Published: March 11, 2020  

Last updated: May 24, 2021  

At the end of the day, my family plops down on the couch to relax, watch some tv and catch up on our day… our dogs included!

More often than not, we watch our dog, Bear, twitching in his sleep. Sometimes his eyelids twitch, maybe his back leg muscles, or his full body shaking in sleep. It’s amusing to watch, but at the same time has us curious about what he may be dreaming about.

Just a few weeks ago, I caught Ginger wagging her tail while sleeping on our bed. It was fascinating watching her, it must have been a great dream!

[Q&A] #AskingForMyDog

Each week I am taking a community member question. This week’s #AskingForMyDog question came from Mike:

“What do you think the problem is with our Yorkie? When he sleeps he kicks straight back with a lot of force (I know he has kicked me). I’m sure he doesn’t even know he is doing it. It’s not something he does voluntarily and there is no particular time it happens. He’s done it when he is asleep on my lap.”

Is it normal for a dog to kick back leg violently during sleep?

Mike’s dog has more than a twitch, he is kicking his legs with a lot of force. So is this the same thing? Just a dream? Short answer… most likely.

Dogs go through stages of sleep just like humans. So when they reach their REM state of sleep, they start dreaming of playing or maybe chasing another dog. And occasionally their body twitch or shake.

For a more technical explanation of how your dog’s brain works during sleep, I recommend reading Why Do Dogs Twitch in Their Sleep? By PetMD

Dog dreaming or seizure?

The majority of the time when your dog is twitching or shaking in his sleep, he’s just dreaming. It’s totally normal behavior.

But occasionally there is cause to be concerned. PetMD states that “excessive twitching can also be due to a neuromuscular condition, such as tick paralysis, seizure activity, or an electrolyte imbalance due to malnutrition.”

So if at any time you feel your dog’s sleep shaking is out of the norm, then talk to your vet. Or start by talking to a vet online below:

Should I wake my dog up from a bad dream?

Have you ever been woken up from a bad dream? Remember the feelings of panic, fear, and confusion?

Let your dog sleep. Waking him up from a REM dream state could startle him and he may react violently, possibly even biting. Even the most calm dog can be startled.

If your dog seems to be harming himself during this nightmare, or you just can’t bear to watch him shake, then try softly calling his name. Try not to startle him as that could just enhance the panic when awakening.

After your dog is fully awake, feel free to comfort him all you want (or your dog wants).

Mike, I hope this helps put your mind at ease! And remember, if you ever feel like something is just not right, don’t hesitate to talk to your vet to rule out any health related issues.

Recommended reading just for you:

Have a question of your own? Email me with the subject line #AskingForMyDog and I may choose to feature it in our next Q&A!

About the Author

Debi McKee

Debi McKee is the expert behind Rescue Dogs 101 where she guides you in your journey of adopting and raising a rescue dog every step of the way. She is a mom of 3 human kids and 4 dogs and volunteers for a local dog rescue and Humane Society. Click here for more about Debi and her passion for helping you and your dog.

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  1. My older dog has been starting to kick a lot in his sleep. Once he’s in a good sleep he will do like 2-3 kicks and stop but it happens about every 30-45 seconds for hours on end. I’m not sure if this is a cause for concern or just an older dog thing.

  2. My 8 mo old Doxie has always climbed on my shoulder to sleep. When she climbs up she does 3 or 4 hard kicks with her back legs. It’s not dreams cause she does it immediately after climbing up. Can she maybe have restless leg syndrome? Thats what it reminds me of

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