Dogs are just like humans when it comes to certain things. They sweat when they’re feeling hot, get hungry, have bouts of hiccups at times, and also love to curl up on the couch. But when it comes to sleep, do dogs dream like us as well? What are those little twitches and soft whimpering you see when they’re sleeping? Could your dog be dreaming?
Before jumping to the topic of dreaming, you might want to understand the sleep cycle first. While sleeping, our consciousness and voluntary physical activities are reduced. This process is similar in humans and animals, including dogs. There are two basic stages of the sleep cycle – Slow-Wave Sleep (SWS) and the deeper stage of sleep which is when you experience dreams. But what about your dog?
Do Dogs Dream?
Scientists believe, yes!
A 2001 MIT research study shows experiments on lab rats to understand whether they have dreams. Researchers analyzed rats’ brain cells when they were running in a maze and during their REM sleep. After a comparable study, researchers found that the same areas lit up in the rats’ brains in both situations. They then concluded that these rats were dreaming about the maze.
Since dogs are smarter and have more complex brains than rats, scientists believe that dogs and other pets, including cats, can have dreams too.
You might also be interested in Do Dogs Have Feelings?
What Do Dogs Dream About?
Dream patterns in dogs are very similar to that of humans, which is why your dog might be dreaming about their day just like you do.
So, what actually is your four-legged best friend dreaming about? Playing fetch? Dinner? Games? Probably all of these.
Stanley Coren, author of Do Dogs Dream? Nearly Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know, and a retired psychology professor at the University of British Columbia, says that dogs basically dream about doggy things. Therefore, dreaming Pointers may start looking for a game immediately after they wake up, Dobermans might be chasing burglars in their dreams, and Springer Spaniels may be busy flushing birds in their REM sleep.
It’s uncertain, but not unlikely that your dog might also be dreaming about you. If you’ve been spending quality time with your pup by cuddling, taking long walks with them, playing interacting games, chances are, they will be dreaming about their fun time spent with you too.
Experts also say that some dogs might even dream about their owner’s smell, face, and about pleasing their human companion.
How Often Do Dogs Dream?
According to Psychologist and Professor Coren, the dream’s length and frequency depends on the dog’s size for some unknown reason. He further suggests that smaller dogs tend to have shorter but more regular dreams, while larger dogs have more prolonged but less frequent dreams. For instance, Chihuahuas and Toy Poodles might dream more often through the night, with a new dream occurring about every ten minutes but lasting only about a minute. On the contrary, Labrador Retrievers might only dream once every hour and a half, lasting for 5-10 minutes.
Do Dogs Dream Similar to Us?
We’ve already mentioned how humans and dogs have similar brain wave patterns and brain activity. So, because of this similarity, Dr. Gary Richter, a veterinary health expert, says that your dog does experience many sleep stages during a standard sleep cycle, including REM (rapid eye movement). It is also the reason why you may see your pup twitching while sleeping.
However, the sleep stages may occur differently in humans and dogs. On average, you may experience four or five complete cycles, with each cycle lasting roughly 90 minutes per night. On the other hand, your dog may have shorter, approximately 15-minute cycles. They’re often known to experience 20 cycles per night.
Can My Dog Have Nightmares? / Do Dogs Have Bad Dreams?
Sadly, dogs can have nightmares. These bad dreams might result from a traumatic event your pup has gone through or of something they fear. Therefore, you need to know when your dog is having a nightmare. Some signs that indicate dogs having nightmares are:
- When they are aggressively twitching in their sleep
- When they make sounds of distress
A gentle pat or two and some cuddling will do fine when your pup is having a bad night.
But in cases when dogs are way more aggressive and fearful in their sleep, you might want to let your dog settle down themselves first. Waking a startled dog out of their deep sleep can cause them to bite you. So, in situations like these, it is always a good idea to comfort your furry friend after the nightmare has run its course.
Is My Dog’s Dream Normal?
Twitching, flicking their paws, soft whimpers, and snarls are normal when dogs are in their REM cycle. Since smaller muscles are unlikely to paralyze during the REM sleep, these behaviors actually indicate that your dog is dreaming.
Veterinarians also say that dogs, unlike other animals, tend to move more in their sleep, meaning they’re just more vigorous, and this shouldn’t cause you any worry. Their normal sleep behavior is pretty dramatic.
However, if your dog’s bodily movements are faster than usual and are more pronounced, this might be a sign of sleep disorders or seizures. If you think your pup may have these symptoms, immediately contact your vet. Your vet will help you diagnose the issue and develop a solution to let your pooch have a goodnight’s sleep.
What Do Dogs Dream About When They Cry in Their Sleep?
If you’ve heard your dog crying in their sleep, chances are they’re probably dreaming about the time that you scolded them. They could also be dreaming about something terrible that happened earlier that day or reflecting on the time when you left them alone.
Do dogs have dreams? Yes. It is entirely normal for your pooch to have dreams. Although their normal dreaming behaviors like twitching, soft whimpers, and occasional paw flicking might exert some movements, you don’t need to worry. They’re perfectly fine as long as they’re sound asleep.
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