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Canine Behavior/Nightmares?


Hi Melissa, I've had my very happy, bouncy, loving Pekingese, Beethoven, his entire life--13 years in December. He has been neutered. As I said, he's a happy dog who has never before displayed any neurotic or anxious behavior. However he is getting older, so I've prepared myself for the possibility that this may change. The past couple of weeks he has been waking suddenly and violently from sleep, looking absolutely terrified, then searching for me (for comfort, I assume). The way he jumps up reminds me of when people wake up from a terrible nightmare. I know dogs dream and I'm sure they also have nightmares, I've just never seen a dog wake up so violently and look so scared. It's especially troubling because it only started two weeks ago and happens at least once a day, if not five or six. I don't want him to have scary dreams of course, but even moreso, I don't want him to be suffering from some sort of anxiety disorder and I definitely don't want that anxiety to be having a negative effect on his little heart. Any insight you could give would be very helpful. Thank you!

It's highly possible for him to be having bad dreams. What I'm curious about is if anything happended during this timeframe that could have lead to this. What I also want to find out since he seems to be searching for you; how are you handling it when he acts like this?

Worse case scenario, you can take him to a neurologist to make sure his mentality isn't changing. But I would definitely stay calm and almost ignore him when he wakes from these as if you're acting freaked out and instantly agitated and worrisome, he is going to think there is a reason to freak out and potentially make him worse than is he really is.

I hope this sheds some insight for you, but keep me posted on the little guy.  

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Melissa Burg, RVT/Behavior Consultant


I have experience with multiple obedience issues, including anxiety, different types of aggression, introductions to a new pet and basic obedience situations, such as housebreaking, excessive leash pulling and excessive barking. There are several approaches to each behavior issue, depending on the animal's environment, as well as the breed, sex and age. I can also help you decide whether the problem sounds medical or behavioral.


I recently graduated with a Veterinary Technician degree with an emphasis in behavior and obedience training. I spent 5 years working in animal shelters where I trained shelter dogs in basic obedience and corrected behavior issues and educated adopting owners how to continue the training at home.

"Pawfect Pets;" a weekly column on canine and feline health and behavior tips.

Associate's Degree in Veterinary Technology from Des Moines Area Community College in Ankeny, Iowa.

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