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What do Dogs Dream about? Here’s your answer!

What do Dogs Dream about? Here’s your answer!Updated on July 26, 2021 | Published on July 15, 2021
Reviewed by Dr. Johanna Lamm, PsyD, Licensed Psychologist

What do Dogs Dream about? - Here’s your answer!

Does it ever occur to you: What do dogs dream about?

Like humans, dogs eat, exercise, sleep and cuddle too. They also react to unknown people or unfamiliar situations and get uncomfortable about it.

When there are so many activities that are similar to humans, the question ‘What do dogs dream about?’ definitely does not seem alien.  

In fact, if you have a pet dog, you’ll be more interested to know what type of dreams they experience. Do they really hunt rabbits in dreams or do dogs twitch in their sleep? Well, let’s try to know what the scientists have to say.

Summary in Infographics

Do Dogs Dream? What do Dogs Dream about? Here’s your answer!
Do Dogs Dream? What do Dogs Dream about? Here’s your answer!

Do dogs dream (can dogs dream)?

SUMMARY
Yes, dogs dream similar to humans. They also have similar sleeping patterns and brain activities to that of humans.

Scientists believe that dreams are common to humans as well as most vertebrates. Not only that, but even fruit flies dream on a regular basis.

Dogs follow similar sleep cycle patterns as humans. They also experience a wakefulness period, then Rapid Eye Movement or REM sleep, followed by non-rapid-eye-movement sleep.

However, among all the sleep cycles, REM is the stage of sleep where one experiences the most memorable dreams. This is a part where the body tries to process one’s memory. Such sleep cycles and the linked brain activity can also be studied with the help of specialized scientific equipment.

Let us try to understand these sleep patterns and dreams with the help of a very famous experiment involving lab rats.

These rats were made to run all day in a maze. Scientists then noted down the brain activity of these rats in the maze and during Rapid eye movement REM sleep.

Both these brain activities were compared. The results concluded that in both the activities the same areas of a rat’s brain lit up. This precisely means that the rats dreamed of running in a maze.

With this experiment, the researchers finally came to the conclusion that animals dream like humans. These animals also dream about their day just like us.

According to the National Sleep Foundation report, dogs spend a major half of the day sleeping. The sleeping time can also be longer for puppies and large dogs or breeds.

What do dogs dream about? (What do puppies dream about)

SUMMARY
It can’t be exactly said. But depending on their sleep movements, scientists say that they dream about chasing prey, their daily activities, and sometimes, also about their owners.

Dogs have many interesting activities to do in a day. Scientists disabled the pons in dogs to find out what they dream about.

What is pons? They are the part of the brainstem that controls our sleep cycles and deep sleep. It also prevents our large muscles from making any movement while we sleep. Hence, we can say that, without the pons, we would be doing literally every movement in reality that we were dreaming of.

It is a common observation that small dogs or puppies and old dogs twitch and move the most while they’re sleeping. Stanley Coren, a columnist on AKC Family dog explains that the pons is not much developed in puppies and have lost their efficiency in old dogs.

To know what the dogs are dreaming about, the researchers temporarily disabled the pons and allowed them to make movements during REM sleep. It turned out that the dog’s sleeping patterns are similar to humans.

So similar to humans, dogs can be dreaming about various things like their daily activities, chasing a cat, running after squirrels, or even about you or other dogs.

Why do dogs dream?

It is a basic concept that dreams help us to process information from our daily lives. When in sleep, you take a pause from your physical activities, dreams give you time to think over your daily affairs and adapt to them. It’s the same for dogs. 

This is also one of the reasons why sleep is so important to dogs. Further, dreams also indicate deep sleep which helps dogs grow and repair the body. 

How often do dogs dream?

Dreams depend on the dog’s activities. Some dogs see more dreams than others. It also depends on their age and size.

Dogs process their daily activities in their dreams. As puppies have a lot of new information to process, they dream a lot more in comparison to older dogs.

A toy poodle may dream every 10 minutes whereas a Retriever only dreams once in an hour. The poodle’s dream can last for a minute but Retriever’s dream can last for 5-10 minutes.

This also depends on the amount of sleep needed. Dogs who stay active outside throughout the day experience more sound sleep and longer phases of REM i.e., more time to dream.

Can dogs have nightmares?

Like humans have nightmares, dogs do too. When you realize your dog is going through a nightmare, it might be tempting to wake your dog but don’t do that. You might want to comfort your dog and we totally respect your emotions, but there are a few risks attached.

As a human also, when we suddenly wake up from a nightmare, we take a minute to realize where we are and who we are with. Similarly, dogs can also not be aware of these things and can get aggressive. This can also prove to be dangerous and harmful especially for children.

Around 60% of dogs bite children when they try to wake the dogs. So, if you have children in the house, teach them to not wake the dogs.

The best recommendation is to let your dog have a bad dream and let him wake up on his own. There’s an old saying that suits this occasion ‘let sleeping dogs lie’.

If your dog starts having sudden nightmares, get medical treatment. Or, if you have an old dog who cannot sleep at night, it can be because of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction which is also known as Doggie Alzheimer’s.

