According to the National Sleep Foundation, our dogs spend roughly twelve to 14 hours per 24-hour period snoozing.
Often, dog owners think those little leg twitches or tiny “yips” that comes out while their pups are sleeping have to do with the things their dogs are dreaming about.
But do dogs dream? Or are those little twitches completely random? And if they do dream, what do they dream about?
Do Dogs Dream?
The answer to that question, according to most researchers, is that dogs are most likely dreaming. Matt Wilson, a neuroscientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, explained to PetMD that dogs have a sleep structure that’s very similar to humans.
Dogs, like humans and other mammals, experience REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, the stage of sleep in which we experience dreams. Humans and dogs both have similarly high levels of brain activity during this stage of sleep, which suggests that dogs dream, just like we do.
Lastly, both humans and dogs also have a brain structure, called the Pons Varolli, that paralyzes our major muscles to prevent us from physically acting out our dreams. The fact that dogs also have this structure means it’s likely there for a reason: to keep them from acting out their dreams.
What Do Dogs Dream About?
Yes, the physiology of humans’ and dogs’ brains are incredibly similar while sleeping, but what does that mean for the content of our dogs’ dreams?
Wilson conducted experiments with sleeping rats, and the results suggest that their dreams are connected to actual experiences, much like humans.
Although a dog-specific study has not been conducted, Wilson and other researchers believe that dogs’ dreams are also based on day to day activities, like that pesky mailman or the outdoor cat who hangs outside of Fido’s window.
Research has also suggested that one of the main things your pup dreams about is you!
Of course, we cannot directly communicate with our dogs to compare our dreams to theirs, so there’s no guarantee that dogs dream in the exact same fashion that we do. Researchers believe that the content of dogs’ dreams consists mainly of their daily activities, but chopped up and put back together in dream-like fashion.
In other words, they’re probably similar to our dreams; disjointed story lines that makes sense while dreaming but may not have as clear of a narrative flow as you thought once you awaken.
Are My Dog’s Dreams ‘Normal?’
Leg twitches, whimpers, and snarls during your dog’s REM cycle are completely normal.
Dogs also tend to have a little more movement in their sleep, so even seeing something as odd as “sleep running” still falls under the umbrella of “normal” sleep patterns.
If you feel like your dog is moving too much or may be having seizures during their sleep, check in with your vet to make sure everything is A-Okay in dreamland.
Can I Wake Up My Sleeping Dog?
Waking up your dog while they’re clearly deep in a REM cycle will not harm your dog, but it could startle them.
If your dog is prone to anxiety or surprise-fueled aggression, it may be in your best interest to simply let sleeping dogs lie.
On the other hand, if your dog seems distressed or like they’re having a bad dream, you may wish to try gently talking to them or stroking their fur. You can even place your hand near their nose so they can smell you and feel comforted. Try to pull your dog out of the nightmare without jarring them awake.
Does your dog have any silly movements while they dream and sleep? Have you noticed your dog acting out any dreams? Let us know in the comments below!