Many say happiness is a sleeping puppy. It may be why 56% of people sleep with their pets.

But it may be strange and spooky waking up in the middle of the night and seeing your dog staring at you while asleep. 

Dog parents wonder why a dog sleeps with his eyes open. Even scientists have yet to determine the exact reason.

There are some hunches and theories about it. That's what we will discover as we go over!

Dog Sleeping with Eyes Open: But First, How Many Hours Do Dogs Sleep?

On average, most canines sleep around 12 to 14 hours daily. The length varies according to age, breed, and eating patterns.

Young puppies need a bit more sleeping time because they need to recoup after an exhausting play or training. Most of them slumber for 18 to 20 hours a day.

Several old fidos may need more sleep as they tire easily. But most slumber less because they are no longer as active as before.

Dog breed also impacts whether a canine sleeps a lot or not. A big hound, including a hunting or working type, sleeps less.

Some examples are Beagles, Boxers, and Great Danes. They need to be alert and awake longer to do specific tasks.

Fuzzy furballs like a Chihuahua, Poodle, or Pom have an on or off button. After a full-on play mode, they can fall asleep deeply after a blink of an eye.

They need a lot of energy to keep their tiny bodies active. That is why they tend to sleep longer.

Your canine's eating patterns also affect how long your dog falls asleep. If your fido eats once a day, he may take fewer naps.

If he eats twice a day, he tends to take more naps. He may also get to bed and wake up early.

dogs open eyes while sleeping

Is It Normal for Dogs to Sleep with Their Eyes Open?

Like humans, dogs usually sleep with their eyes closed. Such a statement was a fact, in contrast to what most of us think.

People sleep with the lower and upper eyelids close together. Canines often sleep like this, too. 

It is also a fact that some people sleep with their eyes open. Around 20% of humans do, including babies. The nerves on their face may prevent the eyelids from completely closing during sleep. 

So do dogs also sleep with their eyes open? Most times, it turns out to be an illusion!

It is because of a nictating membrane that many animals have. Amphibians, birds, canines, and reptiles have a third eyelid.

It makes the eye blink and rolls back. So, it seems to look that the eyeball is exposed. 

Why Do Dogs Sleep with Their Eyes Open?

It is common for us to see our furry friends sleeping with one or both eyes exposed. Usually, it is harmless. But it can also be due to a medical condition.

Below, we will give some facts and tips if you need to bring your furry friend to the vet.

dogs sleep with open eyes


What breed of dog sleep with its eyes open?

A few dog breeds cannot wholly shut their eyes. So, they sleep with their eyes partially open.

Canines with short faces, like an English bulldog or Shih Tzu, have shallow eye sockets. As such, they cannot control their facial muscles while asleep. 

Fidos with longer faces, like a Greyhound or Pug, have bulbous eyes. So, it prominently shows while asleep. 

Sleeping with eyes open is a natural reaction for hunter breeds such as Beagle or Great Danes. They must be on guard, ready for a hunt, or wary about intruders within short notice.


Do dogs dream?

A canine may sleep with eyes open if he is dreaming. Yes, dogs dream just like humans.

They react subconsciously to images they see in their dreams. Most of the time, they would shudder or twitch their legs. Others bark and turn awake.

What dogs dream about remains a mystery. It is hard to see what is inside the head because they don't speak like us.

They likely relive daily experiences and usual activities in their dream. For example, a sleeping dog may bark while dreaming about the cat next door.

Canines may have bad or good dreams. A fido making an exciting noise or paddling his leg is probably having a good fantasy. If he is crying or growling, it may be a nightmare.

In any way, it is best not to disturb your dreaming fido. You may be tempted to wake them up. But you may not want to risk them lashing out.

REM Sleep

Our furry friends mimic our sleeping pattern. The only difference is that canines have shorter sleep cycles than humans. There are two stages of sleep–NREM and REM. 

A canine starts with the Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) phase. It is also known as the short-wave or slow-wave sleeping stage.

During such a stage, breathing and heart rate are slow. It only lasts for ten minutes. 

