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Dogs and Dreaming: Why Does My Dog Growl In Her Sleep?

July 31st, 2009 16 comments

Lucy Growled in her Sleep Last Night

Not just once.  Lucy, our one-year-old Labrador Retriever mix dog, growled about four different times in her sleep.  And it was loud enough to awaken other members of the household.  But Lucy just kept on dreaming.

Do Dogs Dream?

Most animal behaviorists believe that dogs do indeed dream, although no one is really sure what they dream about. After all, they can’t just wake up and tell you about the rabbit they chased or the hole they dug or that great belly flop into the lake they took in their dreams.  But judging by their movements and actions during sleep, it is pretty easy to guess that dogs dream about their favorite activities.

Animal Behaviorists Believe Dogs Dream

Animal Behaviorists Believe Dogs Dream

If you watch your dog while she’s sleeping, you might see her running in place, legs and feet moving furiously back and forth for several minutes before she relaxes again.  She may move her face around and inhale sharply several times as though sniffing something.  She might let out a yelp or two, or even a howl.

Although I’ve seen both my dogs run in place and sleep-sniff, and have heard them “woof” and even howl in their sleep, I had never heard such persistent and repeated sleep-growling before.  What did it mean?

Why Dogs Growl

If dogs dream about their favorite activities, then maybe that means that growling is high on Lucy’s list of things to do.  Most people understandably associate a growling dog with an aggressive dog.  According to the writers of Dogspeak:  How to Understand Your Dog and Help Him Understand You, growling can be an “unmistakable warning sign” that tells humans and other dogs to “back off.”  Dogs may also growl when they’re frightened or defensive.

So why would the pooch I’ve dubbed Miss Happy-Pants because of her playful and loving disposition be growling so much in her dreams?  It seems there are other, less ominous reasons why dogs growl.  In fact, dogs often engage in play-growling.

How to Tell if Your Dog is Play-Growling

You can tell if your dog is play-growling largely by observing her body language.  If she is growling while she is playing, that is a pretty good indication that her growling is not aggressive.  An alert expression, a wagging tail, a play-bow stance, and a relaxed mouth are all indications that a dog is not growling to threaten or intimidate, but as an indication that she just wants to play.

Lucy and Frankie spend a great deal of time in the yard and in the house either tumbling all over each other or playing tug o’ war with tug toys or palm fronds or anything else they can get their mouths on.  When they’re really engaged in a game, they are also usually play-growling.

So I guess it only makes sense that, after a long day of play-fighting and the play-growling that goes with it,  little Miss Happy-Pants would spend her sleeping hours reliving those good times and growling her little happy pants off, so to speak.

Resource:  Matthew Hoffman (ed.), Dogspeak:  How to Understand Your Dog and Help Him Understand You.  Rodale 1999.

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Adopting a New Rescue Dog

July 17th, 2009 5 comments

Lucy

Meet Lucy, the new addition to our home.  We adopted Lucy through Animal Friends Society of Tampa in June 2009.  I call her Miss Happy-Pants because she never fails to wag her tail and appear genuinely thrilled when any of her new family members come into her orbit.  Lucy is a mixed-breed pooch who appears to have a hint of Chocolate Lab and a good bit of some sort of terrier in her.  She is about one-half Frankie’s size, weighing in at 40 pounds.  And at approximately a year old, she probably won’t get much bigger.

How We Came to Adopt Lucy

When Frankie passed the one-year mark, we started thinking he needed a canine companion.  Even though he was getting a three-mile walk every day and occasional outings such as trips to doggie day camp, it still didn’t seem to be enough.  There would be many evenings when his pent-up energy would just have to be expended, and he would race through the house at breakneck speed, narrowly missing household items we’d rather not have smashed by an 80-pound canine missile.  Having a furry friend around the house would help him burn off all that excess energy.  It was time to think about adopting a new dog.

Pet Adoption:  Rescue Dogs are the Best

We pondered our options, but there was really no question that our new dog would be a rescue dog like Frankie.  We believe that, for us at least, rescue dogs are the best.  There are a couple of reasons for this:

  • Rescue a dog and you’re saving a life. We rescued Frankie from the “mean streets” of Dayton, Tennessee in April 2008.  We were visiting my family at the farm there at about the same time someone decided it would be a good idea to just abandon a three-month-old puppy out in the country to fend for himself.  Fortunately, my niece took him in and fed him.  Then my husband and I decided to give him a permanent home.  I knew he would grow up to be a fine dog, and I was right.  Moreover, by bringing him into our home, I know we saved his life.
  • Getting a rescue dog means you’re not supporting puppy mills. A depressingly large number of pet stores sell dogs that come from puppy mills.  A puppy mill is a horrible, hopeless, miserable existence where dogs are crammed into cages and “fed and bred” until they die.  According to the Humane Society of the United States, “Adopting a dog instead of buying one is the surest way to strike a blow against puppy mills.”

Animal Friends Society

Animal Friends Society is an all-volunteer no-kill orgainzation dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and adoption of homeless, abused and abandoned animals.  They often hold adoption events at locations such as our local PetSmart.  Having considered the idea of adopting another dog, we decided to attend one of their adoption events, with Frankie in tow.  We looked at several dogs, including a couple of much younger puppies, before we spotted Lucy.

Although she is almost a solid dark brown, Lucy looks like a smaller version Frankie in practically every other way.  And from the moment she and Frankie met, it was clear that they would be instant best friends.  We spent several minutes observing the interaction between Frankie and Lucy and learning more about Lucy’s background.

Lucy’s Story

Lucy was abandoned and was found starving and terrified.  The kind man who found her could not get her to come to him at first.  But with patience, persistence and scraps of food, he was eventually able to lure her in.  He fed her and fattened her up and gave her the affection she had been missing.  Ultimately, though, he was unable to keep her so he turned her over to AFS.

The Pet Adoption Process

At AFS, Lucy was given a vet check-up and all her vaccinations.  She was also spayed.  The adoption process involves filling out an application form, which is fairly simple, but at the same time requests enough information to allow the AFS volunteers to assess the would-be adoptive family’s commitment to taking on the responsibilities of bringing a new pet into their lives.  Once the adoption application is approved, a tax-deductible fee of $150-200 for dogs is requested and your new pet can come home.

Frankie & Lucy 025Life with Lucy and Frankie

Lucy arrived home on June 17, 2009, and there hasn’t been a dull moment since.  She and Frankie are well-matched for temperament and energy.  They chase and tackle each other and generally tumble around in the back yard for several hours every day, burning all that healthy, youthful energy.  When they’re hot and tired, they come inside and cool off in the air conditioning and drink plenty of water.

Then, after they’ve rested a bit, they start all over again.  And they couldn’t be happier.  Frankie & Lucy Resting

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