Do Dogs Dream?

Do dogs dream?Have you ever wondered if your dog is dreaming about chasing squirrels or just twitching in his/her sleep? Let’s find out what the experts have to say…

Scientists monitor sleep cycles using specialized equipment and have determined that dogs experience REM sleep. This sleep stage is required to experience dreams! Scientists believe most vertebrates, and maybe even the common fruit fly, dream on a regular basis.

Scientists have examined the daytime brain activity of rats and compared it to their brain activity during REM sleep. Their findings have led researchers to suspect animals dream about the things that happened to them during their day. A rat may be dreaming about running through a maze, just like you might find yourself back in the office.

To determine what dogs might dream about, researchers performed a test that temporarily disabled a portion of the brain stem called the pons.  The pons is responsible for keeping your large muscles paralyzed during sleep. Without the pons, we would act out everything we dream about! You may have noticed puppies and older dogs twitch and move a lot more in their sleep. This is because the pons is underdeveloped in puppies and less efficient in older dogs.

By temporarily disabling the pons, researchers carefully let dogs act out their dreams. The results were pretty much what we have suspected: Pointers will point at dream birds, Dobermans will chase dream burglars, and Labrador Retrievers will search for dream food!

Like people, not all dogs dream about the same things or for the same amount of time. Small dogs have more frequent dreams than large dogs. Large dogs, on the other hand, have fewer, but longer dreams. Not all dreams are pleasant and dogs can have “nightmares” too.

If you suspect your dog is experiencing a bad dream, it may be tempting to wake your dog and attempt to comfort them. This may be dangerous, however, as often a dog awakened from a dream may be confused and attempt to bite or attack the person who woke them.  As the old saying goes… it is best to let sleeping dogs lie!

Written By: Tara Corridori, LVT

Information Obtained from The American Kennel Club.

Copyright: yuriisokolov / 123RF Stock Photo