And the discovery starts with an experiment with a rat.

In 2001, a study revealed that when rodents are sleeping, they also recall memories. And scientists detected this by looking at the rats’ brain waves.

This data has led to the confirmation of scientists that animals who have more complex brains, such as dogs, can do it too.

But, like humans, they may also have nightmares. And this is why it’s best to refrain yourself from touching them while they’re on it.

“But why? Isn’t it good to wake them up from a bad dream?”

It’s because they’re in ‘deep sleep.’

At the moment, they might be chasing a squirrel or catching frisbees. As experts say, they dream about their daytime activities.

And if startled, they may scratch or snap at you. Or worse, bite you unconsciously. But I’m sure your sweet pooch doesn’t want that to happen.

“So, how can you tell if they’re in dreamland?”

You need to observe 2 things:

  1. Breathing: They’ll breathe rapidly and irregularly.
  2. Eye movements: If their eyes move a lot. Like they’re trying to look around.

And also, take note that this usually happens 20 minutes after they sleep.

So, it’s best to leave them alone. But if they need to be woken up, do it without touching them. For example, create a noise instead. And watch from a distance to avoid any accident.

However, if their sleeping habits don’t look normal, it could be…

REM (rapid eye movement) behavior disorder

Are they acting more violent while ‘dreaming’? For example, they’re:

  • Running around.
  • Shaking intensely.
  • Striking an object.
  • Attacking using their teeth or paws.

According to PetMD, this is due to REM behavior disorder. And neurological diseases and genetics could be its cause.

The good thing is, dogs who have this are said to be safe to wake up. This is because they’re not going to be disoriented like others. 

But to be sure, call them out instead of startling them.

If there are any changes in their sleeping behavior, consult a vet about the matter. Do this to ensure that your Fido is getting quality sleep.

Fun fact: Ever wonder how long and often canines dream? VCA explains it’s related to their age and size. The smaller and younger they are, the more frequent it is. But larger ones have it longer for up to 5 to 10 minutes.

#2: Sleep aggression

“Let the dog sleep, for when they wake, they will shake the world.”

Sounds familiar?

That’s because it’s said Napoleon used the original quote years ago.

Well, they may not shake the whole world. But they could move yours with just one bite or growl.

This is because some Fidos can be aggressive when disturbed during their sleep. 

Why do they do that?

It’s because they’re stressed. And they might be more sensitive due to some of these reasons:

  • Unfamiliar environment.
  • Illnesses/physical discomfort.
  • Changes in their surroundings. 
  • Loss of a companion or family.
  • New member in the household.

So be careful and avoid getting close to them while they’re napping. Or cuddle them in any way.

Because even if they’re playful and in a good mood during the day. It can still happen whenever they’re sleeping.

What to do?

Again, don’t try to pet them while sleeping.

If you need to move them, wake them up by calling their name. Or clapping your hands. And remain distant as they may lash out at you. 

But for a permanent fix, you need to desensitize them slowly.


  1. Try throwing a treat (they love) near them while they’re lying down.
  2. Don’t touch them. And wait until they eat that one piece.
  3. If they do, throw more on the floor.
  4. Then make them get up and move away from their spot.

Repeat this for a few minutes every day. And this could lessen their violent reactions when waking them up.

However, for better results, seek an expert to help you along the way. This is for your safety and to ensure you’re not making it worse.

Oh, and don’t forget to give them enough exercises daily. As this might help in relieving their stress.

Trivia: Have a retired greyhound? Because this behavior is mainly observed in such dogs. They got used to having long uninterrupted sleep during their ‘racing days.’ So they could be sensitive about this matter.

#3: Startle reflex

Dogs Have Startle Reflex

Aside from aggression, one thing you need to watch out for is their fast reflexes.

Animals have this for their protection. It’s an excellent defense, especially when they’re in a vulnerable situation – like sleeping.

So even though you have a well-behaved pooch. Once startled in their nap, they can snap at you. And if they’re too surprised, they could even bite you.

Some dogs may also let you pet them a few times. But once you’ve passed the limit, their teeth might show up.

So, instead of reminding you to be alert when you touch them. I’d say it’ll be nice to respect their slumber. And avoid cuddling them during these times.

#4: Resource guarding

Does your pooch get angry when you touch their food?

Or even their toys?

Uh-oh. Some dogs can be so territorial that they’ll guard anything that is deemed important for them.

It’s like they have a sign saying, “Stay away from my property, please.”

So if they do have this behavior…

They may also hate it if you touch or go near them while they’re resting. Especially if they’re in a ‘high privileged’ spot, like your bed or couch.

Which could also result in biting incidents.

Warning: This is a ‘dangerous’ behavior that needs to be corrected. And training them by yourself might not be safe. So ask help from a dog behaviorist or trainer to guide you.

You may also like: 17 Reasons Why Your Dog Barks At Certain People + 5 Tips

#5: Shhh…they’re sharpening their memory

After teaching your pooch some tricks…

You see them plop down. As if you’ve exhausted all their energy and brain cells.

Why is that so?

Research reveals that sleeping helps dogs to have a better memory.

The study has conducted 2 experiments.

In the first one, 15 Fidos were taught to “sit” and “lie down” in a foreign language – which is English.

Afterward, the canines slept. Then they conducted a second training again after they woke up. This is to see if they had better retention.

The results?

The dogs responded better after the nap. And the training also made their sleep deeper. As scientists looked at their brain activity while they’re dozing off. 

While the 2nd part aimed to know which is better to improve their memory.

Is it learning more things? Or having more sleep/walk/play?

I’m sure you already have a clue about which works best.

And you’re right. The latter one was proven to have better results.

This is why it’s important to keep training short. And it must be followed by an activity that has nothing to do with memory retention. 

A walk outside or a simple rest afterward will work wonders.

#BONUS: They might be exhausted

“A well-spent day brings happy sleep.”

– Leonardo da Vinci

Have you walked your pooch…

And played with them most of the day?

Wow, that’s great! You’re making them release all their energy which will prevent boredom. As well as them acting crazy.

So, if you see them crash down after a fun game of fetch, you better not disturb them at all.

It’ll be hard to only observe your Fido from afar. But remember, they must be drained and just want to rest.

It’s given that dogs have a startle reflex. But some of them might be even more sensitive. So just one slight touch could wake them up.

So, after all of these reasons…

Do you still have the urge to pet (and possibly disturb) your doggo?

Just hold it in for a few minutes. And wait until they get up and are fully awake.

Then, you can snuggle and smother them with love. 🙂

Note: But read their body language first to see if they want some cuddles at the moment. Having a tensed body and tucked tail while leaning away from you are not good signs.