We have all experienced the pleasure of watching our dogs as they sleep. I often think this is the sweetest time, as I gaze upon my sleeping pet.
Unfortunately, they do not always have a peaceful sleep. Witnessing my dog during this time whimpering, crying out, or moving violently, my protective instincts are on full alert. Is he dreaming, having a nightmare or what? People often wonder, do dogs dream? This article will address that very question, as well as, what we should and shouldn’t do to help our dogs when this occurs.
Do Dogs Dream Like Humans Do?
So, do dogs dream like humans do? Yes, dogs dream, they experience similar sleep cycles as humans. The brains of humans and dogs’ function in a similar manner, both exhibiting brain wave activity patterns. These differing patterns help better define and identify the two sleep cycles.
The initial sleep cycle experienced is referred to as SWS, slow wave sleep, the brain waves during this cycle are slow with smooth rising and falling activity.
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During this stage the mental processes are quiet, but the muscle tone is still active, the body at this stage is not totally relaxed. During the SWS stage your dog can be easily awakened as they are in a lighter sleep state.
Following the SWS stage, the dog will experience a deeper sleep with rapid eye movements, referred to as REM sleep. During this stage the mind is more active with the eyes darting rapidly beneath the eyelids. The REM sleep cycle is the period most responsible for memorable and vivid dreams.
Scientist believe this state allows the brain to better process memory, thus having the daily activities fresh in the brain, allowing them to relive their day. During the REM stage, your dog will have a heightened mental activity, whining, breathing rapidly, and the appearance of running (leg movements).
Many dog owners have witnessed their best friends even snap or growl at something in their sleep, giving credence to the belief that dogs do in fact dream like their human counterparts.
Do Dogs Reach REM Sleep When They Dream?
Do Dogs Reach REM Sleep When They Dream? Scientific research has demonstrated the brain waves of dogs and humans are comparable, validating the assumption dogs reach the REM sleep cycle, thus producing dreams. Scientists have discovered as a dog falls asleep, his breathing becomes deeper and more regular.
The REM sleep stage is usually followed with 20 minutes of slumber, during this time, dreams will be beginning for most dogs. The dogs breathing will become shallow and irregular, muscles may twitch, and his eyes move behind closed lids in a darting fashion.
Scientists believe dogs, like humans, visualize dream images in this phase of sleep. The sleeping brain functions the same as when the dog is awake, therefore, producing dreams about things occurring during their waking hours.
Experts believe the experiences during the day is processed at night, possibly reliving them in their dreams. The researchers at MIT have concluded animals experience complex dreams, like humans, they can remember and replay long sequences of events when they are asleep.
Studies suggest the dog, during the deep REM sleep, will spend approximately 10% of their time in this dreaming phase. Like their human counterpart, it is during this stage your dog could experience frightening dreams or the dreaded nightmare.
Because you love your dog and want to protect them, your first instinct may be to wake them, though this is not recommended. It is important to remember your dogs does not have the ability to construct fearful, imaginative monsters during their nightmare, rather he is remembering a traumatic experience that happened to him.
Because of this your dog my not know where they are right away, if you wake them during a nightmare, they could impulsively lash out at you.
Should I Wake My Dog Up From A Nightmare?
Should I Wake My Dog Up From A Nightmare? In short, No. Just as not all human dreams are good dreams, the same holds true for our fury friends. It can be very hard for us to watch our dogs have a nightmare, thus making it more tempting to wake them up to comfort them. As with humans there are risks associated with waking a dog up from a doggy nightmare.
Children especially should be taught these risks, as wells as, the best course of action to take, to keep everyone safe. Countless experts agree you should let a sleeping dog lie and dream.
Ensuring your dog gets a significant amount of sleep is vital for their health and happiness. It is important to note your dog, as you, requires uninterrupted sleep for health of mind and body.
Experts recommend providing your best friend, a quiet, comfortable area to rest without distractions. Dreaming is a healthy, normal occurrence experienced during a regular 24-hour cycle of wakefulness and sleep.
Often a pet owner will see their dog in what appears to be a fitful dream, the dog could be whimpering, or appear to be running in its sleep. It is during this time you may be tempted to awaken your pet in fear they may be in danger.
