Do Dogs Dream?

by Barbara Murray
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A sleeping puppy rests peacefullyFrom time to time we hear people ask, "Do dogs dream?" or "Do animals dream?"

For those of us with pets, we can say with certainty, "Yes, they do."

Now "what" they dream about is anyone's guess, although scientists that study dogs' sleeping patterns seem to think they dream about their waking experiences.

Still, what about pups?

Last spring a pregnant dog showed up at one of my friend’s house. Before we could catch her, she gave birth in a wide-open field in the pouring rain to nine beautiful pups. One was stillborn or died shortly after birth.

I had the pleasure of helping my friend get them moved indoors and settled into a place where the mom could comfortably look after her new family.

Once we got them settled, I noticed that some of the pups appeared to be dreaming. I had experienced this with other dogs, but had no clue even newborns would do it too. They haven't had any experiences yet. Their little bodies twitched and they let out a very tiny yelp as if they were afraid of something. What kind of dreams would a newborn pup have?

Scientists have shown that dogs appear to go through the same sleep cycles that we do. For example, in 1977 it was reported that electrical activity in the brains of pointer dogs showed the dogs went through cycles of REM and slow-wave or non-REM sleep just as we do. The dogs studied spent almost twice as much time in slow-wave sleep as in REM sleep.

Conclusions from this and subsequent studies are that dogs, like humans, likely spend dreamtime categorizing and reviewing events of the day. Patterns are similar to human dreaming and thus dogs likely have nightmares from time to time, just as we do.

Since dreams seem to be based on experiences, albeit in confusing ways at times to the awake mind, researchers say the best way to improve a dog’s dreams is simply to improve their days. A safe and comfortable place to sleep and dream also helps, according to science.

So, with all that noted, back to my pondering, "What does a newborn pup dream about?" I’d love to know.