Canines are dedicated nap-takers. They love to snooze in the sun, lounge on the carpet by our feet, and rest their heads on our laps. Most pet owners have observed that their dogs will twitch, whimper, or even snarl in their sleep. These signs indicate that canines dream just as humans do, piquing the interest of many regarding how dogs dream and the kinds of dreams dogs may have.
Like humans, dreaming generally begins when the pup has been asleep over 20 minutes. Their breathing will be deep and regular when the pooch first drifts off, and when the dreaming begins the breath will quicken and become shorter. Their eyes tend to shift and move behind the lid, similar to the action humans experience during the rapid eye movement of the REM cycle. When humans are awoken in the midst of this phase, they nearly always state that they had been dreaming. Dogs mimic the same kinds of postures and gestures while they rest, leaving us to believe that they experience dreaming in a similar way that humans do.
What Do Dogs Dream About?
Though there is plenty of speculation about this subject, a recent study by Matthew Wilson and Kenway Louie at MIT drew observations on what happens when rats sleep. The study recorded brain activity during sleep, and found that the electrical recordings of the rat’s dream sequence, almost exactly mirrored the hippocampus (the place in the bran that stores memories) of the activities experienced during the day. This led to the assumption that rats dream about the exact events that recently transpired the day before.
Dog’s have more complex brain activity, but scientists believe they experience something similar to the dream sequences of rats. However, instead of dreaming of the day’s events, dogs are more likely to dream about general activities that are linked to their breed tendencies and instincts. For example, a Jack Russell Terrier may be inclined to dreaming about chasing a ball or a small animal, while a German Shepherd might dream racing to find someone or warning the house of an intruder, and a Corgi might dream about herding sheep or geese.
When they sleep, dogs visualize and smell things just as if the sequence was occurring in real life. This is why some dogs whine while the nap, twitch, growl, or even move slightly as if they are digging or running. This should not be alarming to any pet owner, as it is a natural part of a healthy canine’s sleeping cycle.