What do you think your dog dreams about? Flying frisbees, large open fields, that squirrel that stares him down every time you’re walking in the park? Like humans, dog’s begin to have intense dreams during REM. That’s why you’ll sometimes see your pup twitching, whimpering, or running while snoozing.
But the cool part about puppy-dreams is that not all dogs dream alike. Studies have shown that certain breeds dream differently. For example, those who have been bred and trained to sniff out prey? Their dreams may provoke that natural instinct: “…[A] dreaming pointer may immediately…go on point…” Stanley Coren, who writes for the American Kennel Club, explained. That makes sense, if you ask me. A dog’s dream patterns are very similar to people’s, and our dreams are thought to help us make sense of our daily routines, among other things.
But other than differences between breeds, there have been studies that show younger dogs (puppies to young adults) and elderly dogs dream more than middle-aged dogs. This doesn’t necessarily match up with human behavior. As we get older, we have a harder time falling into REM, or deeper sleep. The need for that deep sleep doesn’t change, but because of a range of factors it becomes harder to get.
However, when it comes to judging how often a dog dreams, it just takes observation. About 10-20 minutes into sleep, your pup’s eye will begin moving under his eyelids. As with humans, that’s the sign of REM sleep. That means dream time.
Studying canine dream patterns has been informative for medicine. Dogs share a lot of brain-activity with humans, so we can draw the connections from their dream cycles. In 2003, a study was published that showed studying narcolepsy in dogs opens up treatment possibilities for humans. But not just for narcolepsy! Other disorders are being studied through animal sleep.
You can also tell a lot about your dog based on how he sleeps. A curled up dog may be anxious, protecting his body and conserving body heat. And the opposite (sprawled on back, legs flopped every which-way) shows a very trusting, at ease pup. Sleeping really brings out your pup’s personality!
Now we’re back to the question: what does your dog dream about? When you see him twitching in his sleep, don’t worry. He’s just enjoying rolling in mental grass, and getting that perfect scratch.