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Can dogs dream?

Updated on June 28, 2010

There is nothing unusual about a kicking, running and whining dogs. But if the dog is doing these while asleep, an owner would either be amused or alarmed. A dog with the four legs up in the air, briskly pedaling and whining every now and then while snapping its mouth would surely be an entertaining sight. You would think that the dog is trying to catch an imaginary butterfly or trying to avoid an irate neighbor for filching the cooling steak on the picnic table. Dogs really do have some very amusing, exasperating and puzzling behaviors. Some owners, especially those that can’t seem to take their eyes away from the beloved pet would swear that their dogs dream. Others don’t. It is believed that dogs are very similar to humans in genetic makeup. Thus it is possible for dogs to dream. Researchers have recently discovered that dogs really dream.

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A dog’s stages of sleep

Studies made on the sleep patterns of canines have discovered that similar to human dogs undergo stages of sleep. Using an electroencephalogram (EEG), it was verified that dogs experience the non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep and the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep stages.

Non-rapid eye movement

As the dog first fall asleep, it will enter the NERM. This initial stage of sleep is characterized by a slow pattern of brain waves. The mind is relatively inactive and the mental processes are somewhat muted although the muscle tone remains the same. This stage is known as the “sleep of the mind”. Because the dog is in a light sleep mode, it can be easily awakened.

Dog’s nightmares

People tend to have bad dreams. Nightmares or unpleasant dreams are commonly associated with distressing psychological and emotional experiences. Thus abused people and those that have traumatic experiences tend to have recurring nightmares. Surprisingly, studies conducted on dog behavior have shown that dreams are less common in neglected and abused dogs. Presumably, the dog has totally buried the bad experiences in its subconscious.

Rapid eye movement

This stage is the “sleep of the body”.  In this stage, the body and the muscles are fully relaxed while the mind is very active. An EEG test will show increased pattern of brain waves showing heightened mental activity. The dog’s heart rate will increase and the breathing becomes irregular. A dog in this stage of sleep would softly grunt and whine, would jerk the legs or contract the lips. In this stage of sleep, dogs will be difficult to awaken. A person awakened during this stage of deep sleep reports he/she had been dreaming. It was presumed that dogs in this stage dream too. The rapid eye movement behind the closed eyelids is probably the dog’s way of watching what it is dreaming about.

Dog’s dreams

Countless studies on dog behavior have been conducted. Unfortunately, human’s best friends cannot vocalize what they feel. It was only presumed that similar to humans, dogs dream about their experiences. Scientists and dog experts believe that canine dreams are centered on the experiences and emotions of the dog. Further, it is believed that dreaming is the dog’s mind’s way of processing what it has learned. The dream may be centered on the experiences that have made an impact on the dog’s mind.

Dog scary dream

Running Dog

Dreaming Dog


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