Doggo having a great dream!

Do dogs dream?  It is a  common question amongst dog owners.  That’s because we often see our pooches quietly whimpering, growling, or barking when they are asleep.  On some occasions, they move their legs as if they are trying to run towards something!

This article will look at the available science to find out of dogs dream and what they might be dreaming about!  Knowing my pugs, it’s probably something to do with food…

How do dogs sleep?

We all know that dogs love to sleep.  My pugs can easily sleep for 14 hours a day!  But are they sleeping like we do?

Scientists have already discovered that dog sleep patterns are very similar to human sleep patterns.  Just like humans, dogs experience multiple stages of sleep including wakefulness, rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep, and non-rapid-eye-movement sleep.

One of the first research papers that looked at how dogs sleep found that they were awake 44% of the time, drowsy 21% of the time, in REM sleep for 12% of the time and in very deep REM sleep for 23%.

Human beings can dream in both REM and non-REM sleep.  However, most memorable dreams occur in an REM sleep because we often wake up after the REM phase.

Do dogs dream?

Scientists are fairly certain that dogs dream.  That’s because they have already discovered that the brains of sleeping animals are quite active.  A dog’s brain will display electrical patterns similar to the ones that occur when they are awake.  That is — they are thinking about their daily activities while sleep, aka dreaming!

A study published by Matthew Wilson and Kenway Louie of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology performed a research project on sleeping rats.  They started by running the rats through a series of mazes while monitoring their brain activity.

The researchers continued to monitor the brains of the rodents while they were sleeping.  They discovered that 44% of the time the sleeping rats had similar electrical patterns to the ones they had while running the maze.  They were dreaming about the maze they had spent many hours in.

Wilson and Louie performed additional tests and discovered that the rats were dreaming in both REM and non-REM sleep.  However, the dreams that the rats experienced in non-REM sleep tended to be shorter.

Sleeping doggo

How dreaming helps animals memorise and learn

The study’s sleeping rats had a lot of activity in their hippocampus, which is the section of the brain that is linked to memory and learning.  Their visual cortex was also very active, indicating that they were committing maze routes to memory as they slept.

The high level of activity in the hippocampus makes researchers believe that dreaming plays an important role in learning and committing things to memory.  Researchers also believe dreaming allows animals to explore scenarios in a consequence free environment.  They use sleep to reflect on the daily events and understand what they enjoyed and what risks are in the world.

Scientists have also discovered that dogs can enter REM sleep very quickly — usually around the 20 minute mark.  This allows them to take a short nap and get some high-quality dreaming done.

What do dogs dream about?

Experts believe that dogs are dreaming about the normal things they get up to each day.  That includes barking at strangers, playing, licking humans, and eating grass.

If you have noticed your dog moving a lot or making noises as they dream, its nothing to be concerned about.  Dogs vocalise their dreams more than humans do because a part of the brain stem called the pons is not working effectively.

The pons is designed to prevent animals from moving their larger muscles while sleeping.  It is under developed in puppies and doesn’t work as effectively in older dogs, allowing them to make more sudden movements while dreaming.

Let sleeping dogs lie!

Helping your dog get a good night’s sleep

Your dog will feel much more rested and satisfied if they enjoy a good uninterrupted sleep.  Here are a few tips for helping them do so:

Help your dog get a lot of exercise

Dogs require daily exercise to maintain good mental and physical health.  Running around and tiring themselves out will also help them sleep well!  Small dogs need at least half an hour of exercise each day, with larger dogs needing at least an hour.

If you have a working dog (Kelpie, Cattle Dog, Boxer, Alaskan Malamute, Border Collier etc), they may need as much as 2 hours of exercise each day to be happy and sleep well!  That’s why working dogs should only be purchased by people with extremely active lives involving running and other outdoor activities.

Get your dog their own bed

Dogs enjoy sleeping in the same bed every night.  It helps them understand where they should sleep and is a comfortable spot full of familiar smells.  Because they feel safe while in their own bed, they are much more likely to have an enjoyable sleep.

Give them a comfortable sleeping environment

Most dogs enjoy sleeping with a nice soft blanket and a plush toy.  This gives them a lot of comfort and the feeling of having a buddy to curl up next to.  My pugs don’t need a toy in their bed because they cuddle with one another!

Take them to the vest if they struggle to sleep

If you have discovered that your dog is not sleeping well, consider taking them to the vet.  They may have an underlying medical issue interfering with their rest.

Some items to help your dog sleep well (and dream a lot)!

Here are a few useful items that will help your dog sleep well and have exciting dreams:

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