Have you ever noticed your dog twitching or whimpering when they sleep? Do you wonder if they’re dreaming? And what in the world do they dream about?

sleeping dog

Do Dogs Dream?

The answer is yes—definitely yes! We have all seen our sweet pups twitch, whimper, or whine while they’re sleeping. That alone shows us that they are dreaming about something. What exactly? Well, we’ll get to that. One of my dogs is usually running in her dreams because all four legs are moving quickly. And she whimpers and whines like she’s trying to chase some little critter. What do your dogs do?

Not only can we see our own evidence at home, but MIT researchers have done studies with mice, proving that animals do dream. And these researchers can even tell what an animal is dreaming about. You’d be surprised to find out how similar our pups really are to us.

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What Kind of Things Do Dogs Dream About?

There have already been previous studies showing that animals do sleep like humans. They go into a Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep state, just like we do. But the studies we’re referring to take research to the next level. MIT scientists have found out that these mice—and other animals—dream like we do.

The scientists first studied the brain activity of mice while they were awake and running. Later on, when the mice were in their REM sleep, the scientists measured the brain activity of the mice again. And you know what they found? They saw that the brain activity during their REM sleep was the same as while they were awake and running. Meaning, those mice were actually dreaming about their activities from earlier that day.

This tells us that animals—including dogs—have dreams about activities and things that have happened to them while they were awake. Just like humans do! Fascinating, right?!

sleeping dog

Do Dogs Dream About Their Owners?

If dogs dream about things from their everyday lives, then they most certainly dream about their owners. They probably dream about spending time with you, walking with you, playing with you, and snuggling with you.

And depending on their breed, your dog could be dreaming about hunting small prey, or herding animals on a farm. Whatever their instinctual breeding is affects the dreams they have too.  

Do Dogs Have Bad Dreams?

Sadly, the answer is also yes. If dogs dream about things that have happened during the daytime, or scenarios that could have happened in their life, then bad dreams are a part of that too. You may see your dog snarl or growl while they’re sleeping. Maybe they have even shown their teeth in anger. In their dream, they are probably trying to defend themselves against something or someone they perceive as a threat. It’s hard to watch or think about because we want to protect our little fur babies, just like any parent wants to protect their child from a bad dream.

Should You Wake Up a Dreaming Dog?

If your dog seems like they are having a nightmare, do your best to not wake them up. They may be remembering a bad experience of being abused by a previous owner. Or maybe they have been attacked by an aggressive animal. And if you suddenly wake them, things could go bad quickly. They are already in an aggressive and defensive state, and now they are being startled awake. They could very easily and unintentionally snap at you or bite you.

If your dog seems to have nightmares frequently, try making their bedtime environment safer and more peaceful. You could try to play soothing music and give them a blanket or stuffed animal to snuggle up with. Some dogs may even prefer to sleep in a crate. It might sound mean. But to them, it’s a safe, contained space. This might help them feel safer throughout the night, and therefore, sleep better.

sleeping dog

How Often Do Dogs Dream?

A lot of the time, this depends on their age, breed, and size. Younger puppies tend to dream more than adult dogs because they are taking in so much information every day. And then it gets processed during their sleep over night. And apparently smaller dogs dream more frequently than larger dogs. For example, a little dog might dream every 10 minutes. But a large breed dog might only dream once every 60-90 minutes. If you have small and large dogs, or a puppy and an adult, try to watch and take notice. See if this is true for your furry best friends.

Do Dogs Need Good Sleep?

Just like humans, dogs require good, uninterrupted sleep. This helps their mental activity to stay healthy. So whether it seems like your dog is having a good dream or a bad one, avoid the urge to wake them. Remember—just let sleeping dogs lie.