Monday, August 5, 2013

Do dogs dream?

Anybody who's been amused by a sleeping dog's muffled barks and jerky legs knows that dogs dream. In tests with people, scientists have determined that rapid eye movement (REM) is the stage when dreaming occurs.  The body is relaxed but the mind is active - the brain producing waves similar to those we have when we're awake. People acknowledge that it is during REM sleep that dreaming is most intense. We know that dogs experience REM sleep, so it stands to reason that dogs dream during that stage of sleep as well.

When dogs enter REM sleep, their legs and eyes may
twitch and their tails move erratically.  Whining,
growling and barking is common, too.

Do dogs sleepwalk?  During REM sleep, our bodies go into a relaxed but semi-paralyzed state to protect us from responding to what's going on in the dream.  When the body fails to silent itself, sleepwalking occurs.  Less than 4% of people sleepwalk and it's probably even less frequent in dogs.  You can see why in this YouTube video of a dog sleepwalking.

What do dogs dream about? Missing a final exam or forgetting to put clothes on?  Not likely. But dogs probably dream about situations equally as stressful.  And equally as pleasant.

Will we ever know?  Probably. As scientists refine MRI tests indicating where certain thoughts and images are processed in the human brain, awake as well as during REM sleep, they can compare brain hot-spots in both species. Canine and human brain anatomies are very similar.

Read more about how scientists are using MRIs to get inside the minds of dogs.

Jennifer Coates DVM talks about dog dreams, too.


  1. My guy was always running and making noises in his sleep and when he wasn't dreaming he was snoring.


  2. It's quite amusing to watch my dogs dream!! They make little whoop-whoop noises and move their little legs!! This passes very quickly and then the snoring begins LOL!!!!

  3. I've heard dogs AND kittens start dreaming at 1 week old. My dog, Rocket is an Amstaff cross SBT. He makes noises when he sleeps. LOL!!!