Do Dogs Dream?

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Yes, we think that dogs dream. Researchers can’t resist testing everything about dogs so, naturally, they have tested dogs while they sleep. Using an electroencephalogram (EEG), they tested the brainwave activity of dogs while they slept. They discovered that dogs have brainwave activity and sleep patterns that are very similar to those of humans.

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Like people, dogs go into a deep sleep and their breathing becomes more irregular. They start to have rapid eye movements. This is called REM sleep. This is the stage when humans dream. It’s also when people make involuntary movements. That’s what the researchers discovered with the dogs, too. In this stage of sleep dogs would move their legs like they were running, cry and whimper or bark, breathe fast or hold their breath for a moment. In other words, the dogs were showing all the signs that they were reacting to things in dreams. It certainly seems that dogs dream.

Unfortunately, we can’t ask dogs what they dream about. Well, we could ask them but they can’t tell us. They probably dream about the same kinds of things that we dream about – things that happened during the day; dog friends; us; food; playing with a favorite toy – the things that are important to them.

The researchers also discovered that small dogs dream more than big dogs for some reason. A Toy Poodle could dream at the rate of once every 10 minutes while a Golden Retriever could dream once every 90 minutes. Puppies dream much more than adult dogs, possibly because they are processing so much new information. Human babies spend up to 80 percent of their sleep time in REM sleep, so maybe puppies also spend most of their sleep in the REM stage that facilitates dreaming.

You have probably seen your dog sleeping with his legs running or twitching. Maybe he has woofed in his sleep. Maybe someday we can discover exactly what our dogs dream about. Scientists say that it’s best not to wake up a dog when he’s dreaming. He needs to sleep and dreams to be healthy.

If you would like to watch your dog when he sleeps and see if you can detect when he starts dreaming, it usually takes about 20 minutes from the time a dog falls asleep before he begins to dream. His breathing will be regular at first. As he he starts to dream his breathing will become shallow and irregular. You will start to see his eyes move and flicker behind his eyelids. This is the REM stage. His eyes are moving because he is watching the events in the dream (we suppose). He may have muscle twitches or make some woofs or other sounds on some occasions. Not every dream is eventful, but if you observe him on a regular basis, you should get a good idea of what kind of dreams he has.

Carlotta Cooper

Carlotta is a long-time contributing editor for the weekly dog show magazine Dog News. She's also the author of The Dog Adoption Bible, the Dog Writers Association of America Award winner for 2013. In addition, she's written Canine Cuisine: 101 Natural Dog Food & Treat Recipes to Make Your Dog Healthy and Happy.

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