The real reason your dog is twitching in its sleep

Every dog owner knows about the strange, yet adorable doggy behavior known as sleep twitching. One moment, your beloved pup is lying fast asleep on the ground, and the next, its paws are going wild and its face is twitching like it's chasing something in its sleep. As endearing and YouTube-worthy as all those movements are, they're also kind of odd. What exactly makes a dog's body go wild like that when it sleeps? Even if we just shrug and assume it's a dog version of sleepwalking, do we know for sure that dogs actually dream? Hey, looks like we've collectively stumbled onto a mystery! Come, let's take a moment to look at the real reason your dog is twitching in its sleep. 

Let sleeping dogs lie

American Kennel Club confirms that dogs quite likely do dream (hooray!) However, while doggy nap-twitches are likely associated with dreams, there may be more to the behavior than you might initially expect. The sleep twitch phenomenon is officially called "myoclonic twitches," and it tends to be most common in younger and older dogs. One theory posits this is because a puppy is still sort of figuring out how to move, and the myoclonic twitches allow its body to do so while it rests — when an adorable pup twitches in its sleep, it's basically a case of its body stealthily figuring out what the limb in question is for and how it works. When a puppy's brain matures, it develops a system for "paralyzing the large muscles" during sleep, so the dog can't instinctively leap up and start sleep-running after that tennis ball he's dreaming about. But this system is thought to deteriorate over time, which means senior dogs are once again more prone to twitching.

Dog owners should also remember that there are several versions of sleep twitching, and not all of them are pretty. If your dog's sleep movements last longer than 30 seconds and are less "twitchy" and more "violent and rigid," there's a chance that the poor pup might be having a seizure. If this seems to be happening, it's important to avoid your instinct to wake the dog up. Not only is this hard, but the dog may also wake up in a state of disorientation and fear, which could lead into an accidental, instinctive bite. The same applies to if your dog's twitching and whimpering makes it seem like it's having a nightmare. Yes, unfortunately dogs have nightmares, too. Truly, the world is a wicked place.