Have You Ever Wondered: Do Dogs Dream?

Have You Ever Wondered: Do Dogs Dream?

Author WDF Staff


Is there anything cuter than a dog sleeping? Not many things can melt our hearts like a dog that is enjoying its peace and quiet. The only thing cuter is when its legs start to twitch a bit or they are making cute little sleepy noises while they are dreaming.

Dog owners have been giving their dog certain human characteristics like speaking, understanding what you are telling them, complaining, and all because we all feel like they are a part of our family. That is certainly true and your dog has a specific role in your family, in your “pack”.

One of the most interesting things to know is the answer to an old question;

Do dogs dream?

If you ask a dog owner the question “Do dogs dream?”, they will most likely give you a positive answer and will tell you at least one anecdote where their dog started twitching in their sleep.

The scientific community also wanted to answer that question so, in 1977, a group of scientists decided to measure and examine the brain waves of 7 different dogs for 24 hours. They came to some remarkable conclusions.

Dogs go through a sleep cycle that looks incredibly similar to how our sleep cycle looks like. The biggest difference is that dogs sleep a lot more than we do.

These scientists concluded that dogs spend about 44% of their daily time on high alert and ready for different activities. 21% of the time they spent being slow, peaceful, and a bit sleepy, and 12% of their time these dogs spent in the REM stage of sleep. 23% of their time they were in the deep, non-REM stage of the sleep where their body is extremely relaxed and they get the best possible relaxation. 

Dogs dream - REM stage

REM or Rapid eye movement stage is the part where dreams happen for dogs. During that stage, your dog’s breathing can become irregular and their body can start twitching or moving in some way. Dogs enter the REM stage about 20 minutes after they have firmly fallen asleep and they can remain in that stage for about 2 or 3 minutes.

Why do dogs twitch when they dream?

Twitching is especially noticeable in older and younger dogs whose pons are either underdeveloped or stopped working properly. The pons is a part of the brain stem that blocks large muscles from acting out everything we or our dogs dream of.

dog dream

Scientists were interested in understanding a dog’s dreams so they found a way to “deactivate” the dog’s pons and, not surprisingly, dogs started acting out their dreams. That was also an effective way of finding out the answer to our next question.

What do dogs dream about?

In short- dogs dream about dog things. Yes, your dog is most likely dreaming about their daily lives, people, and dogs that are close to them, their activities, and things they experienced during their life. Again, scientists noticed that REM brain waves of dogs were very much like the brain waves during their daily activities like running or snooping.

dog nap

When dogs dream of running, it is not uncommon for their legs to start twitching. They can even start “biting” air in front of them if they are dreaming about food or playing with other dogs.

Different dog dreams

Scientists that were studying dreaming dogs came to a bunch of interesting conclusions and one of our favorite ones is - big dogs dream differently than small dogs!

Small dogs dream more often than large dogs. Smaller breeds usually have shorter dreaming periods. Their REM stage is a bit different from the REM stage of large dogs. Large dogs have longer REM dream periods but they are less often. It is also interesting to know that different breeds dream of different things.

That doesn’t mean that Chihuahuas are dreaming of becoming famous singers or that a Doberman is dreaming of a baseball career. It means that specific breeds are dreaming about specific things they were actually bred to do. Guard breeds are dreaming about guarding, pointer breeds are dreaming of pointing, and retriever breeds are dreaming of retrieving.

dog sleeping

Dogs and humans have similar sleep patterns and it is not surprising that our dream patterns are similar as well. However, dogs can have nightmares, just like humans can. It is a bit harder to know what counts as a dog nightmare. It might be that they are alone or something big is chasing them, but whatever it is, the best advice would be not to wake a sleeping dog.

Do you remember waking up from a dream and it took some time to remember where you were and what was going on? The same thing can happen to a dog and if you wake a dog up from a nightmare it can react in an aggressive or scared manner and unintentionally bite or scratch you. The best option would be to let your dog wake up and just be close by to comfort and protect them from bad dreams.

Now you know a bit more about what your dog is dreaming about and how to properly react if your dog is having bad dreams or starts twitching in his sleep. Sleep tight!

World Dog Finder team