Fido is fast asleep in his bed, but all of the sudden he starts twitching and even moving his legs.
It’s only natural to assume he’s dreaming about being in the dog park with his buds, running full power and being the first to fetch the stick. But what is he actually dreaming about? Do dogs even dream?
There’s evidence that sleeping rats’ brains function in a way that suggests dreaming. So, it makes sense that more intelligent creatures with bigger brains, such as dogs, also dream.
About 20 minutes into sleeping, a dog will enter a deeper sleep and his first dream should begin. At this point, you may notice muscle twitches, illregular breathing, or eye movement behind the backs of their eyelids. This indicates that he’s looking at images in his dream… just as he would with real images in real life.
When humans are dreaming, they often dream about events that happened during the day or at least pull from those experiences. Dogs are most likely the same. Fido is probably dreaming about that intense tug of war game earlier today or running around with his dog friends. He could be dreaming about chasing those birds always on the deck or digging holes in the backyard.
Small dogs usually have shorter, more frequent dreams. Large dogs are the opposite; they have longer dreams, but less of them.
What about Nightmares?
If it’s safe to assume that dogs have dreams, it’s also safe to assume that they have nightmares. After all, nightmares are essentially just bad dreams. However, it’s likely that dog’s nightmares are more realistic. For example, Fido is more likely to be dreaming of fears that he’s actually experienced in real life versus dreaming about surviving a zombie attack. If a dog was abused in a puppy mill or by a previous owner, it’s likely his nightmares could include those negative experiences. When your dog is having a nightmare, gently call their name and comfort them when they wake up.
We may never know the exact contents of our dog’s dreams (it’s not like they can wake up and talk about them), but we can certainly enjoy watching them pretending to run in their sleep!