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article by Pam Watson

Why Do Dogs Sleep with Their Eyes Open?

Most of the studies quote that dogs do have a pattern of sleeping in a peculiar way. And if you are curious about why that happens to your dogs, too, we shall address it here! In all, they might exhibit this behavior for a number of reasons. 

And now that your interest might be ignited and you would want to investigate the chronology behind this, let’s explore why do dogs sleep with their eyes open. Time to begin!

Top Reasons Why Dogs Sleep With Their Eyes Open 

There can be a number of reasons for a dog to sleep with its eyes open:

1. Your dog does not appear to be completely asleep.

The likely situation is that your dog is only dozing off partially, and this is something you should keep an eye on. Dogs go through a period of deep relaxation but only light dozing during the beginning sleeping stages. 

During this period, the individual may be so relaxed that they appear to be sleeping; however, their eyes remain partially open because they have not yet completely lost consciousness.

When stimulated, these dogs typically return to their normal level of awareness very quickly. It is common practice to simply whisper the person's name to them in order to bring them back to a lot of consciousness and stability. 

2. Dogs have a natural inclination to maintain their alert state while resting.

This theory explains why dogs behave this way and how it is connected to the history of evolution. Many dogs get comfortable with "keeping an eye out" on everything that goes around them. 

It is also possible that even when you pamper your pet, their instinct to guard your family isn’t satisfied. And owing to this, subconsciously, they try to guard you. 

3. Your dog might have an eye disease.

Health conditions are another category of why dogs might face the issue of keeping their eyes open. 

Some dogs have a genetic propensity for eye or eyelid issues that make it difficult or impossible to allow dogs to close their eyes normally. 

Dogs with brief, smushed-in faces like Pugs and Boston Terriers and dogs with large eyes are more likely to suffer from this category of disorders. 

It's possible that the lids of the eyes of certain breeds, which are characterised by unusually large, protruding eyes, are abnormally small.

4. Narcoleptic dogs typically sleep with their eyes open.

It is possible that your dog has narcolepsy if it falls asleep at inopportune times, such as when consuming food to eat or even when having an urge to go to the toilet. In the vast majority of instances, this condition is not subtle, and you should visit your veterinarian as soon as possible.


What Are The Other Conditions Your Dog Sleeps With His Eyes Open?

Let’s discuss the perplexing reasons why dogs sleep with their eyes open, thus shedding light on the mysteries surrounding this peculiar behavior.

1. They are only imagining things

REM sleep, also called rapid eye movement sleep (REM), can also occur in dogs, just as it does in humans. There is a possibility that your dog will have vivid dreams while it is in this stage of the sleep cycle. 

Along with their eyes being open, you will probably also observe other behaviors, such as jerking and twitching actions, vocalisation, and running while they are asleep.

2. They're getting old

As they age, many dogs sleep with their eyes open just like humans do. This can be caused by an alteration in the position of the pupil if your dog has less body fat as they get older, but it is also prevalent if they are blind or have some related to age sight loss. 

3. They are in a new environment 

Dogs can become nervous and sleep with open eyes in unfamiliar environments. By keeping their eyes open while sleeping, they try to react to any threats possible. 

4. They have acquired this behavior through experiential learning

Dogs may, on very rare occasions, develop the habit of sleeping with their eyes open if they are regularly subjected to conditions in which they are required to maintain a state of heightened awareness or if they are taught to do so. 

This is a learned behavior that, with enough repetition, can turn into a habit, even if the original motivation for maintaining vigilance is no longer present.

Should I Worry If My Dog Sleeps With Its Eyes Open?

It is completely typical for dogs to sleep with their eyes open or even half open, to tug and "run" to their sleeping place. The majority of the time, dogs sleep with their mouths open as well.  

There should probably be nothing to worry about if your dog can wake up soon and looks to be performing normally when they do.

In circumstances like these, you should feel free to let your dog sleep even if you notice that they are dreaming with their eyes open. After all, nobody likes to have their peace and quiet disturbed during a nice, relaxing nap, isn't that right?

Get your dog to the veterinarian as soon as you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • When your dog finally does get up, they do not appear normal; they have difficulty getting up, fall over, or seem disoriented (it is possible that they suffered a seizure).
  • Your dog is dozing off in the strangest of places and at the most inconvenient of times, such as while he is having fun outside.
  • If your dog's eyes appear red, annoyed or inflamed, or if your dog has a high level of discharge, or if your dog is squinting, then your dog may have an eye infection.

Take your dog to the doctor if you notice any of the following:

  • When your dog finally gets up, they don't seem like they should—they have problems walking, trip over things, or appear confused.
  • Your dog is dozing off in unexpected locations and circumstances, such as while playing outside.
  • Your dog is gazing at things, or your dog's eyes are red, irritated, or inflamed, or have an unusual quantity of discharge.

Pros Of Your Dog Sleeping With Its Open

For many dogs, sleeping with their eyes open is a smart way to survive. In some cases, it allows them to use a portion of their brain while the other rests to stay vigilant for predators and other threats. Other times, it merely deceives predators into believing they are still vigilant! Since there aren't many predator species that target dogs in the wild, the exact reason why dogs sleep with their eyes open is unknown. But one or both of these benefits might be partially to blame.


What Can Make My Dog Sleep Peacefully?

All dogs, regardless of age, value our care and support, especially when they are struggling with health problems. Here are three quick ways to make a dog feel safe and sleep soundly:

  • Bringing some company to him:

Most dogs feel safer and at ease when they are with a companion. Why not allow him to share your or another family member's bed? Or a different pet that he enjoys? You could also provide him with toys or treats to keep him occupied and content.

  • Keeping the space quiet and dark:

Dogs who have trouble seeing might fall asleep better in a quiet, dark room, and free from distractions. Use blinds or curtains to block out sources of light that might irritate his eyes.

  • Providing a warm bed:

In general, older dogs require a little more comfort. A cosy, warm bed which helps your dog's joints and muscles might be appreciated. He could be made even cosier by adding blankets or pillows.


    Dogs' behavior in sleeping with their eyes open is fascinating and stems from their innate evolutionary tendencies. Dogs acquired the need to be alert and cognizant of their surroundings from wolves, which is why a few of them occasionally fall asleep with their eyes open. Additionally, because of their strong bond with us, they often sleep on our pillows while we are away, where they find comfort and security. The next time you see your dog sleeping with their eyes wide open, remember its unique character and the intriguing causes of this peculiar behavior.


    Frequently Asked Questions

    Does keeping eyes open while sleeping indicate that my dog isn't getting enough rest?

    No, not always. Dogs have various sleeping habits, so sleeping with open eyes is not always a sign of inadequate rest. Even with their eyes open, they can still get a good night's sleep and rest.

    Does sleeping with their eyes open pose any health risks for dogs?

    In general, dogs lying with their eyes open don't pose any particular health risks. However, a veterinarian should be consulted for excessive eye dryness or annoyance.

    Can dogs who sleep with their eyes open, see and dream?

    Yes, dogs who sleep with their eyes open can see and dream. Regardless of eye position, their brain action suggests they go through similar dreams to humans.

    If my dog sleeps with its eyes open, can I close them?

    If your dog sleeps with their eyes open, you shouldn't close them. Forcibly shutting their eyes can be uncomfortable and interfere with their sleep cycles.

    Can a dog be trained to stop sleeping with their eyes open?

    The habit of sleeping with one's eyes open is typically ingrained in dogs and is difficult to break. However, treating any underlying medical issues may make it unnecessary for the eyes to be open while sleeping.

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