chasing imaginary bunnies
March 13, 2008 12:17 AM   Subscribe

Why does my dog giggle in his sleep?

When my 2.5 yr old JRT, Lyle, sleeps, he occasionally makes a sound that is somewhere between a giggle and a whine. He's never made this sound while awake, and it's mostly during a light sleep/nap rather than deep nighttime sleep. I find it somewhat adorable, so I'm hoping it's a sign of delight rather than torment for him. Google doesn't reveal much on the subject of dog dream capacity. Any thoughts? Research? Anecdotal evidence?
posted by judith to Pets & Animals (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My dog does that. I always think she's dreaming that she's calling other dogs to run on the beach with her -- her legs usually start to wiggle right afterwards.
posted by miss lynnster at 12:29 AM on March 13, 2008

Maybe he heard a funny joke earlier that day. Or he's dreaming about chasing his tail.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:33 AM on March 13, 2008

My smallest dog (half rat terrier/half toy poodle). Sometimes it's accompanied by a panting sound. At first I was scared that she was having trouble breathing, but then I realized that she was simply dreaming.

I'm hoping it's a sign of delight rather than torment for him.

It can't be a sign of torment, because my other dog (a rat terrier/beagle mix, who is very protective of the little one) has witnessed the sleeping behavior and doesn't show any signs of concern over it.
posted by amyms at 12:36 AM on March 13, 2008

oops, that was supposed to say: My smallest dog (half rat terrier/half toy poodle" does that too.
posted by amyms at 12:37 AM on March 13, 2008

Just as humans make odd sounds during sleep that aren't quite words, dogs (and cats) do the same.

Also, this thread is useless without a YouTube link.
posted by essexjan at 1:01 AM on March 13, 2008

Yeah, our Bichon does this too, generally while wiggling his back legs too. Sort of endearing to watch, really.
posted by Quidam at 1:07 AM on March 13, 2008

It's associated with REM sleep - all mammals have a REM sleep cycle, and sometimes react to their dreams.

My cat makes little chattering and snerting noises when she is deeply asleep. I don't know whether the dreams are good or bad. I imagine if they were bad they would startle her awake, as a human nightmare would one of us.
posted by louche mustachio at 3:30 AM on March 13, 2008

He's dreaming about your failure to shoot the ducks.
posted by Faint of Butt at 3:38 AM on March 13, 2008 [18 favorites]

2nding essexjax: Please post audio/video of your dog doing this so that we can make a better educated determination. (but also so that you can share the lulz.)
posted by numinous at 4:18 AM on March 13, 2008

Our beagle does this too (also with wiggly legs), and we actually call it "chasing bunnies." So I vote for happy dreams.
posted by somanyamys at 4:56 AM on March 13, 2008

We call it "chasing bunnies", too. Sometimes we even whisper "get the bunny!" to the sleeping pup. It never makes any difference in the appearance of the dreamer, but the people in the room get a giggle.
posted by toastedbeagle at 6:48 AM on March 13, 2008

nthing happy dreams: In addition to weird little sleep-only sounds, ours also "chuffs" - he snorts and blows out little puffs of air, making his lips flap - which of course is hilarious.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:50 AM on March 13, 2008

My dogs do this too and it has always seemed to me like that are barking or otherwise vocalizing in their dreams, and that some of this comes through in their physical activity, just like the way their paws move a little or they twitch while sleeping sometimes as well. They always seem to be having a good time.
posted by iknowizbirfmark at 7:07 AM on March 13, 2008

Our dog makes the oddest little sounds in her sleep on occasion--almost like a hiccough crossed with a tiny yip. It's not a sound she makes while awake. It's quite strange to hear from under the covers, especially since at 6.5 pounds, she doesn't make a big lump under the blanket, so she's basically invisible. My husband has been known to wake her up if he thinks she's having a bad dream.

Common wisdom says that when all four paws are twitching, she's dreaming of running through a grassy field on a summer day, chasing rabbits. Or so we'd like to think...

I will now be checking YouTube for sleeping and dreaming dogs.
posted by Savannah at 7:16 AM on March 13, 2008

Of course my dog does this too, but I'm pretty sure the rabbits she's chasing are mechanical. She's a greyhound.
posted by nev at 7:35 AM on March 13, 2008

The famous work on this subject has been in cats, not dogs, by Michel Jouvet. Cats with lesions preventing sleep paralysis act out their dreams, and they are in fact chasing, stalking and engaging in other kinds of prey-related behavior.
posted by nev at 7:42 AM on March 13, 2008 [3 favorites]

My cat and my fiance both do it, too. I believe they are both chasing bunnies.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 7:49 AM on March 13, 2008 [5 favorites]

Odd, our beagle never does this, but our lab does all the time. The beagle however will full on howl in her sleep - sometimes the howling wakes her up, she look around confused then go back to sleep. Othertimes she'll howl once or twice and continue sleeping without even opening her eyes.

The lab's bunny chasing is *much* more endearing.
posted by nobeagle at 8:16 AM on March 13, 2008

Green Eyed Monster: "My cat and my fiance both do it, too. I believe they are both chasing bunnies."

Wow, I did not know I did this.
posted by notsnot at 9:36 AM on March 14, 2008

I think it's not just limited to dogs., My parrot literally giggles -- as in, in imitation of our voices -- and sometimes gibbers softly in his sleep. It's really cute. I figure he's just having a dream.
posted by Nattie at 6:58 AM on April 9, 2008

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