Do Dogs Dream?
The answer is yes. Just like humans, dogs dream when they are in a deep sleep. And just like humans, they have different stages of sleep; short wave sleep (SWS) and rapid eye movement (REM). Puppies tend to dream more often as their brains remain more active during sleep and daily life. They are also having a lot of first time, exciting experiences throughout their daily routine that they will process again throughout their slumber.
The average dog sleeps 12-14 hours each day. It is imperative that they get a good sleep as they only spend 10% of their rest in REM. A deep sleep is important for your dog's overall health, not getting a proper rest could result in bad sleeping habits, leading to insomnia. Keep in mind that the older a dog gets, the more they will sleep.
Studies show that when dogs are active throughout the day, they will get a better sleep in the evening. Small breed dogs should have a minimum of 30 minutes of active play each day, whereas a larger breed should have more. Dogs who aren’t as active will sleep on and off throughout the entire day, and not get the proper rest they need. This is especially common with small breeds. So actively playing with your dog, taking them for a walk, or going for a run at the dog park, proves to be beneficial; it helps them get the proper rest they need.
Different Stages of sleep:
Short Wave Sleep
When your dog is in a short wave sleep, muscle tone remains active, but brain activities slow down. SWS is referred to as “sleep of the mind.” It is in this sleep that you’ll notice your dog is in and out of rest. It is much easier to wake your dog up from this type of sleep and less likely for the dog to dream. It is in this rest that a dog is in the early stage of sleep.
Rapid Eye Movement
When your dog is in an REM sleep, the body is relaxed but the mind remains extremely active. This type of sleep is referred to as “sleep of the body”, and it is in this sleep that dogs dream. On average, it takes a dog 20 minutes to fall into a dream state. It is more difficult to wake your dog up during a REM sleep, as it is a deeper stage of rest.
How To Tell If Your Dog Is Dreaming:
Body Movement. You’ll notice small body twitches, their paws may be moving in a running motion, or other body movements may occur. Dogs have a tendency to act out their dreams, and although we don’t know what they dream of, it is said that they act out their daily tendencies (running, walking, jumping, digging, chewing a bone, etc…)
Eye Movement. Have you ever noticed that your dog is sleeping with their eyes open? Or their eyes are moving back and forth under their eyelids? This is a stage of REM, they may at times look awake, but their stare is vacant and they are actually in a sleep. This is when dreaming starts to occur. In this state, the dog’s brain remains very active. They may be visualizing their dreams, and the rapid eye movement is a telltale sign of that.
Verbal Communication. When in a deep sleep, whether having a dream or a nightmare, your dog may communicate with noise. They may cry, bark, growl, or whine, depending on what’s going on inside of their head. The noises won’t last long and may come in stages. Don’t be alarmed if breathing patterns change. Often times their breathing will speed up or slow down, all depending on what they are dreaming about.
What To Do If Your Dog Is Dreaming:
Never wake your dog.
If you witness your dog having a dream, the natural instinct is to wake them up, especially if you suspect it’s a nightmare, after all, who wants to see their dog scared? But just like humans, dogs need to fully process their dreams from start to finish, this allows their brains to better process information.
Don’t touch your dog while sleeping. You don’t know what your dog is dreaming about, and if their body is in an active state, being woken up may disorient them or cause them to panic once awake. This could cause your dog to accidentally lash out.
If you feel that your dog is having a nightmare, the right thing to do is let them see it through. They will need closure from their dream and when they finally wake, they will clue back into their sense of reality.
If your dog is having a severe nightmare and you need to wake them up, always use a soft, soothing voice and try calling out their name. Never startle them with touch, movement, or loud noises. When your dog wakes, be sure to reassure them that everything is okay. Talk to them in a light hearted, playful voice. Help them calm down and give them a cuddle if they appear shaken.
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