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Sleep-Barking


Guest MurphysMom
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Guest MurphysMom

Just to start off, ever since we adopted Murphy about five weeks ago, she has been a bit of a sleep-talker. And I'm not talking the occasional sleep-whining. She kind of mumbles, and whistles through her teeth, and puffs out her cheeks and makes this odd high pitched "flub-bub-bububub" noise while she twitches and kicks and wags her tail. She was even kicking the sides of her crate in her sleep and waking herself up. She's never been one to sleep startle, though. Before we adopted her I read up on sleep startle, and sleep space aggression, and knew to call her name before patting her. She's an unbelievably affectionate doggie; definitely a velcro-dog! She's chattering like crazy, loves to lean all over anyone who comes in the house, and has never minded receiving neck or bum scritchies while laying down.

 

After the first few weeks we started letting her sleep in our bed. We have a king sized bed and so there's plenty of room. She knows she needs permission to be up there, and always sleeps at the foot of the bed. However, twice (once early Saturday morning and once last night) she's barked, and I *think* she was asleep when she did it. It was just one bark each time, VERY loud, and scared the crap out of us.

 

The first time I woke up because she was twitching in her sleep (she was facing away from me at the foot of the bed) and I heard her growl long and low (still sleep-twitching) and then she barked (still laying down) and then her head popped up as if she was confused and had woken herself up. I said "Murphy?" and heard her tail go thump-thump and then she sighed and went back to sleep.

 

The second time I was moving my legs out of the covers (our house was warm and that's what woke me) and Murphy barked once, very loud. I wasn't near her, so I'm not sure if my legs moving startled her, but I'm almost certain she was already asleep. She didn't spin and look at me or my legs, but her head popped up again like she startled herself awake. Of course, I said "Murphy?" and she turned and looked at me, thumped her tail, and flopped over and went back to sleep.

 

(Sorry for my little novel there)

 

So my questions are, what does sleep-startle or sleep space aggression actually look like? She never ever barks during the day (this was the first time I'd ever heard her bark at all) and never startles when we approach her while she naps. Am I overthinking or is this likely a sleep-startle? Should I rethink allowing her up on the bed? Or is she possibly sleep-barking as it appears she's quite the vivid little dreamer?

 

Thanks for taking the time to answer the bajillion questions I've posted on this forum recently :flip

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We've had one space aggressive boy and after having him for 4.5 years, he got a little better but was never really "cured" from it. We knew from the beginning, he did not want us, or the other grey we already had, in his space. He didn't want to be on the couch with us, or in bed with us, he didn't want us lying on his bed or even to sit next to him while he slept. He snapped at all of us, a few times. Because of this, his most dangerous time was when he was sleeping - as that would always bring out a snap from him. We gave him a wide berth and always woke him before touching him. He got better with time, but he was never a snuggly dog (unless he was standing up). He almost always slept in another room (his choice) at night.

 

This is really different than our sleep startle dog. The boy we just lost would, occasionally, get touchy when woken from a deep sleep. Not every time - but once in a while. He loved to cuddle, wanted to sleep with us, get on the couch with us, be in the same room, etc. We thought this meant he was super snuggly like our girl - but my husband fell asleep with him on the floor one night and he rolled over and must've jostled him - it woke our boy from a deep sleep and we got a big bark and a snap (no bite). That could very well be what you experienced.

 

That said, it could also be that she was simply dreaming. All of our greys have had vocal dreams at one time or another, and that includes loud barks (which normally wakes them, and us, up).

 

Definitely look out for danger signs - we called our boy's warning his "crazy eyes" - wide open or looking at us sideways, always alert, signs of stress, wouldn't relax, etc. - that's when we knew he didn't want people around. After years with him, he would allow us to sit next to him and pet him and he'd fall asleep, but we'd typically quit petting him & leave at that point because he was so prone to snapping when sleeping deeply. We always wanted to end the experience on a positive note.

 

To me, this doesn't sound like space aggression because, in my experience, it would happen all the time - or at least - your dog would be on full alert all the time.

Edited by Sundrop
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Your description sounds like a sleep-barker to me. We have one dog that does this and sometimes wakes herself up (with the same confused looking around as if she doesn't know where the barking sound came from), but usually we just call her name to wake her up so she will settle again.

