Do dogs dream?

Hiedi Hutchinson

Blog , +2

June 23, 2015

So, you’re sat on the sofa, with a glass of something nice to sip and some chunks of your favourite chocolate to melt in your mouth. You’re chilling out and so is your dog, spread out next you and sleeping peacefully.

Suddenly, your dog lets out a woof, his legs start twitching, he starts breathing harder and his tail starts thumping. Is he dreaming? Yes, he is.

Really? How can we be sure? It’s not as if our dogs can tell us what they were dreaming about when they wake up. Oh, if only they could.

The evidence we have, though, is scientific.

What the research says.

Scientific studies show that dogs’ brains are similar to our own. Yes, there are many, many differences but, on a structural level, they’re quite alike. And, because of this, it’s very likely that dogs can and do dream.

Researchers using EEGs (electroencephalograms) have discovered that humans and dogs sleep alike.

Like us, dogs enter a ‘deep sleep’ stage, when their breathing becomes more irregular and they have rapid eye movement (REM).

Like us, it’s during REM that their dreaming happens. So that’s when we’re likely to hear them give a little bark or see their legs start twitching.

And again, like us, it’s normal, natural and healthy for a dog to dream – even if it does take you by surprise.

Some dogs dream more than others

Now, the scientists don’t know why, but smaller dogs tend to have more dreams than bigger dogs.

So a little ‘un, such as a Chihuahua, might have a new dream every 10 minutes or so, while a Golden Retriever’s dreams will change every 90 minutes.

What are dogs’ sweet dreams made of?

Well, we’ll never know for sure because they can’t tell us. But, basically, it’s believed dogs dream about dog stuff, the way we dream about human stuff.

The totally relaxed sleeping pup that sucks its paw in its sleep is probably revisiting its early, happy days, when it was fed by its mother.

The sound asleep dog that appears to be scrambling in its sleep could well be dreaming of chasing a ball – or a cat.

A sleeping dog licking its lips could be revisiting that particularly tasty Field & Trial it had for dinner!

It’s a nightmare!

But if dogs have sweet dreams, then they have bad dreams, too, right?

Their nightmares won’t be about tax demands, mortgage payments, commuting, dentists, fear of flying, suddenly being naked in the middle of the office… We can be sure of that.

But we can only guess at what they might be about… The cat chasing them, their dinner disappearing before they’ve eaten it, their favourite chew toy chewing them…

Let sleeping dogs lie…

If you interfere with your dog’s sleep, they could wake up with a fright and react defensively.

So, whatever your dog’s dreaming of, the experts’ advice is to leave them be.

Like us, dogs need uninterrupted sleep for good mental health.

What do you think your dog dreams about?

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