You probably have anecdotal evidence that your dog dreams. Maybe he runs in his sleep or yips or snarls or even sleep walks. Maybe you have theories (he finally caught that squirrel!) about what your dog dreams.
Interestingly, there is a ton of research that shows dogs do, in fact, dream just like we do. They take information from their day and assimilate it in an abstract way.
Back in 2001, MIT researchers used brain monitoring technology to watch rats’ brains as they learned to run a circular maze to earn a food reward. They used the same technology to monitor their brains while they slept, and for many of the rats, the brain patters matched, indicating that they were dreaming about running the maze.
In a Pyschology Today editorial, Dr. Stanley Cohen writes that it would be more surprising if dogs didn’t dream since we understand so much of their brain structure and function. Further, he shares how to tell when your dog starts to dream:
It is really quite easy to determine when your dog is dreaming without resorting to brain surgery or electrical recordings. All that you have to do is to watch him from the time he starts to doze off. As the dog’s sleep becomes deeper his breathing will become more regular. After a period of about 20 minutes for an average-sized dog his first dream should start. You will recognize the change because his breathing will become shallow and irregular. There may be odd muscle twitches, and you can even see the dog’s eyes moving behind its closed lids if you look closely enough. The eyes are moving because the dog is actually looking at the dream images as if they were real images of the world. These eye movements are most characteristic of dreaming sleep. When human beings are awakened during this rapid eye movement or REM sleep phase, they virtually always report that they were dreaming.
Personally, I’ve always known – yes, anecdotally – that my dogs dream. Emmett has bad dreams. His fur stands up. His lip curls. He snarls and whimpers. Lucas has active dreams where he’s running and chasing (and, probably, catching! it’s a dream after all!) because his legs windmill in the air or his nails click on the wood floor as he moves rapidly in his sleep.
Cooper, though… Cooper has good dreams. No, Cooper has great dreams! I think he’s playing with Newt or running with Lucas or snuggling or ripping up toys or… who knows… all of those at once. Why do I think that?
What about your dogs? Do dogs dream? Are they “active” sleepers, moving and running and barking? Do you have theories about their dreams? Are they catching squirrels or eating ice cream?