 

Monty, however, doesn't sleep-bark: he sleep-growls! And holy mackerel, does he sound ferocious when he does. I have never once heard him growl when he is awake, either, and we have had him over 7 years. He has absolutely no sleep startle, no possessiveness or defensiveness when sleeping, and is a completely mellow dog. I heard him snarl at our other dog twice, when she decided to lie directly on his legs, but he didn't offer any other angry signals other than the snarl and getting up and tossing her off that way. Not even an air snap.

 

I would always try to be aware of her as you have been, but not automatically assume that she is doing anything other than being startled and having it come out in a bark, or just dreaming and barking herself awake. Having you calmly alerting her to your presence seems like a good approach, so she may learn not to startle so much when you move. Although, if it would make you feel better, you could try waking her up before extracting yourself, so she is warned and awake and doesn't startle at all. At least for a time.

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So I guess I'm confused about how a person would differentiate "sleep barking" versus "sleep startle".

 

If we let Bella sleep on our bed, she definitely sleep startles if she gets nudged. It usually starts as a growl and then is a full-fledged bark, maybe with a snap, and it takes her a few seconds to really wake up and realize where she is and what's going on. She's bitten each of us (not hard enough to break the skin - it was just a piece of us that happened to be near that snap) so we don't let her sleep on our bed anymore for everyone's safety. We have also seen a similar reaction if she is sleeping hard enough on her bed or in her crate and is startled by a noise or someone getting close.

 

She loves to snuggle and is not the least bit space aggressive, and has never been aggressive in any other way.

Dave (GLS DeviousDavid) - 6/27/18
Gracie (AMF Saying Grace) - 10/21/12
Bella (KT Britta) - 4/29/05 to 2/13/20

 

 

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If we let Bella sleep on our bed, she definitely sleep startles if she gets nudged. It usually starts as a growl and then is a full-fledged bark, maybe with a snap, and it takes her a few seconds to really wake up and realize where she is and what's going on.

 

Same with Henry. It took him a few weeks/months (I can't remember), before he got confident enough to vocalize it. But once he did, he had no problem telling us he's uncomfortable with being disturbed/jostled when he's sleeping. He gets up on the bed when we're not home, but at night, he sleeps on his own bed.

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Guest MurphysMom

So I guess I'm confused about how a person would differentiate "sleep barking" versus "sleep startle".

That! That's what I wanted to ask but I didn't word it well at all.

 

Our Murphy is a cuddler too :) She fell asleep in my lap once.. well, as in my lap as a greyhound can get... and teeth-chattered off and on in her sleep for a half hour.

 

When she barked it didn't seem aimed at any one thing in particular, but if it happens again I'll try to pay more attention to it, and definitely call her name before interacting with her, to check if she's awake.

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Sounds to me like vivid dreams, as mentioned above. Since Murphy doesn't turn toward/at you or air snap, I would assume it's not sleep startle, though of course continuing to monitor him is advisable.

 

Annie whines and yips and softly barks in her sleep. It's usually accompanied by her legs moving. She also does a soft whistle when she breaths in a certain way that makes her cheeks do the flub-flub thing. She does not have sleep startle at all, though out of respect for her, I do not just walk up to her and pet her without warning her I'm coming.

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Kasey has scared the crap out of me before with a bark out of no where when fast asleep, and to be honest I think he scared the crap out of himself. He has also been awoken by something and starting barking and chuffing when getting up from lying down to go investigate the house. So I think he's had a very real (to him) dream.

 

Ryder is a very very verbal and physical dreamer. He runs and wags and chuffs and huffs and puffs and barks and growls. I also mark that down as a dreaming but he's also a sleep barker.

 

I however cannot really help you discern the difference between sleep startle/aggression as both of my boys have never been that way with me. They readily accept touch and contact while sleeping, and I'm so lucky and thankful for that, since the bed is too cramped to not suddenly scare them at some point in time.

