Have you ever been sitting on the couch, enjoying your favorite TV show with your furry companion fast asleep next to you, when all of a sudden you hear whimpering, growling or barking? You turn to your dog and notice a leg is twitching yet they are still sleeping. Is he or she dreaming, you wonder.
Well, scientist believe they not only dream, but they dream similarly to humans, which means they dream about their experiences of the day. It has been proven that animals, like rats, that have much smaller brain structures and are not as intelligent as dogs, dream.
This led scientist to assume that dogs also dream. According to research done at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology measured a rat’s brain activity while completing a maze. Then measured the same rat’s brain activity while in the REM stage of sleep and found that the brain activity was the same, evidence that lead the team of researchers to believe that the rat was dreaming about the maze.
According to researchers who have held sleep studies, dogs go through the same stages of sleep as we do. The structure of a dog’s brain resembles that of a human and they also produce similar brain wave patterns during sleep that has been observed in humans. During the first stage of sleep, Slow Wave Sleep (SWS), your canine friend is in light sleep and although their brain is inactive, they can easily be awakened and their muscles are still operating and ready for action.
When they reach the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage, the dog’s body is relaxed but their mind is active, producing the same type of brain waves that are produced when the dog is awake. According to results shown on an electroencephalogram (EEG), during REM sleep, the dog’s brain activity becomes volatile and erratic. This is also when we notice the dog moving it’s paws or tail, and they may whine, growl or even bark while still asleep.
When researchers compared a human’s brain and physical activities recorded during sleep studies to that of a canine’s, they both showed almost the same EEG readings. According to the people who were in the sleep studies, it was during these erratic EEG brain readings that the humans admitted to be dreaming.
Although a dog can’t tell us they are dreaming, scientist claim this as proof that dogs do in fact dream. As researchers continued studying the dream patterns of dogs they also discovered a number of interesting facts. It appears that smaller dogs dream have more dreams than larger ones, with brain activity showing a new dream almost every ten minutes. Research has also shown that puppies and older dogs also seem to have more dreams than middle-aged dogs.
Now every time you watch a YouTube video of a dog running in its sleep or barking at an imaginary mailman, you don’t have wonder if the dog is dreaming or not. And what do you do when you notice your canine partner dreaming? Just remember the old adage, ‘let sleeping dogs lie.’