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  • Writer's pictureMarina Veronica

How do dogs dream? Let me count the ways.

bulldog dreaming on a book

How do dogs dream? Well, that depends on the dog.. What sleeping position your dog chooses, how long they dream for, and what kind of dreams they have are all determined by their age, breed and personality.

Animals have REM sleep cycles, just like humans. A human's sleep cycle usually lasts about 90 to 110 minutes, with the REM stage starting at 10 minutes and getting longer as the sleep cycle repeats throughout the night. In total, humans spend about two hours dreaming each night. Unlike their owners, dogs have sleep cycles that last 45 minutes. They have two REM stages in one cycle, totaling six minutes together. It's estimated that dogs experience a new dream every 10 to 90 minutes!

According to VCA Animal Hospitals, the frequency of a dog’s dream depends on the size and age of the dog. Bigger dogs are thought to have longer dreams that occur every 60 to 90 minutes, whereas smaller dogs have shorter dreams more frequently, around every 10 minutes. Puppies also tend to dream more often than grown dogs.

How can you tell when your dog is dreaming? Here are some signs: 

1. Twitching.

Involuntary twitches are completely everyday occurrences and are known as hypnic jerks. Dogs can experience them too!

2. Quivering.

This is another typical sign of dog dreaming and is an involuntary spasm that looks as if your dog is acting out their dreams.

3. Murmuring, barking, or howling.

Some pet parents say their dogs chase rabbits in their dreams when they hear them bark or howl. Although what they’re dreaming about is mostly a mystery, these vocalizations are normal.

4. Sleepwalking or running.

Another cute sign of dreaming is sleepwalking or running. Your dog may move their paws back and forth as if they’re on a walk or run with you.

5. Circling and digging.

This behavior comes from their ancestors- wolves. While they may not be removing excess leaves, earth or snow, they are attempting to make their sleep area more comfortable.

6. Snoring. Pugs, bulldogs and boxers will do this due to their short noses and broad skulls.

How do dogs sleep? Here are 10 positions:

1. The Side Sleeper. Lying on their side with their legs extended means they feel safe, relaxed and are at a comfortable temperature. Side sleepers are trusting and loyal.

2. The Lion's Pose. Similar to statues of lions in front of a library or museum. Sleeping with their head on their paws. They are resting yet still ready to jump or play in a moment's notice. Lion's pose sleepers are protective and devoted.

3. The Superman. Lying sprawled out on the ground with their belly pressed to the floor. Their back legs are behind them and their front legs are stretched forward. This is a common position among puppies and very playful dogs. They are tired but ready to play when you are.

4. The Donut., Sleeping curled up in a ball with all their limbs tucked close to their body. Sometimes their nose will touch their hind legs in and they may even drape their tail over their body. They are seeking to protect themselves and preserve their body heat. These dogs are caring but anxious.

5. The Cuddler. This is when your dog prefers to sleep on top of you or another dog cuddled up. This is a great position if you love to let your dog sleep in bed with you. These dogs are affectionate and loving. It is a behavior left over from when your dog was a puppy and snuggled up with their litter to keep warm.

6. The Burrower. If your dog seeks out pillows, clothes, or blankets to sleep under they are a burrower. They are affectionate but needy.. They are searching for comfort and security and seeking to block out distractions.

7. The Belly Up. Lying on their back with belly up and paws in the air. This is a sign that your dog is comfortable and relaxed and also, that they are trying to keep cool. They fully trust you and their environment. Note that as dogs age, they may no longer sleep on their back due to arthritis. It does not mena they have lost trust in you.

8. Back to Back. Lying with their back to you or another dog. They like to cuddle as close as possible. It is a sign of love and comfort. They are showing you trust and intimacy.

9. On a cold surface. When they are too hot, dogs like to sleep this way. They may be in either the Lion's Pose or the Superman pos.e with their belly on the floor. To make them feel more comfortable, turn up the AC and give them cold water or a frozen treat. If their hair is too long or bushy, get them groomed.

10. Head and Neck raised. They will rest their head on something, like their dog bed or a couch cushion. This can help if they have breathing issues. Make sure to see a veterinarian if you have any concerns.

What do dogs dream about? Dogs likely dream about their lived experiences. Moving their paws and lips suggest that dogs may be reliving things they have experienced. Dogs can dream about playing ball, running after a cat, eating treats, or licking their favorite humans. Or if they are protective of their homes, dogs may dream about chasing burglars away. Whatever dogs do during the day, they can dream about.

Do dogs have nightmares? Sleep, especially the REM cycle, is an important aspect of your dog’s health. Constantly interrupting its sleep can have negative health effects over time. While dogs can certainly happily dream of unlimited chicken-flavored treats and endless hills to run on, they can also have nightmares. If your dog is experiencing a nightmare, you’ll likely witness signs of aggression or fear. Your dog may growl, bark, whine or whimper. They may even awaken into a defensive or frightened stance. Suddenly waking a dog may also cause them to unintentionally bite or snap at you due to being startled..

Do smaller dogs have less dreams? Surprisingly, some animal behaviorists suggest that smaller dogs dream more often than larger dogs because they tend to have more bursts of brain activity while they sleep. Other than that, it’s unknown why there’s such a disparity between small and large dog breeds.

Let sleeping dogs dream. They need their rest, just like we do.


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