It’s estimated that the average dog spends around 50% of their day asleep, but have you ever seen your pup twitching or softly barking in their sleep and wondered, “What do dogs dream about?” Let’s find out what the experts say. Just keep reading as we delve into the whimsical world behind closed doggy eyelids and attempt to unravel the enigma of their nocturnal imaginings.
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Do dogs dream?
Yes, dogs do dream. Dreaming is not exclusive to humans, as first suspected in the 1970s when Dr. William Dement & Stanford University discovered that animals have REM sleep cycles, just like we do.
It was confirmed in a 2001 study conducted with the Center for Learning and Memory, in which Professor Matthew A. Wilson found that rats’ brains display the same patterns that human brains do when they sleep.
What do dogs dream about?
According to world-renowned dog psychologist Stanley Coren in his 2002 book, What Do Dogs Dream About, dogs dream about their lived experiences, similar to humans. Your dog likely dreams about eating treats, playing games with you, playing with their favorite toys, going on long walks, and interacting with their favorite people, as well as other dogs.
As Professor Stanley Coren put it, “Dogs dream about doggy things.” Border Collies may dream of rounding up sheep, Golden Retrievers may dream of playing fetch, and German Shepherds may dream of keeping watch in their back garden.
This is why we see our dogs’ mouths and legs twitching and often hear them whimpering or even barking in their sleep; because they are dreaming of their favorite daily activities.
Coren discovered this by temporarily disabling a part of the brain called the pons as his doggy test subjects slept. This is what stops both dogs and humans from fully acting out our dreams. When he did this, the dogs acted out their dreams.
Does my dog dream about me?
Seeing as dogs dream about their daily lives and activities, it is very likely that their dreams include their owners, families, and doggy friends on a regular basis.
How often do dogs dream?
Dogs likely dream every day, just like we do. However, humans tend to dream more than dogs because we have longer sleep cycles. What’s more, larger dogs have larger dreams. Nobody seems to know why but small dogs and puppies are said to have small dreams, lasting around 60 seconds or so, whereas bigger dogs have dreams lasting up to five minutes.
The space between dreams is also bigger, with around an hour of non-dream time, versus ten minutes for smaller dogs and pups.
Why do dogs dream?
Whilst science is officially undecided on the precise purpose of dreams, it may help to maintain memory function and foster creative thinking. So, it is an interesting and significant piece of the puzzle in the question of canine consciousness.
Why do dogs move so much when they dream?
Involuntary muscle jerks called myoclonus are common in both dogs and humans, although dogs appear to do them more. The leg and paw movements are associated with dreams of running and playing, whilst mouth movements could indicate dreams of eating, drinking, playing, affection, or fighting.
Many dogs also vocalize during their dreams and it’s common to see their eyes flicker during REM sleep, too, just as it is with humans.
Do dogs have nightmares?
Just as dogs can dream of all of their favorite things, they can also have nightmares. If your dog displays aggression or fear during sleep, by whimpering or growling, for example, you can assume it’s probably a bad dream. This can also be why dogs appear to wake suddenly into an aggressive or defensive stance.
Depending on their personality and experiences, your dog could have nightmares of being chased or attacked by another dog, or something more mundane, like noisy cars or thunderstorms, depending on what your dog is afraid of.
Should I wake my dog from a nightmare?
Just as in humans, sleep, especially REM cycle sleep, is an important part of your dog’s health. Interrupting it on a regular basis can disrupt their health. However, if your dog appears to be having a distressing dream or is disrupting you by making a lot of noise, you can wake them up gently or from a distance.
Suddenly waking a dog from a bad dream could cause them to unintentionally bite or snap at you before they know what’s going on, so if you think they’re having a nightmare, it’s best to wake them from a distance by calling their name or clapping your hands loudly.
What do you think your dog dreams about? Share your thoughts below!