What Do Dogs Dream About?

You might think you know all there is to know about your four-legged friend, but can you answer the question, “Do dogs dream?”

Dogs are just like humans in a lot of ways, they get hungry, need exercise, like to cuddle up on the couch, and they get startled when an unfamiliar person comes to the door. But when it comes to sleep, do dog’s brains process it the same way humans do? Do dogs dream too? And if so, what do dogs dream about? Speaking of sleep, here’s what your dog’s sleeping position reveals about them.

Do dogs dream?

Yes, dogs do dream while they sleep. An MIT study found that rats dream about the activities they performed earlier in the day. They had the same unique brain activity while they ran through a maze as they did while they were sleeping, meaning that they were having a dream about running through the maze. This led them to conclude that more complex animals such as cats and dogs also dream about things they’ve experienced.

Do dogs dream similar to humans?

Structurally, dog brains are very similar to human brains, says Dr. Gary Richter, a veterinary health expert with Rover, so while sleeping, dogs and humans have similar brainwaves and brain activity.

“Because of these similar brain wave patterns, dogs actually do experience multiple sleep stages during a standard sleep cycle, including dreams that cause rapid eye movement or REM sleep, which is where we see them twitching while sleeping,” says Dr. Richter.

What do dogs dream about?

“While there is no scientific consensus, dogs most likely dream about everyday activities such as chasing birds, running after squirrels, or even interacting with you and other dogs,” says Dr. Richter. Here are some other things your dog wishes you knew.

Are dogs dreaming when they move or make noise in their sleep?

Cute puppy sleeping with his paws up on a knitted sweater. Cozy winter at home. Instagram filterSundays Photography/ShutterstockSome common signs of a dog dreaming include twitching, quivering, murmuring, barking, sleepwalking or running. Learn about some other reasons behind your dog’s weird behavior.

“While we don’t know exactly what dogs are dreaming about, their behaviors while sleeping could potentially be correlated with what they’re dreaming about—for example, if a dog is sleep barking, he might be thinking about a squirrel running up a tree,” says Dr. Richter.

Do some dogs dream more than others?

The size of a dog actually plays a part in how dogs dream, says Dr. Richter. Small dogs and puppies dream very fast and more often. They could have 60-second dreams every ten minutes or so. While large dogs dream for longer and less often. They might have a five-minute dream and then an hour of sleep with no dreams.

Do dogs have nightmares?

Just like humans, dogs can also have nightmares. Their nightmares might be about a traumatic event they experienced or a fear they have. Some signs that your dog might be having a nightmare are twitching, a gentle whining, or sounds of distress. If you know that your dog won’t be startled from being woken up, you can gently pat them or talk to them to help them out of their bad dream.

“But if your dog is showing more intense signs of fear or aggression while sleeping, you may startle your dog out of a deep sleep causing them to nip or bite,” says Dr. Richter. “In many cases, letting the nightmare run its course is the better choice, with you standing by to comfort your dog once they wake up.” Disturbing a startled dog is just one of the mistakes every dog owner makes.

Dr. Richter adds that if you notice your dog starts having nightmares out of the blue that you should take them to the vet to see if a medical issue is causing the bad dreams. “In older dogs, an inability to sleep or settle at night could be related to Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, also called Doggie Alzheimer’s.”

Morgan Cutolo
Morgan is the Assistant Digital Managing Editor at Reader’s Digest. She graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2016 where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. When she’s not writing for rd.com or keeping the 650+ pieces of content our team produces every month organized, she likes watching HGTV, going on Target runs, and searching through Instagram to find new corgi accounts to follow.