Can dogs dream?

April 13, 2012

A dog is a “thinking” animal. There is no doubt that something is always going through the mind of man’s best friend. It’s a pity we will never be privy to the thoughts of our dogs. Experts believe that a dog has the ability to understand about one hundred fifty words and to have a form of cognitive pattern that differentiates words and phrases. The dog’s facial expression and its ability to pay attention to what the humans say give the impression that dogs can think. Due to this notion, it is believed that similar to humans, dogs can dream.

No one would really know what the function of dreaming is. In humans, dreams can be a premonition of what is going to happen. Dream can be a manifestation of a need or desire. It is also a playback of what human have experienced. Scientists expound on the differences between humans and dogs. However, dog experts attest to the fact that man and dogs are about 95% genetically and physically identical. So when the dog lying asleep at your feet suddenly jerked its tail, makes twitching movements with its feet, whines and barks as if running after a prey, it is highly possible that the dog is dreaming. Scientists tell us that the basis for dreams are memory and thought processes. Because dogs are believed to have both, it was also believed that dogs can dream. The idea that dogs can dream was recently verified through an electroencephalogram (EEG) test. Researchers use EEG to test, measure and reproduce the brain wave activity of canines while sleeping.

A dog dreaming of chasing rabbits or wolfing down bowls of its favorite treats would have to go through the sleep cycles just like humans do. The dog is in the non-rapid eye movement when it starts to lose consciousness. The dog will lose control of its muscles as well. This stage is also known as the “sleep of the mind”. In this stage, an EEG test would show slow and undulating brain waves that would be similar to the reading of an anesthetized dog. In this stage the sleeping dog will be calm as if in deep sleep but the dog is actually in a light sleep mode and can be easily awakened.

As soon as the dog enters the rapid eye movement stage (REM), it will be in deep sleep and would be difficult to awaken. This stage is otherwise known as the “slow wave sleep” as elongated and even brain waves will be shown in an EEG test. The breathing will be slow and both the pulse and the blood pressure will be decreased. The dog’s mind is very active while the muscles are relaxed. It is in this stage that the dog will start to dream. Because of the relax muscles, the dog will be seen jerking or twitching the tail and the feet or grunting and whining.

Dogs dream just like humans. Human and dogs would have rapid eye movements but some differences are noticed. Humans commonly lie perfectly still when they dream. Dogs on the other hand would be more active. Dogs are noted to make running motions as if chasing bunnies; snap the mouth as if catching butterflies, bark, grunt and whine. Similar to humans, dogs have nightmares too. However, dog experts tell us to let sleeping dogs lie. A sleeping and dreaming dog would wake on its own. Even if the dog has had a nightmare, unlike humans, it will not be affected and would be its normal self after waking up. Studies conducted on dog behavior have shown that smaller dogs and puppies dream more often than larger and more mature dogs. While it would be more fulfilling if we would know what goes on in our pet’s mind, watching them dreaming would give us a chance to see the dog’s private moments.

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