It is not uncommon to hear a dog whining and squeaking while they are sound asleep. Often their adorable vocal sounds are accompanied by paw twitching and tail flicking. It can be amusing to watch and often people are convinced they are dreaming.
Is it true? Do dogs dream? Of course, no one will ever be completely certain as to what goes inside our canine friends’ minds, but it certainly looks as though they are dreaming.
When a dog is awake, it is almost impossible to argue that there isn’t some form of thought process that they go through. While their thoughts are probably not even close to the cute little voice overs we give them as we watch them, but their facial expressions, their ability to hold a lengthy attentions span, and their overall demeanor creates the impression of thoughts.
Most people believe that a dog is capable of processing about one hundred to one hundred and fifty words. Some experts believe there are dogs that can process as many as five hundred. By processing we are talking about some form of cognitive thought pattern like the ability to recognize a ball as a ball. Do they actually think, “Come on. I’m being good. Throw the ball?” Probably not. But when you ask a dog to go retrieve his ball, most dogs do know what you are talking about. Most can differentiate between “Get your ball” and “Get a toy.”
What does this have to do with dreaming? We already know that dreams are our brain’s way of processing our experiences in life. Dogs have experiences and are considered smart enough to need processing time as well. Some experts argue that all mammals dream in order to process and learn. What a dog experiences may or may not impact their dreams, but it is a likely possibility that it does. It’s actually logical to believe that it does.
In our household when a dog is appearing to dream we say they are chasing bunnies. We phrase it as such because our dogs all have a fascination with the exorbitant amount of rabbits in the neighborhood and they constantly want to chase them down. It would simply be logical that one of the events our dogs may process is being denied a bunny chase.
There is less evidence however, that abused dogs dream. Abused people tend to have nightmares and bad dreams. Studies performed on dogs show that severely neglected and abused dogs are more likely to experience a lack of dreaming rather than suffer from nightmares. Although, our puppies are not likely to wake us in the middle of the night asking to crawl in bed with us, so the theory is purely speculative.
Dreams are part of REM sleep. We know that when humans enter REM sleep they are most likely to fall into a dream state. Dogs of course experience REM sleep as well, and this is where the sleep barking and tail twitching takes place.
It is highly unlikely that we as humans will ever be able to truly understand the inner workings of a dog’s mind. They truly are amazingly complicated creatures with a vast array of communication skills. As much as we would like to enter their world and understand their thoughts, the closest we may ever get to that is watching them in their dream states. While in their dream states a dog may yip, run, growl, squeak, bark, even twist and turn the way his humans do. Watching this behavior is fascinating and entertaining. It is also a key to proving they have some capability for thought processing.
The genetics shared between dogs and humans are as high as ninety five percent. Our basic core makeup isn’t really all that different from our canine partners. It is reasonable and logical then to believe that we are more similar than we realize in our brain makeup and our brain functions as well. The human brain and the dog brain is remarkably similar as is our basic neurochemistry.
What makes it so remarkable to us as humans that our puppies are lying at our feet dreaming is that we feel connected to them somehow when we watch them. We tend to feel as though our little buddy letting us in on a secret or private moment. We find them endearing because we can tell if their dreams are happy, and for the most part they do basically seem like happy little dreamers.
Just as we cherish our dreams and often share them with those close to us, we tend to view our dogs’ dreaming activities in much the same light. For those of who actually tuck our pups into bed with a blanket, a kiss, and a “sweet dreams,” we feel rewarded somehow as they quietly lie by our bed at night in their own peaceful little dreamland.