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10 year old "Ryder" CR Redman Gotcha May 2010
12.5 year old Angel "Kasey" Goodbye Kasey Gotcha July 2005-Aug 1, 2015

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We've had one space aggressive boy and after having him for 4.5 years, he got a little better but was never really "cured" from it. We knew from the beginning, he did not want us, or the other grey we already had, in his space. He didn't want to be on the couch with us, or in bed with us, he didn't want us lying on his bed or even to sit next to him while he slept. He snapped at all of us, a few times. Because of this, his most dangerous time was when he was sleeping - as that would always bring out a snap from him. We gave him a wide berth and always woke him before touching him. He got better with time, but he was never a snuggly dog (unless he was standing up). He almost always slept in another room (his choice) at night.

 

This is really different than our sleep startle dog. The boy we just lost would, occasionally, get touchy when woken from a deep sleep. Not every time - but once in a while. He loved to cuddle, wanted to sleep with us, get on the couch with us, be in the same room, etc. We thought this meant he was super snuggly like our girl - but my husband fell asleep with him on the floor one night and he rolled over and must've jostled him - it woke our boy from a deep sleep and we got a big bark and a snap (no bite). That could very well be what you experienced.

 

That said, it could also be that she was simply dreaming. All of our greys have had vocal dreams at one time or another, and that includes loud barks (which normally wakes them, and us, up).

 

Definitely look out for danger signs - we called our boy's warning his "crazy eyes" - wide open or looking at us sideways, always alert, signs of stress, wouldn't relax, etc. - that's when we knew he didn't want people around. After years with him, he would allow us to sit next to him and pet him and he'd fall asleep, but we'd typically quit petting him & leave at that point because he was so prone to snapping when sleeping deeply. We always wanted to end the experience on a positive note.

 

To me, this doesn't sound like space aggression because, in my experience, it would happen all the time - or at least - your dog would be on full alert all the time.

 

you just described our Larry to a "T", with the exception of sleeping in another room -- he sleeps on a Slumber Ball about 2 feet from Bruce's side, and Zeke we ended up putting his bed in a (large) X pen, to keep him safe from Larry (didn't want him stumbling into him during the night). After having two super-snuggly pups in bed with us (Rainey and Nube) it's been an adjustment with Larry over the years. Like you, we respect his needs and work with him to keep everyone happy and safe.

Kim and Bruce - with Rick (Rick Roufus 6/30/16) and missing my sweet greyhound Angels Rainey (LG's Rainey 10/4/2000 - 3/8/2011), Anubis (RJ's Saint Nick 12/25/2001 - 9/12/12) and Zeke (Hey Who Whiz It 4/6/2009 - 7/20/2020) and Larry (PTL Laroach 2/24/2007 - 8/2/2020) -- and Chester (Lab) (8/31/1990 - 5/3/2005), Captain (Schipperke) (10/12/1992 - 6/13/2005) and Remy (GSP) (?/?/1998 - 1/6/2005) at the bridge
"Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut." -- Ernest Hemmingway

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I think it's sleep barking and not startling. Walter had very vivid and loud dreams the first year I had him. These have decreased over time. He only slept on my bed once or twice when he was really cold and when I moved, he got upset and hopped off the bed. I wouldn't worry about it but I would continue monitoring.

 

Ernie doesn't have very loud dreams and doesn't sleep on or near me.

7218108076_e406044464_t.jpg 7004700518_27fa752995_t.jpg Walter (Windy Walker) and Ernie (PG Ernest) @WalterWallerson and IG: WalterandErnie 7150803233_d0700ccbdc_t.jpg 7004711314_ceba54665a_t.jpg

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I've had sleep barkers (more often sleep woofers) and have a nice scar from a sleep startler. In my experience barking/woofing in dreams (a lot of times accompanied by sleep running) doesn't necessarily mean sleep startle or aggression. I honestly think it is the dead solid out sleepers that are more of a threat...but what do I know?

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my bridge girl, millie, only barked once in her 13 years that i know of. 2 a.m. she suddenly stood up on our bed where she had been asleep. barked very loud once, and laid down & went back to sleep.

 

poppy, my saluki lurcher runs in her sleep, giveing little quiet sleep barks & yaps. i assume she's chasing birds and cats. she's never agressive, no matter what you do to her, asleep or awake. she will bark if you get her excited enough playing outside. she has never barked indoors tho.

