Do Dogs Have Dreams & Nightmares?

The Place For Pet People | Cuteness

By Rodney Wilson


It’s a phenomenon every dog owner knows well: After a long day of living a dog’s life, the family pet stretches out on the carpet for some well-deserved shuteye, only to start twitching, kicking and uttering muffled sleep barks. And most dog owners, upon witnessing this somnambulant activity, come to the logical conclusion of a canine dream, but is there any truth to this? Do dogs really dream?

Dachshund puppy

A dog sleeping in a bed.     credit: HannamariaH/iStock/Getty Images

Basset Hound

It’s widely believed that, yes, dogs dream.    credit: Silense/iStock/Getty Images
The short answer is yes … probably. Without the emergence of the long-fabled talking canine companion to confirm that dogs do dream, people can only make an educated guess that Fido’s twitchy sleep growls indicate brain activity similar to the human concept of “dreaming.” Luckily, curiosity about dog dreaming is a longstanding topic of study; this educated guess is based on an expansive body of scientific studies and intellectual queries.

Scientific Evidence

Sleepy mastiff

Scientific studies support the theory that dogs dream.      credit: Chalabala/iStock/Getty Images

There’s plenty of hard evidence suggesting that dogs do, in fact, dream. For starters, dogs’ brains are structurally similar to humans. Scientists at MIT studied brain wave activities of sleeping dogs to find that canines experience the same stages of electrical activity as unconscious humans. The researchers confirmed dreaming occurs in animals with less complex neurological systems, as studies on sleeping rats suggest the rodents also dream. Interestingly though, frequency varies, with small dogs dreaming more often than large dogs.

What Do Dogs Dream About?

Close-up of a girl sleeping with her dog

Just like humans, dogs likely dream about their daily activities.    credit: Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images

What do dogs dream about? Well, what do humans dream about? The most common belief is that animals dream about activities their waking selves participate in, just as a person’s daily activities determine subsequent dreams. Science confirms this belief: The MIT studies observed identical brain activity during sleep as was seen while the rodents performed activities awake. Presuppositions can be made that a dog who experiences fearful situations while awake is more likely to have nightmares.

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie?


A dog needs sleep, so let it lie.     Credit: berndstuhlmann/iStock/Getty Images

Many pet owners wonder if a dreaming dog needs human intervention when kicking, growling or otherwise experiencing brain activity while sleeping. Sometimes this is based on concern for the dog, other times driven by more selfish motives such as a desire for uninterrupted human sleep. The old adage is the best advice, though: Let that sleeping dog lie. Interrupting REM sleep can confuse the animal and compromises your furry friend’s much-needed sleep cycle.





This is a great article on your pup and his or her sleep time.   I know Bella dreams when she sleeps.   She often utters sounds and demonstrates the motion of running with her legs.   It is not a good idea to wake your pup while asleep and dreaming.   Bella became very confused and frightened when we tried to wake her during a very active dream.    It’s great advice to “let sleeping dogs lie”.

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