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Can Dogs Dream?


Can dogs dream?
8 min read

Sometimes while we’re watching our cute dogs sleeping like little angles, we notice that they are twitching. Does that mean that dogs dream? Is there any shred of proof that could support the claims that state that dogs can dream?

So, can dogs dream? Neuroscientists believe that the majority of animals dream. Scientists have actually discovered that many animals like dogs, cats, and rats have similarly structured brains, which supports the idea that dogs can actually dream.

But could dogs possibly dream about? Does it differ from one bread to another? If you are interested to learn more about whether dogs dream and what they actually dream about, then continue reading this blog post.

Can dogs dream like us?

Matt Wilson is a neuroscientist who studies memory and learning believes that many animals dream. His beliefs don’t come from a hunch, though. It is actually because animals like rats, cats, and dogs have similarly structured brains as us humans.

This means that there isn’t much difference between those animals and us when it comes to specific aspects of sleep.

If we look at the structure of the brain when a person is sleeping and observe its activity, then compare that with the brain activity of those animals while they’re sleeping, then we will notice how comparable they both are.

Can dogs dream

Mammals, which include us and dogs, all experience what is known as REM (REM stands for rapid eye movement ) sleep. During this stage of sleep, we tend to dream. Would you be surprised if I told you that the brain activity is high during this stage of sleep in both us and dogs?

There is a structure that we both have in our brains ( us humans and dogs), which is called the Pons Varolii.

This brain structure is responsible for paralyzing our major muscles while we’re in rapid eye movement sleep that prevents us from moving a lot and actually acting out the movements that we’re doing in our dreams. This supports the idea that dogs actually dream.

Unfortunately, we can not ask our dogs what they dream about and compare and contrast that information with our dream; it would be so awesome if we could do that, though!

More proof that dogs can actually dream can be seen by observing studies that were made on rats

However, an experiment was done on rats in 2001, which could help us take a peek inside of a sleeping rat’s brain.

Wilson conducted the experiment by recording the activity of the neurons ( brain cells) of rats while they were running through a maze. He noticed that the brain cells fired in a very unique pattern.

When he observed the brain cells’ activity while the rats were sleeping in the rapid eye movement stage, he noticed something very interesting. He saw the same pattern of neuron firing that occurred while the rats were running through the maze!

He concluded that the rats’ brains were just repeating what they were doing throughout their waking hours ( which includes running through the maze) in their sleep!

Wilson then conducted similar experiments later on while recording the activity of two the brain parts.

Those brain parts were the visual cortex ( which is the part of the brain that is responsible for processing the visual information) and the hippocampus ( which is considered to be the center of memories and other important things).

Can dogs dream?

The results were the same! The rats’ brain cells fired in the same exact pattern while they were sleeping like they did when they were running through the maze. This continued to support the idea that rats replay their day in their dreams when they go to sleep.

Wilson was able to observe the pattern of firing occurring as well in the hippocampus and the visual cortex, which are the two brain parts he was observing in these new experiments.

“When the hippocampus replayed these little sequences, the visual cortex also replayed the corresponding visual perceptions.” 

“So the animal was quite literally seeing what it was replaying from memory. For me, that constitutes the necessary ingredients for referring to this as the equivalent of dreaming in animals. They’re experiencing things, and they’re also perceiving what those experiences were.”

“Increasingly, we’re seeing that sleep and its functions, and very likely dreams, are something that is probably quite ubiquitous.”

– Matt Wilson from an article on PetMD.com

Although similar studies have not been done on dogs, some scientists have found evidence that supports the claim that states the animals can dream while working with cats.

Some scientists prevented the cats from getting paralyzed while they were sleeping to see what is going to happen. What they discovered is that while the cats were in the rapid eye movement stage of sleep, they didn’t lie on the bed like they usually did.

Instead, they got up and started walking around, moving their heads as if they’re trying to find something specific. However, some cats ended up behaving a bit aggressively.

They were pouncing and attacking things that weren’t there, which made the scientists believe that they were dreaming about hunting mice.

What do dogs dream about?

Okay, now that we know the dogs can actually dream, let us move on to the next questions that most curious people are going to wonder. What do dogs dream about?

From what I have read so far, I am kind of sure that dogs dream about the things they experience throughout their day.

But then I read about research where the scientists disabled a part of the brain, and they realized that dogs could actually have weird dreams as we do.

So who knows, maybe your dog is dreaming about flying across the city in search of the magical pot that is full raw meat bones and dog treats.

Can dogs have nightmares while they are sleeping?

From what we have concluded from the research done, we can speculate that dogs can actually have bad dreams since the majority of studies prove time and time again that those dreams are based on the dogs experience throughout their days.

You might be a fantastic pet owner; however, the truth is that the many people out there are actually terrible and hurting dogs and other animals like cats are like a fun sport for them. 

Remember that video where a guy makes cat come closer to him expecting to get petted, but then he kicks them? Some people are just so vile, disgusting, and sick!

So it should be shocking that dogs can have nightmares cause their day to day life could full of vile people who enjoy hurting such innocent beings.

Should you wake up a dog if you could sense that they’re having a nightmare?

Watching a dog who you think is in pain due to their body movements while they’re sleeping might make you think that waking them up from a nightmare is a good idea. I mean, if your sibling was having a nightmare and yelling “No!” while sleeping, then you are definitely going to wake them up.

Can dogs dream?

Although it could be very tempting to walk towards your dog and attempt to wake them up, I would recommend that you do not do that! Why? Because that is very risky!

When someone wakes up from a nightmare, it might take them a while to realize that they’re out of that scary situation and that they are now in a safe place, surrounded by people who care about them.

Like us humans, dogs are also in that trippy stage where they believe that they are still in danger when they aren’t. This could make them very aggressive towards the person who is attempting to wake them up.

Make sure you tell that bit of information to everyone in your house because it could get very dangerous if you have a kid attempting to wake up their four-legged best friend only to get bitten or even worse.

The best option you have when you think your beloved pooch is having a nightmare is to leave them alone and let them wake up on their own. Wait half a minute before you approach them, but when the time is up, feel free to go pet and comfort your beloved dog.

Other questions related to dogs dreaming

Does the breed of the dog affect whether they dream or not?

That might sound like a strange question to have, but it is actually legit because apparently small dogs tend to dream more than bigger dogs! However, small dogs tend to have shorter dreams. Big dogs have less, yet longer dreams

Also, dogs dream about what they do during their days. Since different dog breeds have different capabilities of doing different things, this could also affect what they dream about.

That’s it for today’s post. You should now know why scientists believe that dogs dream. If you have more questions related to dogs dreaming, then feel free to leave them in the comments section down below.

Sources

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