There’s a reason dogs are considered man’s best friend. We share a lot in common with our furry friends, from their unique personalities to our love of food, and so much more. But one question that many dog lovers often ask is ‘do dogs dream?’ I mean, they sleep 12 to 14 hours per day, so something must be going on there.
It’s nice to imagine that our canine companions are having dreams like we are, and the thought is even comforting. But is it true? There are many scientists trying to find exactly that answer, and what they’ve come up with might pleasantly surprise you. So do dogs dream, and if so, what do dogs dream about? Here’s what we know.
Do Dogs Dream?
As dog owners, we’ve all seen our dogs twitch or even act out running while they’re asleep. This can sometimes last for a split second, or even minutes! When dogs do this, many times we’ll assume that they’re dreaming. Well, it turns out that the assumption is probably correct.
Science has long pointed to many animals being able to dream, including animals as small as fruit flies and rats. Considering that dogs are much smarter and have more sophisticated brains than rats, it’s no surprise that dogs dream, too.
Dogs are just as capable as humans at achieving REM sleep, which is where the majority of dreams happen. It’s at this stage that dogs are more likely to move their legs and react to their dreams, as this is the deepest state of dreaming.
What Do Dogs Dream About?
So what exactly are dogs dreaming about when they’re kicking their little legs or barking in their sleep? The answer lies in the pons, which is the part of the brain that controls your movement while you sleep. In puppies, just as well as babies, the pons is underdeveloped, leading to a lot more movement.
To try and figure out what dogs might be dreaming about, researchers temporarily disabled the pons in certain dogs to see what their movements might be like. In perhaps predictable results, the dogs kicked their legs like they were running and barked like they were chasing things.
Basically, dogs dream about doing dog things. We don’t know exactly what they’re dreaming about, but chasing small animals and playing wouldn’t be unreasonable guesses.
All Dogs Dream Differently
All dogs dream, but not all dogs dream the same. The science suggests that large dogs have longer but less frequent dreams, while small dogs have many shorter dreams. Puppies also tend to dream more than adult dogs, likely because they’re taking in and experiencing so much.
Something as small as a chihuahua, for example, has a new dream about every ten minutes while sleeping. A golden retriever, on the other hand, may dream as little as once every 90 minutes of sleep.
A dog’s life experiences heavily impact their dreams as well. Like humans, dogs likely dream about what they experience in life, so if your dog loves chasing birds or playing fetch, it’s probably going to have regular dreams about just that. Do you think Instagram-famous pets dream about taking selfies?
What About Nightmares?
So if they can have dreams, then do dogs have nightmares, too?
The unfortunate answer is yes, and you may have even seen your dog experiencing a bad dream before. They might bark, growl, or whimper in their sleep, and it might even be tempting to wake them up and help them out.
However, you should never wake a dog from a nightmare, just as you shouldn’t wake a person from one. It can be confusing waking up from a bad dream, and it always comes with the possibility of not knowing where you are or what you’re doing.
This is the same for dogs. Your pooch may love you more than anything in the world, but when they wake up suddenly from that nightmare they’ll enter defense mode, and may even bite you. For your own safety, you should let your pup get through the nightmare on its own, no matter how hard it may be to ignore it.
Does Your Dog Dream About You?
We’ve established that dogs dream about what they experience. So do they dream about their owners? One psychologist from Harvard Medical School has a very reassuring answer. She says: “Since dogs are generally extremely attached to their human owners, it’s likely your dog is dreaming of your face, your smell, and of pleasing or annoying you.”
That’s a pretty cute thought though. Next time you see your dog dreaming, it could be about you! Just make sure you spend a lot of time with your pooch, and the chances will definitely increase.
If you’ve ever asked yourself, “What do dogs dream about?” hopefully you’ve found some answers here. Even though we can’t know exactly what our dogs are dreaming about, it’s comforting to know that they are dreaming, especially when they’re dreaming about what they love.
If you ever needed another reason to love dogs, this is definitely one of them.
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