FAQs about dogs dreams

If you have a dog at home, there’s so much you would want to know, including: 

1. Do dogs dream similar to humans?

Humans need uninterrupted sleep to survive, so do dogs. Further, the structure of the brains of dogs and humans is very similar. Hence, dogs and humans experience similar brain wave patterns and activity.

Because of these patterns, dogs get into different stages of sleep, leading to REM sleep where dogs twitch or make noises. It is also the stage where both humans and dogs experience dreams.

2. Do dogs dream when they move or make noise in their sleep?

When in deep sleep, dogs show some signs like twitching, murmuring, barking or running. These signs indicate they’re dreaming. We cannot know about their exact dream but based on their activity while sleeping, we can predict them. For instance, if a dog is barking in sleep, they might be running after something in a dream.

3. Does the Dog’s breed affect dreams?

Certainly. Dreams are very individualistic in people as well as in dogs. Coren concludes from his study that small dogs dream frequently but these dreams are of short durations.

They can even have 60-second dreams every ten minutes. On the contrary, large dogs get fewer dreams of a long duration of five minutes also.

s mentioned previously, dogs also dream of their daily activities. So, we can definitely say that breeds impact dreams. Dobermans will highlight guard behavior because it is specific to their breed. Similarly, Retrievers may only dream of chasing balls for playing.

4. How do I know what my dog is dreaming about?

If you ask me to predict the exact dream of your dog, this is nearly impossible. But dogs give clues. You can always make appropriate guesses based on these clues.

Dreams occur during REM sleep. REM sleep starts after 20 minutes of sleep and lasts for nearly three minutes. Observe the movements of your dog very carefully during this duration.

This is the time when your dog will twitch or make sounds. Try to find out if there is any similarity in the movements between the dog’s daily activities and dream movements.

Based on such movements, you’ll be able to guess if the dog is chasing something or playing with a friend. If these are parts of their daily activities, you can assume the dogs are dreaming about them.

5. How do dreams affect the dog’s brain?

Every dream has a purpose. Dreams add meaning to your learnings. Matthew Wilson, a scientist who studied dreaming in animals, suggested that there are active neurons in the brain’s hippocampus during REM sleep.

The concept is that the brain is trying to connect the dots between the events the dog has experienced.

Sleep helps to increase their memory whereas if the sleep is disturbed, memories are prevented. So, let your dog sleep to keep their brain healthy. They need more sleep as they get older. Give them a comfortable spot for undisturbed naps to help them keep fit.

6. How can you contribute to your dog’s dreams?

Yes, you can help your dog have good dreams. How? If the scientific fact that ‘dogs process their day during sleep’ is true, then make every day happy for your dog. This will help them get sweet dreams.

Play with them and give them a happy daytime. Provide them with a comfortable corner to sleep in so they can have the best dreams.

7. Should you wake your dog if they are having a nightmare?

If your dog is whining softly in a dream, try comforting him and waking him up from a bad dream if you think he wouldn’t attack you.

But if your dog is being aggressive in a dream, you wouldn’t want to take the risk. To help them out of the nightmare, you can call their name to wake them up. Once they wake up, give them a good cuddle and comfort them. If the problem persists, talk to your vet.

So, the takeaway is don’t disturb dreaming dogs unless you absolutely need to.

8. Do dogs have REM sleep?

When the dreamer’s eyes make rapid and random movement in sleep, it is called REM sleep. Dogs undergo this sleep stage usually after 20 minutes of their nap. This is when you’ll find them making noises or twitching because they are dreaming.

A puppy spends more time dreaming. But older dogs spend only a few minutes because they do not have to process much new information.

9. Does your dog dream about you?

Dogs dream about their everyday experiences like us. So, if you love your dog and spend time with them, your furry little bud is definitely dreaming about you. It can be about your face, smell, or about playing with you.

To increase the chances of dogs dreaming about you, spend more time with them.

10. Do some dogs dream more than others?

According to Dr. Gary Richter, a famous vet, there are a lot of factors that play a role in the frequency of dogs’ dreams like age, breed, etc.

A small dog dreams more often but these are short dreams i.e, short in duration. However, larger dogs have long dreams but less often. 

Facts about Dog’s Dreams

Apart from all the above information, here are a few more things that you must know. There have been certain observations based on the studies on the dog’s dreams as under:

  • When dogs fall asleep, they breathe rapidly and deeply. This means their breathing patterns become regular.
  • Dogs enter the REM stage of sleep usually after 20 minutes of sleep. This is when they start dreaming.
  • If a dog is dreaming, you’ll observe shallow breathing and twitching. A few people believe that dogs do such activities because they’re chasing rabbits in their sleep.
  • A dog moves his eyes even if the eyelids are closed. This is because they’re looking at something in their REM sleep. They visualize images in dreams just as we humans do.
  • They dream about things they have witnessed in their wakefulness.

In the end,

Remember to seek medical attention

…if your furry little bud is seeming extremely disturbed.

Dreams are common but if it starts affecting your bud’s health, it’s always wise to seek a vet’s opinion to check if there’s any underlying medical condition.

After all, when these pups give you unconditional love and after a tiring day, welcome you with open arms… it’s only fair if you can give at least some care in return!

If you want to know ‘What do Cats Dream about?‘, then click here.