As humans, we dream every night, whether we remember the content of our dreams or not. It is a signal of a healthy, well-functioning brain! But do our dogs dream? Some of us may have noticed paws twitching, snouts wriggling, or even heard muffled yips from our dogs as they appear to be asleep. So, is this evidence of our dog’s dreaming? According to the American Kennel Club, yes!
Like us, dogs go through several sleep cycles throughout the night, or during the day, if your dog’s favorite hobby is napping. During REM sleep, or Rapid Eye Movement sleep, is when vertebrates (including you, me, and your dog) experience the most vivid dreams. Further, researchers at MIT found that animals can have complex dreams. It is believed that the brain is processing and storing memories during the REM stage of the sleep cycle. This is often when we can see our dogs twitching or moving in their sleep. It was also found that smaller dogs dream more frequently than larger dogs, but smaller dog dreams are shorter in duration.
So, you might be wondering if dogs do dream, what do they dream about? To solve this mystery, researchers disabled the part of the brain that controls movement when dogs sleep. This part, the Pons, is also found in humans usually prevents us and our dogs from moving while we dream. So, by disabling this part, the Pons, researchers were able to observe dogs acting out their dreams. Researchers found that dogs dream about, “doggy things”. Eating, chasing prey, fighting off threats, and interacting with other dogs and humans are a few common themes that dog dream about. You might observe your dog twitching or moving in their sleep as they dream. This is completely normal and most common in puppies, who have underdeveloped Pons as well as older dogs who have less efficient Pons.
As dogs do have the ability to dream, they also have the capacity to have nightmares. While you may be tempted to wake your dog to comfort them, know that this is normal and often better to let the bad dream pass. In short, follow the advice of the old say: “let sleeping dogs lie”.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding the sleeping patterns of your dog, feel free to mention them to your veterinarian at your next visit!