 

(unless you are a border collie. she hates all of them for some reason.)

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Well, George had sleep startle, and there was no mistaking it. My sweet gentle dog would turn into a fairly terrifying beast and lunge at me with his teeth barred. Nothing at all like sleep barking (dreaming).


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Susan,  Hamish,  Mister Bigglesworth and Nikita Stanislav. Missing Ming, George, and Buck

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I differentiate between "sleep startle" and "sleep barking" as this: sleep startle are those dogs who have snapped/bitten/barked/growled when you wake them unexpectedly from a deep sleep either by jostling them, touching them, etc. Sleep barking is when they bark in their sleep - or growl, roo, etc. - but all done while sleeping/dreaming. Big difference.

 

And of course, both are very different than flat-out space aggressive dogs - they do not want you in their space awake or asleep. Our first boy snapped while awake and asleep if you invaded his space and rarely relaxed if anyone or any dog was too close. As he learned to trust us more, he got better and he had his moments when he'd even let my husband lie down with him, and even sometimes he'd relax for 20-30 minutes if we put him in bed with us (at our feet) - but he'd always jump down from the bed. He just wanted to be alone when lying down. Plain & simple.

Edited by Sundrop
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Guest MurphysMom

Thanks you guys! This is all wonderful and helpful information! I think I would have to agree that it must be sleep-barking. I'd never heard a dog do it before, and since Murphy is a cuddler and is never bothered when we enter her space, awake or asleep, I guess she must be having vivid dreams.

 

Off topic but had to share - yesterday I got to see some of that hysterical greyhound playfulness for the first time: the bum in the air, the head thrown back with the tongue lolling out, the crazy eyes, and the hilarious front feet-stamping accompanied by tail-wagging in small circles around me in the yard :lol I'm pretty sure the whole neighborhood heard me laugh. It's fun to watch them come out of their shells! No barking last night, though, just a lot of cover hogging from the hound and a few "flub bub bub" sounds. :wub:

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All three of my dogs bark and growl in their sleep. It is not sleep startle as they are sound asleep when it happens. I call their names or tap them to wake them up so they stop! They are just having vivid dreams. Sleep startle is more aggression. They are frightened awake and are angry because of it. All three of my greys sleep with me. No one has hurt me but they ALL do that. The one that would have done it didn't want anyone else to sleep with her. She did this too though. Don't worry about it. She is just dreaming!:)

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Every dog that's come through our house has "talked" in his or her sleep and that's what it sounds like Murphy is doing. My sleep aggressive dogs (5 out of 9) all have reacted to stimuli by lunging upward while growling and sometimes snapping. They get this look on their faces somewhere between anger and fear and they appear not to know where they are or what's going on for a few seconds. In those few seconds you could be badly bitten if you were within range though. After a moment they're fine. We give everyone a wide berth while they are asleep, even the non-reactive ones, because there's a first time for everything. An acquaintance ended up with stitches from his ear to his chin after the hound he had been sleeping with for 6 years bit him when he accidentally rolled over on her so it can happen even with a normally non-reactive dog if you unwittingly find the magic button that triggers a response.

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  • 3 weeks later...
Guest Memphsmom

Our Memphis is very sleep aggressive, we have 3 beds in almost every room in the house for all our dogs, except the guest room, the only "dog bed" in the guest room is Memphis's crate. We try to give him someplace safe and quiet to go to when things get a little overwhelming. When he sleep startles, he looks like a mad dog from hell so I'm pretty sure he is not just having dreams. Funny thing is he never sleeps in our room like the rest of the dogs unless my husband is out of town, then he will bed down in his bed on the floor. Pretty sure my husbands snoring is the cause of the startles at night. Memphis rarely "talks" in his sleep, maybe he wakes himself up with all that noise

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Both of our greys have vivid dream phases in their sleep where they bark, whimper huff and puff and often move their legs like they are running and sometimes wag their tails. They both do it whether they are on their own bed or sleeping with us. It used to freak me out a bit, but now it kind of fascinates me. I wish I knew what they were dreaming about.

Theresa (Tess)

Mom to Elliott (Sol Flasher) and Lea (PTL Lea)

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