Do Dogs Dream? And Fun Facts About Dog Sleep | Pupford
April 17th, 2023
Filed under Pet Parenting
After a long day of playing, sniffing, adventuring, and (hopefully) learning new skills, your dog probably looks a lot like the one in that picture right?
And at some point in their well-earned slumber, you’ll likely see them go from complete calmness to twitching, tail wagging, legs pedaling, and tongue wagging within a matter of seconds.
We get asked all the time what that’s all about, with the main question being if that’s a sign that your dog is having a dream.
Do dogs dream? Is that what’s going on here?
Since you asked, we have answers. Today we’ll answer your questions including:
- Do dogs dream?
- What do dogs dream about?
- Can dogs have nightmares?
- How can you tell if your dog is dreaming?
- Fun facts about dog sleep
So go tuck your dogs into their beds and come back to learn all about what’s going on in their sleepy little heads.
DO DOGS DREAM?
So are those whimpers and movements you see from your sleeping dog a sign that they are dreaming?
There’s good reason to believe so!
There’s been significant research in the past twenty years or so that has uncovered that dogs do in fact dream, and they may even dream similarly to humans.
Studies on brain wave activity in dogs revealed that dogs undergo as we do. And since dreaming is linked to specific sleep cycles in humans, it’s safe to assume dogs are experiencing the same things while they sleep.
And also like us humans, some dogs dream more than others. Some research, like that by Stanley Coren at the University of British Columbia, suggests that the frequency and length of dreams depend on the age and size of the dog.
For example, puppies tend to dream more than adult dogs because their brains are processing much more new information every day. For another example, small breed dogs tend to dream more frequently but for a shorter duration, while large breeds dream fewer times but for longer each time.
WHAT DO DOGS DREAM ABOUT?
While our dogs don’t have the ability to keep a dream journal, a lot of research shows that dogs dream about… dog things.
Seriously, it seems that dogs’ dreams are essentially mental replays of the day’s events.
This concept was first discovered in 2001 by who studied rats. They trained rats to run a maze while recording their brain activity. Then, while the rats were sleeping that night, they measured brain activity again – and found the same activity patterns.
This suggests that the rats were dreaming about the maze they were running. And since dogs’ brains are more developed and complex than rats, it was safe to assume that dogs dream similarly.
But researchers wanted to know more about dogs specifically, so they figured out a way to temporarily disable the part of the brain called the pons, which regulates sleep cycles and suppresses muscle movement during sleep.
By disabling the pons, the dogs in this study were able to “act out” their dreams via muscle movements. The results: their suspicions to be true. Dogs dream by processing information the brain gathered throughout the day, similarly to humans.
CAN DOGS HAVE NIGHTMARES?
If you’ve ever bolted awake from a nightmare, you know how unpleasant that can be – and hope your dog doesn’t ever experience it too. But with super intense twitches and even whimpers, it’s hard not to wonder if your pup is having a nightmare sometimes.
While most dreams are good or neutral, given what we know about the way dogs dream, it is possible for dogs to have a nightmare. They’ll likely display body language and movements that seem jerky and tense, and may even cry or growl.
Even though it’s tempting to wake your dog during a nightmare, it’s not a great idea. Just as some people are disoriented and impulsive when woken unexpectedly, some dogs may act aggressively toward whoever wakes them up.
So while it may be hard for you to sit back and watch your dog have a nightmare, the best thing you can do is hold tight and comfort them when they eventually wake up.
HOW CAN YOU TELL IF YOUR DOG IS DREAMING?
Dogs, like humans, dream when they enter the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage of sleep. This usually happens about 20 minutes after falling asleep. Signs that your dog is in REM sleep and is likely dreaming include:
- Shallow or irregular breathing
- Muscle twitches (known as myoclonic twitches)
- Eyes moving behind the eyelids
If you observe your dog during this time, you might see them barking, licking their lips, or acting like they’re running. You might even pick up a breed-specific movement like pointing.
When you see your dog doing any of these, follow the old saying and let sleeping dogs lie. This is a completely normal part of your dog’s sleep and will settle down when they move into the next stage of sleep.
FUN FACTS ABOUT DOG SLEEP
- Puppies sleep about 18-20 hours a day while adult dogs clock 12-14 hours of ZZZs.
- Dogs circle a spot before they lay down to check their surroundings, clear the area of anything uncomfortable, and leave their scent behind.
- Dogs will “dig” at their and blankets to try to find a cooler spot to lay in and regulate their temperature.
- The position that your dog sleeps in tells you a lot about how they are feeling emotionally and physically. Check out for a breakdown of the top 10 sleeping positions and what they mean.
We want to hear all about what your dog is like when they sleep! Do they seem to dream often? Have they fallen asleep in a hysterical position? Tell us all about it in the comments!