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What Do Dogs Dream About?

A pet lover passionate about educating readers about animal health and care. Love reading studies and recent research.
Published on
Saturday 13 August 2022
Last updated on
Tuesday 9 May 2023
What Do Dogs Dream About?
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Have you ever wondered what dogs dream about at night? These canine friends love playing and engaging in daily activities, so they often sleep when they feel tired. They also have regular naps and rest hours, and when they doze off, they can have dreams just like we do.

As canines dream, it intrigues their pet owners what appears in their dog dreams. Do they think of treats or frisbees? Here’s a helpful guide for you!

Do Dogs Dream?

Dogs and other animals experience several sleep cycles like humans. These cycles include Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement. REM sleep is where brain activity increases, enabling these species to have vivid and intense dreams.

Research published in the Physiological Behavior Journal monitored six dogs’ activities over 24 hours. They found that these dogs spend 44% of their time on activities, 23% on non-REM sleep, 21% being sleepy, and 12% on REM sleep. Since this research proved that dogs undergo REM sleep, other researchers looked for answers to do dogs dream whenever they are in this state.

Professor Matthew Wilson and Professor Kenway Louie of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) examined the neurons and brain activity of the rat hippocampus. They made rats spend all day running in a maze. Wilson and Louie looked into their brain activity when these animals fell into REM sleep. 

The researchers found that the same areas of the rats’ brains lit up, which means they were likely to dream about the maze they ran on during the day. They even found out which part of the maze these rats were dreaming of at the time, so Wilson and Louie concluded that animals also dream and remember activities when asleep. 

If you are asking do dogs have dreams, they do. Their brain processes the sequences of events, creating visual images and scenarios whenever they doze off at night. 

What Do Dogs Dream About?

Researchers and scientists also tried to find answers to the question of what dogs dream of during their REM sleep. One way to discover dogs’ dreams is by disabling their pons. This part of the brainstem sends signals to the muscles to abstain someone from acting out dream motions.

Michel Jouvet conducted a sleep research study on cats to understand pons further. He found that a cat performs actions while asleep once it’s no longer inhibited by pons to move during the REM cycle. It creates gestures in its ears, eyes, or paws, which indicates that its dream involves the movement of these body parts.

Dr. Deidre Barrett, a Clinical and Evolutionary Psychologist from Harvard Medical School, supported this idea and stated that dogs also act out their dreams by twitching and making movements. They can move their legs in a running motion, which signifies that they are dreaming of themselves running.

Dogs can dream of daily activities, such as playing, going on a walk in the park, chasing birds, and rolling on the floor. Since they spend most of their time with their owners, they also dream of their fur parents’ faces and scents. Moreover, dogs sleep to absorb, process, interpret, and retain lessons and commands through their dreams.

In line with this, Professor Matthew Wilson explained that dogs’ dreams come from real-life experiences. These dreams can be a collection of their memories and experiences. It can also create new scenes, highlight events, and trace meaningful points.

Do Dogs Dream Similar to Humans?

Dogs’ brain structures are similar to humans’ despite the size difference. Dr. Gary Richter also says that both have identical brain wave patterns and cycles of electrical activities. In this case, experts conclude that our furry friends dream like us. We process sequences of events from daily activities in our sleep. 

Even though humans and dogs have similarities, canines have shorter sleep cycles than their owners. For instance, people experience four to six 90-minute sleep cycles, while dogs have 15 to 20 with fewer minutes every night. They can also have different dreams per cycle.

Can a Specific Breed Affect a Dog’s Dream?

If you are thinking about what puppies dream about, dogs of different breeds and sizes have varying ones. Stanley Coren, a professor emeritus of Psychology from the University of British Columbia, stated in his book “Do Dogs Dream?” that smaller dogs have more frequent dreams with shorter durations and larger dogs have fewer but longer ones

For example, chihuahuas experience 14 quick dreams of 10 minutes each, and a Great Dane has a single long one.

A canine’s circadian rhythm and sleeping patterns also affect the duration where it reaches REM sleep. A dog that naps frequently dreams less because it rarely gets REM. Meanwhile, light sleepers or those used to slow-wave sleep will not have dreams at all.

Dogs that do not nap during the day and only sleep at night have more intense and vivid dreams. Similarly, therapy or farm dogs fall into deep sleep faster due to tiredness.

Signs That Your Dog Is Dreaming

Pet owners can know if their dogs are dreaming without doing electrical recordings and brain surgeries. One easy way to do so is to watch your furry friend fall asleep. You can notice that its breathing will become more regular as the sleep gets deeper.

Once your dog’s dream starts, its breathing changes; it will become more shallow and irregular. You can also see muscle twitches and eye movements behind your dog’s closed eyelids. They can also whimper, run in place, and make weird actions.

Worry not because these signs are common to dogs dreaming. You will only need to get alarmed if things get unusual.

Can Dogs Have Nightmares?

If they have dreams, do dogs have nightmares too? Unfortunately, your furry friend can go through nightmares about their traumatic experiences or fears. They can show signs, such as sounds of distress, excessive twitching, and whining. 

Dogs with nightmares can also show aggression, which can be dangerous for children. Experts advise to not wake up a canine in this state because it will most likely bite whoever interrupts its sleep.

The best strategy to prevent nightmares is to give your dog a healthy and loving household. Since they dream of their daily activities, providing them with joyful memories will not give them bad dreams.

What Do Dogs Dream About: FAQs

Here are the answers to the frequently asked questions about dog dreams:

Do dogs ever dream about their owners?

Dogs dream of the people they are closest with, such as their owners. They can remember those events when they were pleasing or annoying you. Moreover, their dreams can also include your face, smell, words, and actions. Be careful with your reward-punishment system because they can dream of it too!

Should I wake a dreaming dog?

Waking a dreaming dog from its REM sleep can lead to dangerous consequences because they can get startled and aggressive. If your dog has nightmares, you must also not disturb it because it can lash out at you. Even though it is tempting to wake up and comfort them, it’s just a dream, so there’s no need to worry.

Do dogs have dreams about us?

Since our furry friends spend their entire day with us, there is no reason for us to doubt that they dream about us at night. Their dreams are a collection of what they did during the daytime, so if you played with them in the morning, they dream of it later. They can even dream of the dog treat you gave them in the park.

Is twitching a sign of dreaming?

Twitching is not only a sign of dogs dreaming. It can also indicate other phenomena, such as muscle or nervous system disorders and seizures. A dreaming dog will show signs of twitching for less than 30 seconds, but a dog undergoing a seizure or shaking while sleeping will be stiffer, more rigid, and more violent. During these cases, it is best not to wake your dog up to avoid unwanted consequences.

The answer to what dogs dream about is simple — they dream of the treats they ate and activities they did the entire day. Their lifestyle decides if they will have good or bad ones, so it is always best to avoid traumatic experiences for your furry friend.

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