What Can Dogs Dream About?

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Introduction

Have you ever wondered what your pooch is dreaming about when their little paws are twitching as they're fast asleep? Can dogs even dream like humans can? These are some of the most common questions dog owners wonder when they catch their pup in the middle of what seems to be a dream. You may think Fido is likely chasing a rabbit around the backyard or playing fetch with his furry best friend. 

According to science, dogs do indeed dream and it is likely they are engaging in walking-based activities much like humans do in their dreams as well.

Sings of a Dog Dreaming

There are quite a few common signs to look out for so you can tell when your pup is in the middle of a dream. The easiest way to tell if your pooch is having a dream is if you catch their paws and legs twitching, paddling, or kicking. They can be small little movements of the paws and legs, or they can be larger and more apparent movements. 

This often depends on the dog's personality and what kind of dream they are having. Dogs will often make noises when they are asleep and dreaming as well. These noises can be anything from a quiet yelp to a loud bark. Many dogs will also make popping and bubble sounds when they are dreaming. Breathing can also become louder and more labored and they make take short and shallow breaths while they are having a dream. 

Keep an eye on your pup's eyes, too. Often, their eyes will rapidly move back and forth while they are dreaming. This means your dog is dreaming and seeing dream images in his/her sleep, much like humans do when they are having dreams while asleep. All of these signs can vary slightly from dog to dog, so the best way to tell if your pup is having a dream is to keep an eye on their behavior and watch out for any variations of the signs above. 

Body Language

Here are some of the sign you might notice when you dog is dreaming.
  • Growling
  • Barking
  • Whining
  • Shaking

Other Signs

There are other signs you might notice when your dog is dreaming.
  • Eyes moving back and forth while asleep.
  • Paws and/or legs twitching, kicking, or paddling.
  • Making popping or bubble sounds when sleeping.

History of Dogs Dreaming

For a long time, the scientific community was never sure if dogs actually dreamed like humans. It was a mystery until 2001, when researchers at MIT trained rats to run a maze and then later while they were in REM sleep, measured their brain activity and found the rats were indeed dreaming. Essentially, the brain activity was the same while they were sleeping as when they were running the maze, leading to the conclusions animals dream like us, humans. 

Therefore, pups have been dreaming for as long as their species has been alive on Earth. They also found that animals and dogs tend to dream about things that happened during the day or at least parts of things that happened. They are also likely to dream about common dog activities. 

A recent study by Harvard scientists have released that it is also likely your pup is dreaming about you when they are alseep...how cute is that? Since it is likely that dogs dream about events they experienced throughout the day, Dr. Barrett claims since dogs are extremely attached to their humans and spend a large portion of the day with them, your dog may be dreaming about your face, smell, or loving/annoying you. 

Many people claim their dogs dream quite consistently throughout the day. As an example, a dog owner, Joe, and his wife gave their pup a bath during the day and he would always run and hide behind Joe. Later in the night after the bath, the dog was sleeping, and he suddenly awoke to run and hind behind Joe. In this example, we can safely believe the dog was dreaming about the bath event earlier that day and having a dream about it later. 

Science Behind Dogs Dreaming

Delving more deeply into the scientific explanation of dogs dreaming, we first must understand that dogs' brains are similar in structure and function to humans. It has been found that while dogs sleep, their brain wave patterns are very similar to sleeping humans and go through the same stages of sleep. 

Going back to the rat study by MIT, a dog's brain is even more complex than that of a rat, which strongly suggests dogs dream as well and even on a more complex and intense level than a rat or other kind of animal's dream. Dogs go through two different sleep stages - REM and Slow Wave Sleep (SWS). SWS is when the dog's mental processes are quieted down, but their muscle tone and reactions are the same. They then will enter REM sleep, where their body becomes fully relaxed, yet the mind works rapidly and vividly. REM sleep is where your pup will begin to dream.

They found while studying dogs dreaming that a structure in the brainstem called the pons, keeps a dog from acting out their dreams. when scientists inactivated that part of the brainstem, they saw the dog began to move around despite the fact their brainwaves indicated the dog was asleep. 

The dog only began to move about when they entered the dream state or REM cycle. They found dogs will begin to dream about 10 to 20 minutes after they fall asleep. So, keep an eye on your dog as they are falling asleep. After about 10 minutes, keep an eye out for leg and paw twitching, eyelid movement, barking, bubble noises, and other little sounds. This means they have entered their dream state! 


How to React if Your Dog is Dreaming

  • Don't make any sudden loud noises.
  • Watch your pup for any cute twitches or sounds!
  • Let their dream run its course.
  • Do not wake them up as it can startle them.

Safety Tips For When Your Dog is Dreaming

  • Use a gentle voice to wake them if necessary.
  • Do not touch your dog to avoid possible bites.
  • Let them sleep through their dream so there's no aggression.
  • Don't wake them as it can scare them and lead to snapping or biting.

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