Have you ever heard a distinct ‘woof’, even though your dog was fast asleep? Do you sometimes wake up from the thumping sound of your sleeping dog’s wagging tail hitting the floor? Or have you watched him make running motions with his paws — while fast asleep?
Scientists have growing evidence that supports not only that dogs do dream, but in their dreams, they relive some of their recent activities.
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Researchers Find Your Dog Dreams, Too
The conclusion that dogs dream traces back to 2001, when scientists Matthew Wilson and Kenway Louie, of Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, obtained evidence supporting that rats dream. Wilson and Louie took electrical recordings from a rat’s hippocampus while the rat was learning to run through a maze. Some of these electrical patterns were specific and identifiable to what the rat was doing. During sleep, their brains replayed these same patterns, which were so specific that researchers could identify where in the maze the rat was in his dream.
A dog’s brain, while more complex than a rat, exhibits the same electrical sequences, leading researchers to conclude that dogs also dream.
What Do Dogs Dream About?
Stanley Cohen, a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of British Columbia, has studied the issue, and concludes that dogs probably dream about dog activities — a recent romp through the woods or chasing down chipmunks. Cohen determined that the the size of the dog may determine the size of the dream; smaller dogs have more frequent, but shorter dream periods, while large dogs have less frequent but longer dreams.
Like humans, dogs take the good with the bad — they probably also experiences the occasional bad dream, Cohen said.
Try doing some research on your own dog; when he’s been napping for about 20 minutes and appears to be deeply sleeping, watch for twitching of his paws or tail, or look closely at his eyes to determine if they are moving behind the lids. But don’t interrupt him; just like humans, it’s unpleasant to be unnecessarily roused from a deep, restful sleep.
Debbie Swanson is a freelance writer, published in numerous national and local outlets. An avid vegetarian, animal lover and reader, she loves learning about healthy eating and finding natural cures for everyday ailments.