Usually, when our dogs are sleeping, they make these cute weird sounds, and they move their front and hind paws repeatedly as if they were trying to run or escape. Plus, you have probably watched more videos of dogs sleeping than you can count. And the question arises every single time: do dogs dream? If so, what do they dream about?
Dogs’ sleep: how does it work?
Just like humans, dogs go through different sleep cycles. However, our dog’s sleep is not as deep as our sleep: our pups are always alert and may even wake up several times in the middle of the night. That’s why if you’ve ever watched your dog sleep, you probably noticed that in the presence of the slightest movement or sound, they open their eyes.
Also, even though dogs sleep between 12 and 14 hours a day, their sleep cycle is shorter than a human’s sleep cycle. They can only have 45 minutes of sleep at a time, and during that period, they experience two sleep cycles. On the contrary, our cycles consist of 120 minutes of sleep.
Last but not least, dogs are not lazy! They are polyphasic sleepers. This means that it is normal for them to sleep several times throughout the day and night. You can read more about it in our blog about Why do dogs sleep so much?
Dog’s daydreaming: what do dogs dream about?
Dogs also experience the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) phase of sleep, in which dreams take place. So, do dogs dream? Yes, absolutely! But what do dogs dream about?
It has been scientifically proven that during the REM phase, dogs recall their daily activities. Yes, just like we dream about that old friend whom we ran into yesterday, they probably dream about that long walk in the park, that tasty snack, or that dog they played with. Anything they have done during the day; it’s probably processed during sleep time. Cute, right?
Scientists of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have discovered that some animals also have the ability to dream. After running some tests over rat’s brains, they have discovered that the part of the brain that showed movement while playing and running in a maze, was the same part that showed movement during their sleep. This means that rats were using the same part of the brain for both things, so they were basically dreaming about mazes.
This is one of the clearest proofs that intelligent animals like dogs also dream since rats’ brains are much less complex and intelligent than dogs’ and they still do it. The brain patterns in dogs go through the same stages of electrical activity as human patterns, which is also a clear indicator that dogs can and do dream.
Do dogs experience nightmares?
If dogs can dream, they can probably have nightmares. However, this has not been scientifically proven yet. If you think your dog is having a nightmare due to the way he moves or the noises he makes, you should not wake him up abruptly. He will probably be confused and might act aggressively towards you.
Similarities in dogs and human sleep
Just like humans, dogs…
- Use sleep to learn and solidify the knowledge they have acquired throughout the day. If you have been trying to teach your dog the same trick over and over again and it’s no use, wait until he sleeps on it!
- Sleep a lot less if they are anxious or stressed. A dog will have a much better night (or day!) sleep if he is feeling relaxed and happy.
- Experience a deeper sleep if they are physically worn out. Make sure to provide them with challenging walking routines so they can sleep better.