Behaviour and Training

What Do Dogs Dream About?

Do Dogs Dream?

Straight up, yes they do. That twitching, kicking, and breathing irregularly does mean they’re dreaming. Like humans, dogs dream when they’re in REM (rapid-eye-movement) sleep, entering that stage about 20 minutes after they nod off and staying there for two to three minutes. 

Interestingly puppies dream more than adult dogs. But puppies and very old dogs move the most during dreams. This is because the part of the brain stem (called the pons) that’s responsible for paralyzing large muscles during sleep (preventing sleepwalking) is less active.

What Do They Dream About?

Depends what they’ve been up to. Again, like us, they probably process parts of their day through dreams. So if they spend a lot of time chasing a ball, running around, lying in the sun, they’re likely dreaming about that.

 dogs dream

Do Dogs Dream About Us?

If they spend time with you when awake, you’re likely on their mind when they’re asleep. Considering how much their attention we take up, safe to say they dream about us a lot.

How Do We Know This?

There are a few different ways to study sleeping animals. One of the most famous ones actually involves rats. Scientists compared the brain activity of rats while they were awake and performing tasks with when they were in REM sleep, and found they were the same. Indicating they were dreaming about things they did during the day. 

They have also done experiments when they suppress the pons function in dogs, allowing them to literally act out their dreams to see what they get up to. They observed they pretty much did what they’d usually do when awake. 

It’s worth noting, our research suggested the animals were not harmed to find this stuff out.

Are Their Dreams Different to Ours?

In terms of subject matter, yes, considering you (likely) don’t spend the day chewinging slippers. But dogs’ sleep structure and dreams are very similar to humans: we both move through stages of wakefulness, REM sleep, and non-REM (deep) sleep.

While we’re not totally sure why any animal sleeps or dreams. It appears to be a way for brains to process the day, make sense of what happened, and decide what to remember. That’s why puppies dream more–there’s more new information to sort through.

dogs dream

Do Dogs Have Nightmares?

Sadly, dog dreams aren’t always sweet. Although, considering their lives are less complicated than ours, nightmares are probably less frequent. If you do suspect your pet is having a nightmare it’s recommended that you don’t try to wake them–they may be distressed or disoriented and react aggressively. Rather, let them come-to naturally, and give them a pat to let them know they’re safe.

Does Breed Affect Dreams?

In a way: breeds can influence a dog’s personality, lifestyle, and daily activities, which will all feed into their dreams. For example, a labrador might dream about swimming but a shih-tzu might dream about sitting on someone’s lap. Smaller dogs’ dreams are shorter and more frequent. While big dogs dream less, but for longer.

For more on what your dog is thinking and feeling, check out:

Do Dog Siblings Miss Each Other?

Are Dog Friendships a Real Thing?

What Are We Doing to Make Our Dogs So Anxious?

While you’re here, subscribe to our newsletter, check out our magazine, and follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Share the post:

Written by Wendy Syfret
Wendy is Head of Media at Scratch. Which is a good fit, because she's never met a dog she didn't like. Although she has a special place in her heart for muts: three legs, one eye, missing fur, bit of a weird walk? The scruffier the better. Her favourite dog in the whole world though is her terrier-mix Stevie.