Does Your Dog Dream? Is It Important?

The twitching of the eyes, the muffled barks, the movement of the legs—our dogs must be dreaming. Experts believe that dogs do dream, but what do dogs dream about— and could they be telling us something important? 

Most dog owners have noticed that at various times during their dog's sleep, they may quiver, make leg movements or even growl or bark. This gives the impression that dogs are dreaming, especially when we see the eye movement similar to humans in REM sleep. This shouldn’t surprise us because, at the structural level, the brains of dogs are similar to those of humans.

Researchers have also found that during sleep, the brain wave patterns of dogs and humans are very similar, including the stages of electrical activity. So while we can’t ask a dog if they have been dreaming, it’s a high probability that they do. A harder question is what do dogs dream about? Humans mostly dream about the things they have experienced within the day—this process serves to preserve and consolidate memories. Granted, sometimes these memories are meshed together and reinterpreted in a hodge-podge manner, but nonetheless we can see the elements of everyday experiences—including the joys and the stresses. It could be assumed that this is what are dogs dream about as well. Hence, lessons learned during the day, good or bad, are solidified through the dream state.

There have been anecdotal stories of dogs, upon their waking, exhibiting a behavior correlated with one they display to a particular circumstance when they are awake. This could take shape as fear or reward based behavior like getting a snack or running away from a sound. This indicates that dogs believe they have just had that experience (in the dream state). So maybe your dog dreams about getting snacks, going on walks, seeing that dog or person they like or dislike, chasing something, playing fetch, or an experience that has caused them anxiety. All the things they do and experience on a regular basis. You can track and correlate when your dog dreams and maybe figure it out by looking at a few variables:

  • What interactions did they have during the day? (positive and negative)
  • What did your dog eat and how much?
  • What kind of exercise did your dog have and for how long?
  • What time did your dog go to sleep and when did they wake up?

So our dogs do likely dream, they dream about their experiences, their desires, and their fears. If you watch closely and correlate the day with their sleep, you may actually be able to figure it out.

dogs dreaming

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