A dark figure appears and slowly makes it’s way over to you. You grasp for the light but it turns into a huge bowl of jello. You reach for your bat but it turns into a sticky marshmallow. Suddenly, the dark figure comes closer and you realize it’s just Oprah coming to tell you that plaid wall paper is out. Plaid wall paper? NO! That’s when you sit up in horror and wake up to a quiet room with the sound of your 4 year old beagle happily snoozing away; it was all a dream.
As humans, dreaming is a common occurrence in which we may relive the minutiae of the day or even be exposed to a bizarre combination of experiences. We know that our dogs are similar to us in many ways but, have you ever considered that your dog might be dreaming as well? Recent studies suggest that our canine friends may have a very active dream life. By using an electroencephalogram (EEG), researchers have been able to analyze a dog’s brain activity while sleeping. As it turns out, dogs have very similar brain wave patterns to humans when they enter REM sleep. REM sleep cycles is a deep sleep cycle that usually last for around 3-4 hours in humans during which time we may move or twitch irregularly, exhibit rapid eye movement (REM), and sometimes even talk in our sleep.
Dog’s experience very similar REM sleep patterns although they experience shorter and more frequent REM patterns than humans do. If you’ve ever seen your dog twitch, move or even whimper in his sleep, chances are he was dreaming about the ball you were throwing around that morning. It is most likely that dogs dream about the events of the day whether it be a fun frisbee game or being given a delicious morsel of bacon. Interestingly, studies also suggest that different sized dogs dream differently. For example, smaller breeds, like a a toy Poodle or Pug, may dream more frequently than larger breeds, like the Golden Retriever. Also, new puppies dream more often due to the fact that they are experiencing new things everyday. Furthermore, dogs that have been traumatized by certain events such as suffering an injury, sickness or abuse, have been found to relive these frightening experiences in their dreams even years after. This may be due to the fact that a dog’s life is typically not replete with traumatic experiences and this trauma can leave a very lasting impression.
Watch Spot very closely the next time he sleeps and see if you notice any of the tell tale signs of dreaming. When Spot falls asleep, wait for his breathing to become more deep and regular, pay close attention to his eyelids to see if they move slightly and listen for whimpering under his breath; if he is, your furry friend is likely experiencing a very pleasant dream. Some dogs are more active dreamers than others, and here’s an extreme example of a very active, dreaming dog!