Ever wonder what dogs dream?
I know there are groups of people who don’t even remotely consider it.
But I know for a fact, dogs do…
When I was a kid, I remember going into panics when I’d see or hear my dogs make weird noises while twitching in their sleep. Not even my parents were able to come up with a good enough explanation, which was probably why it added to my growing concerns. I honestly thought my dogs were sick.
After observing so many dogs sleep and enter REM (rapid eye movement) over the years, I can definitely say that dogs do dream. A lot! There is no debating that.
What is Rapid Eye Movement?
When sleeping and entering the REM stage, brain activity levels heighten. The brain processes activity just as one would when fully awake. Heart and respiration speeds up, but certain muscle groups go through involuntary paralysis. This explains why dogs (and humans) can go through intense, realistic dreams, and react to them with a twitch here-and-there. Also a good explanation as to why dogs bark and howl very low during a dream and why humans mumble in theirs.
Like humans, dogs tend to dream of things going on in the past and present.
Take for instance, Leila, our Standard Poodle, who suckled and pawed in her sleep as a pup. She continued to do so until 6 months of age. An obvious guess would be her remembrance and cherished times as a suckling puppy. It was a state of total comfort and relaxation (like her life is any different now ).
Or Frisco, our Pit Bull mix, who sometimes barks and howls in his sleep. He does this without even opening his mouth. (His lips just flap around, it’s pretty funny.) You can see his ribs expand, as if getting ready to let off a loud bark, but the output of the bark is very low and squeal’ish. He barks at a number things like stray cats, or when he’s simply horsing around with other dogs, but one can only wonder what he’s barking at in a dream. Sometimes, he’ll wake up and immediately look around in prey drive mode–I’m guessing something he was chasing? Other times, he’ll wake up and intensely start to wag his tail, then lay back down in dead hopes–maybe I was playing with him?
Though dogs rarely have nightmares, because I mean, c’mon, their lives are great! They do on occasion cry and whine in their sleep.
One can only guess and wonder what’s going on. We can try and link it to what’s made the dog sad recently, but it’s merely a guess.
And just like people who sleep walk in their sleep, there are dogs who swing their legs in full stride without waking up. Some dogs sniff and dig in their dreams, intensely, as if they’re on to something. Others even snarl and become aggressive in their sleep.
I recently got the opportunity to raise a litter of 10 puppies. It wasn’t the first time I’ve had the opportunity to raise a litter, but it was the first I decided to observe sleeping patterns in young dogs.
What I noticed with the recent litter, before the puppies were even able to walk and open their eyes, was they were already barking, whining and howling in their sleep. Keep in mind this was before they even heard another dog bark or howl. Aside from the sounds they made when resting, there was a lot of body twitching and body jolts. This confused me, no way could these dogs already be entering REM, or could they? I later found out through friends in Veterinary medicine that the twitching and body jolts was the actual development and hard-wiring of the puppies taking place and not REM kicking in. It was their actual nervous system, unraveling on a day-to-day basis.
One thing you never want to do when your dog is going through an intense dream, is shake them out of it. If the dream is intense, possibly an aggressive one, they can wake up in a defense reaction and bite. There have been reports of dog owners who’ve witnessed their own dog wake out of an intense dream only to attack another dog in the household who was laying too close. Calmly calling out their name is more than enough–though they usually work themselves out of it naturally.
Some dogs, overtime, learn to associate fake events with sleep. There is no obvious way to explain the science of a dream to a dog. Luckily, almost all dogs grasp the idea that a 100ft cat is a bit ridiculous. Or, no?
I sometimes wonder if dogs can develop dreams so farfetched that they kind of laugh at themselves.
I do think they can process things like us dog owners leaving their food bin open just so they help themselves to all the food. Kibble and a storage bin where their food is stored would be the two strong points needed to create that particular dream for a dog, I assume.
Or I imagine they can dream of fighting off a cat from getting in through the doggy door–things that again, may or may not have happened. However, I still think a dog needs to be familiar with a doggy-door and a cat to turn those two subjects into a vivid story.
How complicated can a dogs dream get? Who knows.
Rest assured, dogs for a fact have less complicated dreams than humans. Dogs can’t process certain social behaviors like humans can–jealousy, hate, and greed. Dogs’ lives also don’t revolve around material things. They can however remember and hurt when a loved one is no longer with them–dog or human.
Things like this are what makes dogs so unique to us. You can look into a dog’s eyes and see that there is someone behind those big round eyes. The mystery of not knowing what takes place in a dog’s mind makes them that much more amazing to us and the reason why dogs rule.
The next time your dog wakes up from an intense dream, laugh it off with them. I do it with my dogs, because I know deep down they’re laughing it off too.
Tell us your stories, because I personally can’t stop hearing about them. Did your dog’s dream freak you out? Did you laugh?