Do Dogs Dream?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, our dogs spend roughly 12-14 hours per 24 hour period snoozing. Often, dog owners will associate that little leg twitch or tiny “yip” that comes out while sleeping has to do with something their dog is dreaming about. But do dogs dream, or are those little twitches completely random?
The answer to that question, according to most researchers, is that dogs are most likely dreaming. Matt Wilson, a neuroscientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, explained to PetMD that dogs have a sleep structure that is very similar to humans.
Dogs, like humans and other mammals, experience REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, the stage of sleep in which humans experience dreams. Humans and dogs alike have similarly high levels of brain activity during this stage of sleep, which suggests that dogs are dreaming, just like we do. Lastly, both humans and dogs also have a brain structure that paralyze our major muscles to prevent us from physically acting out our dreams: the Pons Varolli. The fact that dogs also have this structure means it is there for a reason: to keep them from acting out while dreaming.
What Do Dogs Dream About?
Yes, the physiology of humans’ and dogs’ brains are incredibly similar while sleeping, but what does that mean for the content of our dogs’ dreams? Wilson conducted experiments with sleeping rats, and the results suggest that their dreams are connected to actual experiences, much like humans. Although a dog specific study has not been conducted, Wilson and other researchers believe that dogs’ dreams are also based on day to day activities, like that pesky mailman or the outdoor cat who hangs outside of Fido’s window.
Research has also suggested that one of the main things your pup dreams about is you!
Of course, we cannot directly communicate with our dogs to compare our dreams to theirs, so there is no guarantee that dogs dream in the exact same fashion that we do. Researchers believe that dogs’ dreams are compromised mainly by daily activities, but chopped up and put back together in dream-like fashion. In other words, it is probably similar to our dreams; a disjointed storyline that makes sense while dreaming but may not have as clear of a narrative flow as you thought once awake.