What Do Dogs Dream About? Knowing Your Dog

What Do Dogs Dream About? Knowing Your Dog

Have you seen your dog moving their paws or letting out a sleepy bark when they are fast asleep? These are signs that your dog is having a dream, and it’s actually very common. 

You’re more likely to see puppies twitching and moving during sleep as the pons in their brainstem have not yet fully developed. Pons are responsible for paralysing the body during sleep to prevent movement and sleepwalking. Keep reading to find out more.

Do Dogs Have Dreams?

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Yes, it’s believed that dogs and most vertebrates have dreams just as humans do. Research suggests that dogs dream on a regular basis. 

Brain Wave Patterns While Sleeping 

Dogs go through sleep cycles as we do. They experience wakefulness, Rapid Eye Movement sleep, and non-rapid-eye-movement sleep. 

It is during the Rapid Eye Movement sleep that vivid dreams occur. During this stage of sleep, the dog’s breathing may sound irregular and their eyes may flicker as they dream.

What Do Dogs Dream About When They Sleep?

While there is no way to truly know what dogs are dreaming about, it's likely their dreams are similar to ours. It’s thought dogs dream about things they normally do when awake. 

Dogs are likely reliving experiences from their daily life and going about their usual activities in their dreams.  

Researchers temporarily deactivated the muscle-paralysing pons in dogs’ brains to allow them to act out their dreams. This gave an indication of what dogs were dreaming about. It seems that dogs dream about things they would often do when awake such as chasing animals, interacting with people, etc. 

Studies also found that smaller dogs have frequent, short dreams while larger dogs dream less often but their dreams are longer. 

How To Tell If Your Dog Is Dreaming 

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When dogs dream their breathing is often shallow and irregular, you may also see their muscles twitch, their tail wag, and their eyes move. Some dogs make noise when dreaming too so you might hear your dog whimper, cry, or bark. 

How To Tell If Your Dog Is Having A Nightmare

When dogs have nightmares they may twitch, whine, growl or make distress sounds. Look out for signs that would indicate they are feeling anxious or threatened. These signs are the same when awake and when experiencing a bad dream. 

It is best not to wake your dog when they are having a bad dream, particularly if they are showing signs of intense fear or aggression. If woken, it could take the dog a moment to realise they are not dreaming anymore so there is a risk of them reacting in fear or aggression.

What Do Dogs Dream About When Having Nightmares?

There is no way of knowing for certain what dogs dream about. However, as it is likely they dream about their day they might be dreaming about things that upset them. This could be anything from being shouted at to interactions with an aggressive dog or traumatic events they may have experienced. 

What Do Dogs Dream About When They Growl?

If your dog is growling in their sleep it may be experiencing a bad dream. As dogs tend to dream about things they experience when they are awake they could be dreaming about something like a stranger at the door. 

What Do Dogs Dream About When They Cry?

Crying is a sign your dog is experiencing a nightmare or bad dream. They may have dreamt about something painful or frightening. This could be anything from a scary grooming procedure to a bad experience they had at the vet. 

What Do Dogs Dream About When They Whimper?

If your dog is whimpering in their sleep they may be having a nightmare where they feel anxious or threatened. They could be dreaming about people shouting, aggressive dogs, or scary things they have experienced. 

Some dogs whimper in excitement too so they could be having a good dream. Whimpering while dreaming usually only lasts a few seconds. 

How To Tell If Your Dog Is Twitching Or Having A Seizure 

The twitching of a dreaming dog may appear similar to a seizure but there are a few key differences to look out for. Firstly, seizures tend to be more violent and last longer. 

Seizures are more likely to occur when your dog is awake. When a dog is experiencing a seizure its limbs become rigid and it may drool or foam at the mouth. Upon regaining consciousness, a dog that has experienced a seizure will seem disoriented and distressed. 

When dogs are experiencing a seizure their breathing will sound laboured and struggling. If you think your dog is having a seizure, call the vet. 

If your dog is twitching in its sleep they will gently twitch for a short period (usually less than 30 seconds). When they wake up they will appear fine but probably a bit sleepy. 

Can I Wake My Dog While It's Dreaming? 

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It is better to not wake your dog up while they are dreaming. Dogs have sleep patterns similar to our own so they get the most rest during the REM stage of sleep. Waking up your dog when they are dreaming means disrupting their sleep cycle and pulling them out of REM sleep. 

There is also a risk of your dog being startled if you wake them from a dream. This can be dangerous, particularly if they are experiencing a bad dream. 

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