NREM gives way to Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. It is a state of deep sleeping when your furry pal dreams.

During this stage, he may bark or twitch. The most common condition is his eyes partly opening. 

A lot of pet owners confuse REM sleep with a seizure. It is because your fido is unconscious and showing similar movements.

However, here are tips to distinguish a dog seizure from REM sleep:

  • A doggo under the REM sleep stage looks relaxed, with eyes half-opened.
  • A doggo having a relapse often has violent movement, with eyes fully open. 

Survival Instinct 

Open eyes while sleeping is a clever strategy for lots of species. The trick gives predators the illusion that they are not sleeping.

It also allows one part of the brain to rest while the other remains alert. However, it is still to be determined if either of these two strategies keeps the eyes of our canine open while asleep.

There is another theory based on evolution. Animals should guard their safety all the time.

So, they need to maintain a degree of situational awareness and try not to lose complete consciousness while asleep.

Birds can even fly while sleeping, as half of the brain is hibernating. Dogs have wide-eyed consciousness. They quickly wake up once stimulated. It is a survival instinct!

sleeping dogs with eyes open

Third Eyelid

Dog and human eyes have differences and similarities. A person with perfect eyesight has 20/20 vision.

Canine eyes see sharper at 20/75. It means he can see things 75 feet away.

However, some dogs have poor eyesight, as some people do. People can wear eyeglasses to see better, but dogs can't.

The human eye possesses three cones to identify blue, green, and red. A dog's eye only has two cones.

His dichromatic vision can only discern blue and yellow. It will be hard for your furry friend to see the color red.

Dogs sleeping with their eyes open is only an illusion. It is not the eyeball that we see. Instead, it is the third eyelid.

Yes, your fido has a third eyelid, a nictating membrane that sits behind the external eyelid. It blinks when its eyes are closed and retracts when its eyes are open.

Some animals, like birds, can control the nictating membrane of their eyes. But our furry friends cannot do that.

The third eyelid of a dog automatically reopens when its eye shuts. It seems to be unnatural. But it best explains why dogs sleep with their eyes open.

Medical Conditions

Several medical conditions rule out a canine sleeping with its eyes open. Your furry friend may have an eye disorder, a health issue, or a specific medical procedure.

Cherry Eye

The nictating membrane or third eyelid of a fido with a cherry eye may have fallen out of place.

It is a congenital eye abnormality common among beagles, bulldogs, and cocker spaniels. During such a condition, the membrane does not work correctly.

It keeps permanently open when a dog closes its eyes, creating an illusion of an eyeball.

A clear sign that your fido has cherry eye is swelling. The swollen membrane resembles a large cherry.

Cherry eye can lead to eye dryness, damaging your canine's vision. Surgery is the only cure for this eye disorder.

Researchers Discover a Better Treatment for Epilepsy in Dogs


Epilepsy is a seizure disorder among humans. Our furry friend can also suffer from the said disorder.

Epileptic dogs typically encounter mild seizures. These are called petit mal seizures.

During such an event, your canine friend might drool, shake, or tremble. He may lie on the floor with his eyes unfocused.

It gives the impression that your hound is asleep with his eyes open. Some dog breeds prone to epilepsy are:

A variety of dog medications can prevent epileptic seizures. The best thing a parent of an epileptic doggo can do is to baby-proof their homes to avoid injury during a relapse.


Insomnia means trouble falling asleep. For humans, it is commonly due to anxiety, depression, or stress.

When insomnia occurs among dogs, it may be a sign of another health issue.

A bad case of fleas, joint pains, or urinary tract infection may prevent your canine from sleeping.

Insufficient physical exercise and mental stimulation can also be triggers. Insomnia in dogs can lead to brain degeneration or cognitive dysfunction.

The cure for such a disorder is to treat the underlying cause.


Lagophthalmos is a physiological condition caused by paralysis of the facial nerves. Dogs with such a medical condition cannot close their upper and lower eyelids.

That is why they sleep like a hare, the meaning of the Greek word “Lagos.”

