Do Dogs Dream?


On average, dogs sleep about 12 to 14 hours a day. Puppies need nearer to 19 hours rest daily! It requires dogs roughly 10 mins to go in a deep, dream-filled sleep, but have you ever wondered what they’re longing for?

How will we know dogs dream?

Researchers have studied brain waves of dogs throughout their sleep cycles and compared these to humans’ brain waves. Dogs experience rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and slow wave sleep (SWS) just like humans do. The REM stage of sleep is a deep sleep where dreaming can happen, and dogs spend about 10% of their time in this dreaming phase when asleep.

One of the earliest sleep researchers, Michel Jouvet, conducted a series of sleep experiments on cats. Initially, his studies focused on the similarities between sleeping cats and sleeping humans by measuring muscle tension and brain activity. Later in his research, he disabled areas of the cat’s brain stem known as the pons that controls paralysis during sleep. While in REM sleep, the pons accounts for sending signals towards the muscles to unwind and abstain from moving around acting out dreams. Once the cat’s body wasn't any longer inhibited of motion during REM sleep, the kitty would perform actions he often went through while awake. The cat stalked invisible prey, groomed himself and walked around- all while sleeping! Jouvet realized that the kitty was dreaming of the duties he'd performed during the day as they was sleeping every night.

How are dog and human sleep cycles different?

We’ve already mentioned how dogs and humans both experience slow wave and rapid eye movement stages of sleep, but these stages occur differently in the sleep cycle for dogs and humans. Humans will average four or five complete cycles every night, with every cycle lasting roughly 1 hour 30 minutes. Canines, however, have shorter, 15-minute cycles and often will experience 20 per night.

What does my dog dream of?

Similar studies to Jouvet’s cat research happen to be done recently, with the temporary deactivation from the pons in a number of different breed of dogs. Using the pons deactivated, the dogs were free to act out their dreams and often acted out activities they enjoyed doing while awake. Pointers would point at dream birds, dogs who liked to chase would “run,” etc.

Does age or breed affect my dog’s dreams?

It’s been found that small dogs have more frequent dreams than large dogs, however the small dogs’ dreams in many cases are shorter in duration. Age could also play a factor inside your dog acting out his dreams! Younger dogs come with an underdeveloped pons and senior dogs have a pons that may not work as efficiently. This contributes to less control of muscle paralysis while asleep, and that's why puppies and senior dogs are often more “active” during sleep.

If my dog can dream, can he have nightmares?

Unfortunately, dogs can have nightmares. If you feel your pet has a nightmare while he is snarling, growling or crying out, restrain the impulse to wake him from it. Dogs who are woken from a scary dream may not know where they're immediately and may impulsively lash out to you. Dogs don’t have the ability to construct fearful, imaginative monsters, so when your pet includes a nightmare he's remembering a traumatic experience that happened to him. In case your dog frequently has nightmares, you can test to assist by making his sleeping environment more relaxed. Play quiet music, give a crate to help your dog feel safe in the “den,” or consider using a pressure wrap.

What does my dog’s sleeping position mean and will it affect dreams?

Your dog can sleep in almost any comfortable position and still dream! Dogs who sleep on their side are often relaxed as well as their limbs are freer to move throughout their dreams. If your dog plops recorded on his side upon your body, he is showing affection and considers his naps along with you as bonding time.

 If your dog would rather curl up in a ball, you probably won’t see as much active movement, but that doesn’t mean he’s not dreaming. Dogs who sleep in a curled-up position might want to achieve this because they feel safer using their vital organs protected, wish to conserve warmth or think they might need to get up quickly.

The “superman” position, when a dog sleeps on his stomach with his legs kicked out, is a favorite of high-energy puppies who wish to be ready to hop on their feet at a moment’s notice to experience. Because puppies have less charge of themselves when sleeping, it is possible to discover their whereabouts dreaming out of this position.

If your pet chooses to sleep on his back together with his paws in the air, he may be trying to cool off, since hair is thinner on the dog’s stomach and the paws hold a dog’s sweat glands. Only dogs who are very comfortable with their surroundings will flop down and take a nap within this position.

Tips for any better night’s rest!

Whether your dog is a rambunctious dreamer or a quiet, tightly curled ball, it’s vital that you give a comfortable sleeping location for him to their own. Leave blankets or perhaps a dog bed down if you don’t permit him to sleep inside your bed with you. Make sure that your dog’s bed isn’t somewhere that will get too hot or too cold, for example in sunlight or near a drafty door. Don’t forget to give your dog plenty of his favorite exercise throughout the day to put on him out and provide him something to dream of!