Can Dogs Dream?

While your furry friend is asleep, you may notice his limbs twitching or his eyes moving behind his lids. You may even hear him whimper once in a while. Yes, these are signs your pup may be dreaming.

Have you ever wondered what dogs dream about? Is he hunting rabbits or trying to run away from a predator? While scientists don’t have all the answers, they can certainly help us understand our pets better.

How Do Dogs Dream?

According to Dr. Gray Richards, a veterinary health expert, dog brains are wired similar to human brains on a structural level. Scientists have found that dogs go through various sleep stages. There are phases of wakefulness, after which come the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and non-rapid-eye-movement sleep.

During the REM phase, dogs dream in the same pattern a human does. They experience vivid dreams, which is considered a way for their bodies to process memory. Using special equipment, scientists can detect a dog’s sleep cycles and the relevant brain activity.

An experiment involving lab rats was a popular one in this regard. Some rats were left to spend a day scurrying inside a maze. Scientists tracked their brain activity while they would sleep and compared it to that of dogs during REM sleep.

They discovered that the same areas were activated in the rats’ brains. This implied that the rats were probably dreaming about the maze. Researchers compared the data to figure out the precise location inside the maze that the rats had dreamed about.

The study suggested that animals dream in a manner similar to humans. Just like you may dream about your office in your sleep, rats also dream about their day. Researchers at MIT report that animals can have complex dreams, where they can experience a long sequence of events.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, dogs spend half their day snoozing. The period may be longer for larger breeds, puppies, and senior dogs.

Is A Dog’s Sleep Similar to Human Sleep?

Just like humans, dogs have good dreams as well as nightmares. They can also contract narcolepsy, which is a sleep disorder that makes the brain switch to sudden sleep. Research regarding narcoleptic dogs at Stanford University actually revealed the biochemistry behind the human version of this state.

However, dogs are free from one common human sleep issue: sleep paralysis. This is a condition where you may wake up in the middle of the night but find that you are unable to move or say anything.

This happens because you become conscious before your brain can activate your muscles again. Sleep paralysis usually occurs due to sleep deprivation, which is an uncommon condition for a dog.

Signs Your Dog Is Dreaming

You don’t need to conduct electrical recordings or brain surgery to figure out when your dog is dreaming. If you are curious about when your pet is dreaming, all you have to do is start observing them 10-20 minutes after they fall asleep.

When you notice their eyes darting beneath their eyelids, it is a sign that they have started dreaming. Some dogs also twitch their limbs or bark in their dreams.

The breathing pattern of a dog usually becomes more regular as he falls into deeper sleep. For a regular-sized dog, dreaming starts after around 20 minutes. You can detect this when the dreaming pattern becomes irregular and shallow. It is believed that during the REM stage, dogs see images in their dreams just like humans do.

What Do Dogs Dream About?

No one can be absolutely sure what dogs dream about. According to researchers, they are likely to dream about their daily life activities such as chasing rabbits, running after squirrels, and playing games with you.

While dogs often have pleasant dreams, they may also experience nightmares. They can have dreams about traumatic events, getting into a fight with another dog, being in a thunderstorm, or being left alone inside your house.

At times, our pets may give us more hints about their dreams. During an interview with a Harvard psychologist, a dog owner said that he believed his pet had a nightmare about bath time. As the dog hated baths, he used to bolt towards the owner and hide between his legs whenever it was time for a bath.

This dog owner once noticed his dog having a dream. When the dog woke up, he ran and hid between the owner’s legs. It’s possible that the pup simply had a bad dream about going for a bath.

According to Stanley Coren, a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia, the size of your dog may influence the length of their dreams. Smaller dogs may dream more frequently but have shorter dreams. On the other hand, larger dogs dream less often but tend to have longer dreams.

Should You Wake Your Dog During a Nightmare?

If you notice your canine friend whining or twitching in his sleep, you can attempt to wake him up gently if you don’t think he would get startled. However, if your pet is growling or seems aggressive, avoid waking him up as he may just nip you by mistake.

It is best to simply observe or use verbal cues to rouse your dog from his nightmare. Once he is properly awake, you can give him a nice cuddle for comfort.

Final Thoughts

Behavioral clues can easily help you determine when your dog dreams. You can tell that your pet is dreaming when you see his eyes moving beneath the lids or his limbs twitching in sleep.

Dogs tend to sleep better at a location familiar to them. If you want your pup to have sweet dreams, ensure they have a healthy routine and a special place corner where they can sleep.

by Maria A Davidson || You can’t buy love, but you can rescue it™

Facts About Animal Homelessness:

  1. Only 1 out of every 10 dogs born will find a permanent home.
  2. The main reasons animals are in shelters: owners give them up, or animal control finds them on the street.
  3. Each year, approximately 2.7 million dogs and cats are killed every year because shelters are too full and there aren’t enough adoptive homes. Act as a publicist for your local shelter so pets can find homes. Sign up for Shelter Pet PR.
  4. Approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.9 million are dogs and 3.4 million are cats.
  5. According to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy (NCPPSP), less than 2% of cats and only 15 to 20% of dogs are returned to their owners.
  6. 25% of dogs that enter local shelters are purebred.
  7. About twice as many animals enter shelters as strays compared to the number that are relinquished by their owners.
  8. It’s impossible to determine how many stray dogs and cats live in the United States. Estimates for cats alone range up to 70 million.
  9. Only 10% of the animals received by shelters have been spayed or neutered. Overpopulation, due to owners letting their pets accidentally or intentionally reproduce, sees millions of these “excess” animals killed annually.
  10. Many strays are lost pets that were not kept properly indoors or provided with identification.
  11. According to The Humane Society, there are about 3,500 brick-and-mortar animal shelters in the US and 10,000 rescue groups and animal sanctuaries in North America.

Here are a some adoptions for consideration: