Do Dogs Dream In The Same Way As Humans?

You might have read the title and questioned firstly whether dogs even dream let alone whether dogs dream in the same way as humans. Well, the fact of the matter is there is no concrete proof either way. However, if you read on, you will discover that there are some striking similarities between how humans and dogs sleep, which leads us to believe that dogs do indeed dream.

Let’s find out more…

Humans V’s Dog Sleep Cycles

You know how there’s that saying that owners look like their dogs? Well, it turns out that not only do we look like them, but we sleep like them too.

The human brain isn’t too dissimilar to that of our canine companions when it comes to sleep function. Just like humans, dogs go through both slow wave sleep (SWS) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. And it is during REM sleep that dreaming occurs in humans. So, because dogs also experience REM sleep, we can assume that dogs also dream.

REM sleep is a much deeper stage of sleep. However, brain waves speed up at this point and the brain functions very similarly to how it does when we’re awake. The mind becomes more active, breathing may become louder and faster, muscles may twitch voluntarily, and eyes dart rapidly back and forth behind the eyelids. All of these signs have been spotted in both humans and dogs, which again leads us to believe that dogs dream in the same way as humans.

How Do You Know If Your Dog Is Dreaming?

OK, so we’ve got no out and out proof that dogs dream. After all, they can’t tell us and we can’t peek inside their furry heads. However, knowing that they go through REM sleep as part of their sleep cycle, it’s a fair assumption to make. Plus, there are some other tell tale signs to look out for, that all point towards the fact your furry friend is living their best life through their dreams.

When your dog is sleeping you may notice the following behaviour:

  • Twitching – If your dog’s legs twitch when they’re asleep it can mean that they are dreaming about running or chasing after something like a squirrel or cat. You may have also noticed your dog’s mouth twitching at the side, which could be them dreaming about eating something tasty, playing with a ball, or even that they’re licking you!
  • Whimpering – Your dog may seem fast asleep, but then all of a sudden let out a series of little high pitched yelps. It can be quite disturbing when you hear it for the first time, even seeming as though there is something wrong with them. But don’t worry, it’s perfectly normal, and could indicate that they’re having a lovely time barking or reacting to something in their dreams.
  • Darting Eyes – Just like humans, when dogs go into the REM sleep phase their eyes can start twitching and darting about behind their eyelids. It’s almost as if your dog is looking for something, perhaps they’re hunting in their dreams or trying to find a ball that’s been thrown for them.

REM sleep offers our brains the chance to process our daily experiences and as these thoughts and moments are processed it can be relived when we dream. With current technology we can’t determine what dogs dream about it, but the behaviours displayed during REM sleep certainly suggest that they are re-enacting activities carried out in their waking life too.

Should I Wake My Dog?

It can be quite disconcerting watching your dog twitch and whimper in their sleep. And there may be a part of you that’s concerned about them having a bad dream and you may feel as though you should wake them from their slumber. This is not a good idea though.

Think how alarming it can be to you, when you’re woken up by something or someone in the middle of a dream. It can feel disorientating and difficult to figure out whether you’re still in the dream or awake, which can often result in strange behaviour.  This is no different for your dog. And if they’re woken up in the middle of a dream, there is a massive risk they may unintentionally bite or scratch you, as a reaction to this confused state.

As the old saying goes,  you should let sleeping dogs lie, so leave your dog be until the signs of REM dream state are no longer apparent and then gently stroke them awake if you need them to wake up.

Do Dogs Dream In Same Way As Humans?

The answer to this question is both yes and no.

Yes Dogs have sleep cycles that include the REM stage which typically includes dreaming, just like us humans. They also display signs of dreaming in a similar way, with muscle twitches and eye darting. It’s also been found that dogs sleep better in their own beds and also have a much better quality of sleep if they have had plenty of exercise. Something us humans need for a good night’s sleep too!

No Humans go through more sleep cycles than dogs, which means they have more REM phases and therefore dream more. In total, humans have the capability to dream for about 2 hours each night. Whereas for dogs, it is more like 12 minutes. Interestingly, smaller dogs and puppies have more dreams than larger dogs, but larger dogs’ dreams go on for longer. It’s also a fair assumption to make that dogs dream in black and white as this is what they see during their waking hours. Whereas most humans have vivid colourful dreams.

Final Thoughts

OK so we’ve established that there is very little scientific evidence to 100% point towards dogs dreaming in the same way as humans. And until we can come up with the brain technology to record, video, and interpret dreams it’s unlikely we’ll get any definite answers soon. What we do know however, is that by ensuring our dogs have plenty of exercise, lots of mental stimulation and enrichment, and by giving them a safe and comfortable environment to live in, they are much more likely to sleep well. And if a dog is happy in life, you can almost guarantee that they’re having lots of lovely dreams too.

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