With a better understanding of the brain, it is found the body has a built-in mechanism for most people, and dogs, to keep them from acting upon these dreams.
Human and dog brains include a safety feature: the pons.
The pons is the portion of the brain which keeps humans and dogs from physically acting out dreams.
Like his owner, a dog will relive the details of his busy day. He may experience sleep run as he fetches a ball, chasing a cat, or happily running with his owner.
If our brains, and our dogs’ brain did not have the pons, we might act out everything we dreamed about, often with disastrous results. However, if you feel your dog is experiencing a violent nightmare, there are a few suggestions to help your best friend awake in a friendly manner.
- Speak softly to your dog using your voice and not yelling or clapping your hands to get your dog to wake up. If your dog was experiencing a vivid dream, waking them up abruptly will leave your dog disoriented, confused or possibly aggressive as they may not yet recognize they are awake.
- When your dog is fully awake comfort them with love and attention letting them know you are there and everything is ok.
To help our dog fall back to a restful sleep, give them a familiar toy, t-shirt with your scent, or favorite blanket, to help them drift back to a peaceful sleep.
Does The Position My Dog Sleep In Affect His Dreams?
Does The Position My Dog Sleep In Affect His Dreams? A dog, no matter the position he is sleeping in, can experience dreaming, however, the position could limit their movements during sleep.
- When a dog sleeps on its side it is often more relaxed allowing more movement of their limbs during dreaming. One thing to note, if your best friend plops down next to you and falls asleep on their side this is their way of showing their affection for you. The sleep that ensues during this position is a time for bonding as your buddy happily sleeps next to you.
- When a dog sleeps in the ball position, the limbs are constricted thus restricting freer movement during dreaming. However, this does not mean your dog is not dreaming though he probably has a reason for choosing this position. Dogs often sleep this way to feel safer by protecting their vital organs, conserving warmth or wanting to have the ability to jump up quickly if required.
- When a dog sleeps on their stomach, referred to as the “superman” position, his legs are kicked out enabling them to quickly jump to their feet. You will often see puppies in this position as they play until they drop. This position allows them the ability, at a moment’s notice, to hop back up to play. Puppies have less control over their bodies at such a young age, therefore, you are more likely to see them dreaming from this position.
- Many dogs love to sleep on their backs with their paws straight up in the air. Although this position may not look comfortable for us, it is a common position for dogs trying to cool down. The hair on the stomach is thinner than their backs, further, the paws hold the dog’s sweat glands, enabling them to get air to them in this position. When you see a dog in this position, rest assured, he is very comfortable in his surroundings and very relaxed.
Do Puppies Dream More Than Adult Dogs?
Do Puppies Dream More Than Adult Dogs? Yes, researchers have concluded that puppies do dream more than adult dogs. Not all dogs dream the same amount during sleep. Small dogs are believed to dream more than large dogs.
However, studies have found the larger breeds will dream longer than the small breeds and puppies. A toy breed may dream once every ten minutes with a dog from a larger breed experiencing dreaming only once every 90 minutes.
Let’s face it, if dreams are based upon the dog’s daily activity and experiences, it is easy to understand why puppies dream more frequently than older dogs.
The activity of a puppy is constant motion and curiosity, resulting in their need to process huge quantities of newly acquired experiences!
Additionally, with adult dogs sleeping an average of 12 to 14 hours a day, a puppy needs to sleep closer to 19 hours, thus allowing for more dream time.
We know our dogs dream as we do, unfortunately, sometimes that means the dreaded nightmare can happen. Though we hate to see our fur babies experience a bad dream, it is a good idea, as mentioned in this article, to let nature take its course.
Remember to let your dog wake on its own, but be there to comfort him, reassuring him he is safe and loved. As mentioned above, there are many opportunities for sleep and positions in which your dog may choose to sleep.
Your dog can be a rambunctious dreamer or a quiet sleeper, the important thing to remember is we need to ensure our dogs have enough sleep, and rest, for mental and physical health.
Providing your pet with a comfortable sleeping spot he can call his own, is a great start. Giving your pet the love, nourishment and proper exercise required for your breed of dog goes a long way to producing a happy best friend with plenty of reason to have something pleasant to dream about!