Your furry friend can be born with lagophthalmos, or it can also progress over time.

The disorder is most common among dog breeds like Lhasa Apsos, Pekingese, pugs, and Shih Tzus.

You should bring your fido with lagophthalmos for treatment because it can result in long-term damage. These include dry eyes, physical injury, or unprotected eyeballs.

A corrective method like shortening the eyelids or surgery can treat the abnormality.


Narcolepsy is a medical condition that affects our canine brain. It is the disability to control the sleep-wake cycle.

Narcoleptic episodes in a dog involve sudden collapse while physically active. After a few seconds or minutes, the dog abruptly wakes as if nothing happened.

A fido with narcolepsy sleep with eyes open. It is because his sleep is abnormal. It is a highly inherited disorder.

Dachshunds, Doberman Pinschers, Labradors, and Poodles are dog breeds that commonly inherit narcolepsy.

Narcolepsy is incurable though medications can reduce the frequency of its attacks.

Like epilepsy in humans, the best thing a parent of an epileptic doggo can do is to baby-proof their homes. It is to avoid injury during an attack.

What Your Dog's Sleeping Position Says About Him
Photo: barefootinfla1

REM Behavior Disorder

REM behavior disorder means violent dog reactions while in a dream. The effects may include barking, biting, chewing, growling, howling, or limb movements.

The worst scenario is a dog running into a wall or sleepwalking.

Our furry friend commonly dreams. It causes them to growl or twitch. But if the dream happens frequently and the reactions worsen, that is a REM behavior disorder.

Its primary causes are anxiety, dog medication, related illness, or stress.

REM behavior disorder also results in abnormal sleep. So, a fido with such a disorder sleep with eyes open.

Some medications can limit the attacks. But the actual cure is to treat the cause.

Sleep Apnea

Like humans, our fido can suffer from sleep apnea. For 10 to 20 seconds, he may be unable to breathe while sleeping.

The need for air will wake your fido up. It severely impacts his sleep cycle if the attacks persist.

The most common causes of sleep apnea in dogs are allergies and obesity. For some breeds, like flat-nose dogs, it may be due to obstructions in the airways.

English bulldogs and pugs are highly prone to such a disorder. Again, it disturbs the sleep-wake cycle, resulting in a dog sleeping with its eyes open.

Veterinarians often recommend stricter diet and exercise. It is to resolve obesity and prevent sleep apnea.

They may also prescribe medication or perform surgery to unblock the airway obstruction.

Treatment Under Anesthesia

Anesthesia is a medical treatment to prevent feeling pain, usually administered during surgery.

When your fido is under anesthesia, he may sleep with his eyes open. It is because he is in the REM sleep phase, characterized by the partly-open eyelids.

The medical condition is only temporary. Sedation can last up to 24 hours.

When to Be Worried About Dogs That Sleep with Their Eyes Open

Studies showed that 9 out of 10 dogs sleeping with eyes open are healthy. When your fido acts normal and happily wakes up, you do not need to worry. 

However, there are times when you should be concerned about your fido’s sleeping patterns. What you need to keep watch for are the following signs:

  • Your fido has trouble walking or looks disoriented
  • Your furry friend falls asleep at odd times and in strange places
  • The eyes appear red, inflamed, irritated, or swollen

If you see these signs and your dog is sleeping with eyes open, bring him to a vet ASAP.

Dog Sleep with His Eyes Open: Conclusion

There are many reasons why your dog sleeps with its eyes open. It may seem unusual and a little alarming at first.

However, it's common in dogs and shouldn't cause you to worry. Still, it pays to give extra attention to your dogs while they're sleeping.

If your dog sleeping with its eyes open is accompanied by quick sudden movements or alarming sounds, you might need to consult your vet.

It would also help if you regulate your dog's diet and exercise. That way, they can be healthy enough to have sound naps and bedtimes without you worrying about it as well.

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Chin has been working as a writer for more than a decade in various niches and now she's finally living the dream of writing something she's passionate about—dogs!