Rescue dog

Do Rescue Dogs Have Stress Nightmares?

Do dogs have horrible nightmares? How would they know that a nightmare is not real?

Bear had been making steady progress in acclimating to our home, until yesterday.

It started with breakfast. When Bear came to our home 2 months ago, he hated being crated. I believe dogs should not fear being crated because at some point in their lives, they may have a need to be crated for such as an injury that needs confinement to heal. Bear’s meals were in the crate, so he had learned to associate crate time with good things. My other dogs (and cats) rotate turns for naptime in the open crate. Bear still doesn’t choose to nap in the crate, but he is desensitized enough that he now willingly walks in for meals and patiently waits for me to let him out.

Yesterday, for the first time in weeks, he refused to go in the crate for his breakfast. He ducked away and sniffed at the bowl from the outside. When I finally convinced him to go in, he took a bite, then stood at the door to be let out. I sat next to the bowl, and he finally relaxed to eat.

I wondered if he had a nightmare. Did he dream that we did something hurtful to him? We have not, but his behavior indicates that he was traumatized by someone more than once, most likely when he was a stray. He’s terrified and runs outside at “click” sounds, like the ones made by a lighter. Loud noises don’t bother him, except for the pop like a balloon. He comes wagging his tail when I hold up a leash and stands still to be hooked up, but he shrinks backs and runs if I try to take hold of his collar without a leash in my hand.

Uncharacteristically, yesterday Bear spent most of the day in the yard by himself, not coming in until dark. Usually, he follows the other dogs in and out, adhering to their routine. The other three dogs are bonafide house pets (all former rescues). We frequently encouraged him to come in many times with treats, but when treat time was over, he retreated outside.

He is a typical 10-month-old chewer but has learned that anything in the doggie toy box is okay. He usually frequents that box several times a day, hauling several toys from the box to the middle of the living room. Yesterday, he didn’t touch the toys. When I picked up one of his favorites and held it up to, him he turned and ducked away. We have never hurt him when he chewed the wrong thing. A simple showing him the toy and saying “no” and immediately handing him a dog toy, with a “good dog” praise, has taught him which toys are his without trauma.

The only difference between yesterday and the day before that was, what to me, was a calm night. I can only imagine the pupper saw his new home in a dark dream. One of those dreams where your worst fears come true, but regardless, when you awaken and see you are safe, the fear lingers. My heart aches for him. He is such a sweet and normally happy go lucky dog. I am confident that he will eventually trade bad dreams for good. Until then, his mom’s heart hurts when he does.

I know Truman’s calm and comforting nature will help heal Bear’s doggie soul.

A Siamese cat and a black labrador type dog on plush beds under a table.
Bear and Sealy under the “man-table”