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If you ever watched your dog kick their leg, move their mouth or let out weird noises while sleeping, you must’ve asked yourself: “Do dogs dream?”
Know that you aren’t the only one wondering this, as there have been thousands of studies researching sleep cycles of dogs.
Do dogs dream?
The answer is a clear yes! Humans aren’t the only beings who have the privilege to go into a completely different world during the night. In fact, most vertebrates dream. And not only them, other species do too.
The sleep cycles of animals aren’t too different from the ones we experience. The periods include wakefulness, Rapid Eye Movement sleep (REM), and non Rapid Eye Movement sleep. REM sleep is the one part of the sleep cycle responsible for dreaming. It’s also believed to be part of our body’s way to process memories. That would also explain why we dream about things that we’ve actually experienced in the past.
If you’ve been a dog owner for long enough you sure know how much our dogs love to sleep. They spend half their day snoozing off, and some larger breeds might even sleep more than that. (If you want to know how much sleep is normal, read this)
But what are our dogs dreaming about during all that time?
What do dogs dream about?
Just like us – dogs are mostly likely dreaming about the things they do during the day. We might teleport ourselves back into the office while dreaming. We all know that’s not because there aren’t more interesting places to be. Instead it’s because that’s what’s taking up most of the memory from your previous day.
During research, scientists tried turning off the dog’s pons in hope of having a better idea of what dogs are dreaming about. The pons is the part of the brain that stops large muscles from moving during sleep. By disabling the pons, the dog would be able to act out everything he’s dreaming about.
Like we already stated, dogs twitch a lot in their sleep. Especially puppies and senior dogs. That’s because their pons is less developed. The same thing goes for babies and older people.
The result of this research came as no surprise.
The scientists explained: “What we’ve basically found is that dogs dream doggy things . . . The dream pattern in dogs seems to be very similar to the dream pattern in humans.”
Can dogs have nightmares?
If you ever struggled with nightmares, you know how traumatic it can be. The painful truth is that dogs can have nightmares too. Maybe you even had the chance to witness it. It can be very hard to watch when your dog starts twitching, howling and shaking during their sleep. All we want to do is to wake them up and comfort them.
If you’ve been ever woken up from a scary dream, you know it takes a minute or two to remember where you are. Your dog might even start to act aggressive. Sometimes it can even be dangerous, especially to little kids. The best thing to do is to wait for your dog to wake up and comfort them when they do. Just like you can’t control your own nightmares, you also can’t control the ones your dog is experiencing.
Can I know what my dog is dreaming about?
Just like you can’t tell what your spouse, kids or siblings are dreaming about, you also can’t know that about your dog. But there is a way to guess.
Observe what your dog is doing during their REM sleep. This part of the sleeping cycle usually starts 20 minutes into sleeping and it lasts from two to three minutes. You might notice your dog kicking it’s leg or moving it’s ears. Try connecting the dots and ask yourself what similar activities he does during the day.
Are their paws twitching and their lips moving? They might be chasing something. Are their moving their mouth? Might be dreaming about a delicious dinner.
It’s not even that important to know what they dream about, but knowing that they dream at all makes us feel even more connected to them.