Almost any dog owner can tell you that dogs do in fact dream. They can be very active dreamers, actually, running, howling, growling, barking, and wagging their tails while in a deep sleep. It can be super precious and adorable to watch.
Why do dogs dream?
This question isn’t quite as easy to answer as the first one. The fact is, nobody has any solid evidence proving exactly why we dream, beyond some educated guesses involving the idea of memory processing. In fact, nobody is even quite sure why we sleep; they just know that not sleeping can have terrible affects on the brain and body. I say “we” because it isn’t just dogs and humans that sleep and dream. The brain is a mysterious and wonderful cluster of nerve cells that has developed in various sizes and shapes across the animal kingdom. Octopuses have one big brain and eight smaller ones in each of their tentacles. From the birds and the bees to lab rats and fruit flies, brains are everywhere, and for some reason they need sleep, and when they sleep they dream. Given the content of our dreams and the areas of our brains that light up while we sleep, we can guess that our dreams are a way for our brains to sort and process memories, and that’s the best answer we have right now.
What do dogs dream about?
We can understand a lot about our dogs by reading their expressions and body language, but we can’t read their minds yet. The closest we can come to that is through brain scans. So, we can’t say that we know for certain what they dream about, but the most likely conclusion is that they dream about doggy things. They dream about chasing things, barking at things, running from things, playing and fighting and eating. Their dreams can be just as complex as our own can be. It is most likely that they dream about things they remember and things that happened to them through the day. Dogs are complex and intelligent creatures and almost certainly associate feeling with what they experience in their dreams. Whether your dog is wagging their tail or whining in their sleep, you can determine what they might be dreaming about, but until we get the technology to actually read and project what brains are experiencing, our guesses are all we have to go on.
Can dogs have nightmares?
As I’ve already stated, we can’t read a dog’s mind, but it can be clear whether or not a dog is having a nightmare, especially if they are active dreamers, which most are. Just like us, dogs can become scared, and those fears can sometimes manifest themselves in their dreams. The most common signs of a pupper having a nightmare are twitching paws, rapidly moving eyes, and whimpering or growling. If you see your furry friend is having a nightmare, you might be tempted to wake them up, but that may not always be the best option. A dog’s nightmare typically won’t last very long and can pass within a few minutes, but if they seem to be having a longer nightmare, the best way to wake them is by using sounds: turning on some music, gently calling the dog’s name, turning on the T.V., etc. You don’t want to shock them awake, and you don’t want to shake them awake since they can become disoriented after waking up and might lash out which can lead to an accidental biting incident. So, if your puppy is having a nightmare, be patient, and if you do decide to wake them, keep your hands away.
Our furry friends are precious and complex. They live in a world that we may never understand, that’s similar to ours, but also vastly different. And their dreams reflect the world they live in, much like our dreams reflect our own reality. Dogs deserve love and affection just as much as we all do, so treat your pupper well and always be kind to your animal companions.
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