You may be surprised to know that dogs dream about a lot of the same things their owners do. When it comes to sleep cycles, sleep patterns and dreams, humans and man’s best friend aren’t all that different.
Do Dogs Dream?
Scientists have asked this question and have come to the overwhelming conclusion that yes, dogs do dream. In fact, dreams aren’t limited to humans and dogs – it is believed that all vertebrates spend time dreaming.
Just like people, dogs cycle through sleep patterns, including Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. This is the stage in which vivid dreams occur. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, an average-sized dog will usually hit REM sleep about 20 minutes after first letting his head hit the pillow.
Once your dog has entered REM sleep, you may notice rapid eye movement beneath his eyelids and shallow, more irregular breathing. When this happens, you can expect to hear his telltale signs of dreaming – the barking, whimpering, tail wagging or chasing.
What Do Dogs Dream About?
Interestingly, dogs dream about the same types of things humans do – what happened during the day and experiences they’ve had.
According to Psychology Today, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology learned about animal dream patterns by observing lab rats. During the day, the rodents participated in a complicated maze while scientists monitored brain waves and recorded electrical activity in the hippocampus. Later while sleeping, the same identifiable electrical patterns recorded during the maze were activated during REM sleep, indicating the rats spent their dreaming moments recalling time spent in the maze earlier that day.
Dogs are reported to have similar dreams as our rat friends. Further research was conducted, allowing dogs to act out their dreams in a safe environment by temporarily deactivating a part of their brain stem called the pons.
The results? Stanley Coren, a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of British Columbia, told Live Science that the results were what we may expect – dogs dreamed about dog experiences.
“So, pointers will point at dream birds, and Dobermans will chase dream burglars. The dream pattern in dogs seems to be very similar to the dream pattern in humans,” Coren told Live Science.
Do Dogs Have Nightmares?
Many owners worry their dogs have frequent nightmares. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, nightmares in doggy world are infrequent, though the American Kennel Club suggests that nightmares can occur, just as they do for humans.
While whining and whimpering are just a part of his normal, healthy sleep cycle, should you wake your dog if you suspect he is having a nightmare to spare him from unpleasant musings?
Should You Wake a Dreaming Dog?
While it may be tempting to wake your pooch from a bad dream, most evidence advises against this. Like humans, dogs need restful, uninterrupted sleep for happy, healthy days.
And while it may seem your dog sleeps a lot during the day so waking him won’t hurt anything, remember that most dogs sleep half the day away on average, and puppies and senior dogs are prone to sleep even more than that, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Moreover, dogs in the middle of a nightmare, or even an active dream where they are chasing a rabbit or squirrel, may be startled and disoriented if they are awoken suddenly. This can lead to a pooch unintentionally lashing out or biting, which can be particularly dangerous for small children.
As tempting as it may be, let your fur baby dream on, and you’ll be there to reassure him and love him when he wakes up from a restful, uninterrupted night’s sleep.
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