Your dog is fast asleep, when suddenly he starts shaking, moving his legs to tail, or engaging in some other sort of odd behavior. Could your dog be possibly dreaming?
Splash and Dash Groomerie & Boutique along with Scientists around the world believe so. In fact, they not only believe that dogs dream, they also believe that dogs dream similarly to us.
What even is a dream?
To think about how dogs dream we should first establish what a dream actually is. Dreams occur during sleep, so understanding the sleep process helps us define what dreams are. Sleep is a natural state of being, in which consciousness and voluntary muscular activity are reduced in both people and animals. Sleep is obviously very important for growth and allows downtime to recharge your body systems and functions. While sleeping, the brain processes information and experience that normally occurs during waking hours.
Do Dogs Really Have Dreams?
This is a common question we get at Splash and Dash Groomerie & Boutique, and the answer is always the same. Yes dog dreams do exist, and believe it or not they are very similar to how we dream. Researchers at MIT actually measured rats’ brain activity which can be linked to dogs.
“We looked at the firing patterns of a collection of individual cells to determine the content of rats’ dreams. We know that they are in fact dreaming and their dreams are connected to actual experiences.” – Matthew Wilson of MIT’s Center for Learning and Memory.
But, how do I know if my Dog is Dreaming?
If you’re someone who regularly watches your dog sleep (we won’t judge), you’ll notice that as your dog begins to doze off their breathing will change. It will become more regular, and for an average-sized dog, the breathing will become shallow and regular. It’s actually at this moment where your dogs dream first begins. You may notice some quivering, and your dogs eyes may start moving behind their closed eyelids. The eyes are moving because your dog is looking through the images in their doggy dream as if they were images in real life.
Humans have a very similar sleep phase known as rapid eye movement, or better known as REM sleep. If awoken during this time, humans almost always are able to say that they were dreaming and can even recall vivid details about their dream. Even though dogs don’t wake up and describe their dreams, scientists have managed to gather a lot of information about dog dreams and sleep patterns through clinical observations.
During REM sleep the brain functions much like It does when we’re awake, so dog and people dream about things that occurred during their waking hours. All the experiences gathered throughout the day is processed at night and may be relieved in dreams. Luckily, dreams include a safety feature: the pons. The Pons is basically a part of the brain that stops us from physically acting out our dreams. Although you may feel like you ran a marathon or jumped out of an airplane, you are actually safely tucked away in bed. Similar to his owner, a dog may relive daytime experience and “sleep run” as he chases a cat or fetches a ball.
How often do Dogs Dream?
Some dogs dream more than others, and the length of the dreams vary according to age and size of the dog. Smaller dogs actually seem to have more dreams than bigger dogs. Research by psychologist Stanley Coren suggests that the length and frequency of dreams may be related to the animals size entirely. For example, a toy poodle may dream every 10 minutes, while a big Labrador retriever may only dream once every 60 minutes. However the length of the poodles dreams may only last a minute, while the Labradors dreams may last 10 minutes long. Dream length and frequency are also related to the amount of sleep required by your doggy. A large dog that has an active day outside may sleep much more soundly and experience longer phases of REM sleep (just like humans), giving him more time to dream.
Do Puppies Dream?
Yes Puppies dream, research suggests they even dream more than their adult counterparts. The young innocent minds of puppies experience more dreams than adult dogs because pups acquire huge amounts of new information daily and have much to process at night (adorable right?). This could be the same reason puppies and adult dogs shake while sleeping, it’s because they are dreaming and processing all of the new experiences of the long dog day.
Do Dogs have Nightmares?
Another interesting topic is whether or not dogs have bad dreams. We get asked all the time at Splash and Dash Groomerie & Boutique if a dog who shakes while they sleep means something is wrong, and the answer might surprise you.
It may be alarming to see your dog running in place while asleep, or hearing him whimper or shake. However, please don’t be frightened by your dogs strange actions while asleep. Although you’ll feel the need to wake your dog up to interrupt what must be a nightmare, there really is nothing to worry about.
Most dog dreams aren’t nightmares, dreaming is a normal and healthy occurrence that is natural and a regular part of the 24 hour cycle of wakefulness and sleep. Dog nightmares are rare, and more importantly dogs and humans need uninterrupted sleep for health of mind and body, so please don’t wake up your doggy.
Do All Animals Dream?
It’s hard to say for sure whether or not all animals dream, as there is still so much research that needs to be conducted. However, we can say without a doubt that cats, dogs, rats, horses, sheep, and even cows dream while they sleep. What do all of them dream about? It’s hard to say, but science tells us they are dreaming about experiences they have encountered throughout the day and not jumping out of airplanes or running marathons like us humans do in our dreams.