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Do Dogs Dream?

Do dogs dream? And if so, what do they dream about?

Most people who have dogs have seen them twitching, growling, and seeming to run in their sleep. Do dogs dream? Is that what's causing the movements and sounds: are they acting out their dreams?

Let's imagine that we are detectives, out to solve the puzzle of whether our dogs dream and possibly what they dream about. We'll hunt down clues in an effort to solve the mystery.

Clue #1

Dogs, as well as all other mammals, have been shown to have rapid eye movement, or REM, sleep. REM is the type of sleep during which humans have been proven to dream.

Clue #2

Dreaming has been shown to be associated with laying down memories. Dogs definitely show the ability to remember things like routines, commands, and people. It would make sense that dreaming would help their brains accomplish this.

Clue #3

It's a mystery: do dogs dream?

Research studies on rats at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have been done that seem to show that rats dream (Stanley Coren, 2010).

Recordings of the electrical impulses of the part of the brain that is responsible for memories were taken of rats during the day, as they were performing tasks such as going through mazes. Over time, the recordings very predictably correlated with what the rats were doing when they were taken. When electrical recordings were taken of the rats during sleep, the exact same patterns were seen, indicating that the rat was reliving the same actions it had done while awake (Stanley Coren, 2010).

Clue #4

The brains of dogs are more complex than those of rats, so it stands to reason that they dream too.

Recordings of the electrical impulses of dogs' brains during sleep show the exact same sleep cycles as humans have. Dogs also twitch, move, and grunt in their sleep at the same phase of sleep when their eyes are moving around under their eyelids. This is the time, during REM, that people report having dreams.

Clue #5

It's quite reasonable to believe that dogs dream much the way humans do, and probably about things that they like or that happened to them during the day.

In order to determine what dogs dream about, scientists have conducted some experiments. The pons is the part of the brain that keeps humans from acting out their dreams. Researchers removed the pons in some dogs and monitored their brains' electrical responses and their physical actions. When their brains' electrical responses indicated that they were in REM sleep, the dogs would begin to move around and appear to act out their dreams (Stanley Coren, 2010). Sometimes they acted as though they were flushing out game or pointing at it. Sometimes they acted as though they were fighting, playing ball, or having a game of tug of war, but the electrical recordings of their brains clearly showed that they were asleep.

Our Determination on the Question: "Do Dogs Dream?"

Our sleuthing prowess has helped us to discover 5 clues in the interesting mystery of whether dogs dream. It seems as though it's an open and shut case: it is very likely that dogs dream like humans do. You can sleep well with your canine buddy tonight, knowing that you will both have sweet dreams.


Stanley Coren, P. (2010, October 28).

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