What do dogs dream of? Fun facts about dog dreams

  • Dogs dream of normal things in their lives, like games and baths.
  • But dogs can also have nightmares, but you shouldn’t wake them up even if they seem distressed.
  • Small dogs dream more frequently than large dogs, but large dogs have longer dreams.

Like humans, dogs make all kinds of little movements and sounds while they sleep. You may see the twitch of a tail or hear your dog moan softly. These are familiar to us as the telltale signs of the dream.

But unlike humans, you can’t just ask them what kinds of dreams they had when they woke up. Here are some ideas from vets about what dogs dream about.

What do dogs dream of?

sleeping dog

Your dog probably only dreams of things for dogs.

Sofie Coopersmith/Inisder

Like humans, dogs experience rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is the deepest phase of sleep where dreams typically occur.

“If REM and dreaming ‘work’ in the same way in dogs as they do in humans, then they are probably dreaming about their everyday experiences with dogs,” says Dr. Leanne Lilly, Assistant Clinical Professor and Section Head of behavioral medicine at Ohio State University College. of veterinary medicine.

While there’s no way to know for sure what dogs dream about, a few small studies and anecdotal accounts give us some clues.

In one experiment, researchers temporarily disabled dogs’ pons, the part of the brain that stops large muscles from moving during sleep. Under very careful conditions, they were able to observe the sleeping dogs fulfilling their dreams.

The researchers hypothesized that the dogs acted exactly as they would when active – chasing imaginary birds and behaving normally.

In another account, a man speculated that his dog had just woken up from a dream about bath time. He knew this because his dog ran fearfully and hid between his legs after waking up, a behavior that only occurs after being bathed.

Do dogs have nightmares?

sleeping dog

Let sleeping dogs lie.

Getty Images/Aliaksandr Barysenka/EyeEm

Dogs can have bad dreams or dreams typically associated with negative emotions, says Carlo Siracusa, associate professor of clinical behavioral medicine at Penn Vet and director of Companion Animal Behavioral Medicine at Ryan Hospital.

Shaky eyelids or paws are normal in a sleeping dog, but additional signs may indicate he’s having a nightmare, including:

  • Sweaty paws
  • growl or bark
  • Moans and moans
  • rapid breathing
  • Tense jaw

If you think your dog is having a nightmare, don’t wake him up as he may react aggressively due to disorientation or fear, advises Siracusa.

“Even with humans, we can become combative during this transition from nightmare to awake, and we have a much better ability to inhibit inappropriate or unwanted behavior than dogs,” says Lilly. “They’re like permanent toddlers in that regard.”

Nightmares are usually not a cause for concern. However, if it seems to be happening much more frequently, you may want to take your dog to the vet.

Bad dreams can be associated with trouble sleeping, Siracusa says. He strongly recommends discussing any sleep disturbances with the vet, especially if there is aggressive behavior.

Fun facts about dog dreams

sleeping dogs

The length of your dog’s dreams may depend on its size.

Emily Newman/Inisder

Much remains unknown about dogs and how they dream, but here are some interesting facts that dog owners might be interested in knowing:

  • Small dogs dream more frequently than large dogs. Meanwhile, large dogs tend to have fewer but longer dreams.
  • Dogs spend about half as long as people in the REM stage where dreams are thought to occur, Lilly says.
  • Puppies dream more than adult dogs, probably because they have a lot of new information to process at night.

Insider’s Takeaways

We have no way of knowing for sure, but we believe that dogs dream about the activities they like to do while awake.

If you think your dog is having a nightmare because of his body language, don’t wake him up as he may react aggressively out of fear or disorientation.

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