Is My Dog Dreaming?

Posted by Dr Claire Jenkins on Jun 29, 2016 11:52:53 AM
Dr Claire Jenkins

We do know that dogs experience a type of sleep phase known as ‘rapid eye movement’ sleep (REM), and that REM is also a stage of humans sleep, which is associated with dreaming. Human and dog brains are also not dissimilar in structure, and extrapolating from what we know of humans REM sleep, this may also be when dogs dream too.

In my opinion, dogs definitely do dream. And I think if you’ve had a dog in your life many of you would agree. My boy, Red (also my past love in Rani) has had many a sleep where from being still and calm with slow, deep breathing, suddenly a leg or two or four will shake, even seem to paddle, and he lets out an occasional yelp. His breathing becomes irregular and faster than it was, on close inspection I can also see his eyes are rapidly moving underneath his incompletely closed eyelids indicating he’s in REM sleep. Then all goes back to calm again. This is where I think he is dreaming, and these signs of legs twitching or vocalising mid sleep are the indicators of it.

Apparently a lot of the dreaming we do at night is associated with the activities that we had on that day, or replaying our memories. I adopted Red when he was a 2 year old after a terrible car accident where he skidded along the road, both hips dislocated, much skin was lost and his entire ankle joint was busted, he was brought into my clinic and his owners surrendered him for the pound rather than see him well. Seeing how gentle he was with strangers despite his horrific wounds there was no way I was letting this one go, his misfortune that day was my fortune for he is one hell of a companion. I like to think he’s dreaming about his favourite things- running through the sand and chasing the ball into the ocean, or rounding up his old mate Lily. Or possibly it’s fear he’s experiencing in the dream, that he will be abandoned again or is reliving the accident. That’s an awful thought. I’m going back to where he’s having happy dreams.

The honest truth here is that we cannot know for sure if our doggies dream, because frankly, we can’t ask them! However I’d be more surprised if it was proved they didn’t rather than they did.

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Topics: Behaviour, dogs dream, REM sleep