Experts share what dogs dream about - and it's likely different for each breed

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Experts share what dogs dream about - and it's likely different for each breed​

Professor Stanley Corner from the University of British Columbia claims dogs dream about different things based on their breeds, with Dobermans chasing away danger while golden retrievers search for dream snacks.

By
Paige FreshwaterContent Editor
  • 14:05, 17 Jan 2023
Most dog owners have wondered what their pet is dreaming about at one time or another - especially when they mimic running or let out a tiny bark in their sleep. But thankfully for them, an expert at the University of British Columbia has come up with an answer, claiming it's different for every dog breed.
According to Stanley Coren, a professor emeritus of psychology, dogs don't only dream but they can also manipulate their dreams in a similar way, if not the same way, humans can. Mr Coren suggests dogs undertake breed-specific activities in their dreams, with Dobermans most likely chasing away danger, while golden retrievers search for dream snacks or being cuddled by their owner.

He said: "What we've basically found is that dogs dream doggy things. So, pointers will point at dream birds, and Dobermans will chase dream burglars. The dream pattern in dogs seems to be very similar to the dream pattern in humans."

Throughout his study, he discovered the size of the dog impacts how often they dream, with smaller dogs having more frequent but shorter dream and larger dogs having less frequent but longer ones.

Mr Coren's research has been backed by Dr Deirdre Barrett, a clinical and evolutionary psychologist at Harvard Medical School, who claims dogs dream about their everyday experiences, just like humans, meaning there's a good chance they are dreaming about their owners.

She told People: "Humans dream about the same things they’re interested in by day, though more visually and less logically. There’s no reason to think animals are any different.

"Since dogs are generally extremely attached to their human owners, it's likely your dog is dreaming of your face, your smell and of pleasing or annoying you."

Although there's no way to know for sure what a dog is dreaming about, Dr Barrett says it is likely they are dreaming about running when their paws or legs begin to twitch or interacting with another dog or human when they start barking.

She says most animals have similar sleep cycles to humans, going through light, deep and REM sleep stages.

It is during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep when dreams occur for humans, making this the best guess as to when other animals would also experience dreams.

In humans, REM sleep typically begins 90 minutes into a nap and last between five to 15 minutes, with each cycle getting longer throughout the night.

Dr Barrett says owners can try to improve their dog's dreams by exposing them to "happy daytime experiences" and providing them with a safe and comfortable environment to rest on a night.

But when it comes to nightmares the American Kennel Club advises owners to "let sleeping dogs lie" because they could react aggressively towards the person who wakes them up.

A statement reads: " Not all human dreams are good. We infer that dogs can have nightmares, too. These nightmares are hard to watch.

"It can be tempting to wake your dog to comfort her, as you would a child, but there are some risks associated with doggy nightmares that you should share with your family.

"If you’ve ever been woken from a scary dream, you know that it can take a minute to remember where you are and whom you are with.

"Like some people, dogs can react aggressively toward the person waking them. This can be dangerous, especially for children.

"The best thing that you can do for a dog you think is having a bad dream is to wait for your dog to wake up and be there to comfort him."

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Ravenbird

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I think dog dreaming is fascinating. Never had one with so much REM movement/vocalizing as Asha. I don't think any are bad dreams, just really active.
 

JanS

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I always think most of them are dreaming of chasing squirrels. LOL

My dreams are all over the place though and I often wake up saying "where did that come from?" :D
 

Kaiser2016

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I love when they bark in their dreams it’s so cute. A few times I have heard him low growl too. I think he is usually running in his deep sleep dreams because his front paws will move.
 

Oh Little Oji

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My dreams are all over the place though and I often wake up saying "where did that come from?" :D
Me too! I so wish I could have my dreams recorded and play them back! Often, it's like: How?? The details! The storyline and plot!! You'd think it'd take thought and work to come up with these stories ahead of time, yet it seems to unfold in real time! So weird!
 

Oh Little Oji

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Ah, Dr. Stanley Coren, author of the book, The Intelligence of Dogs. One of the more fun things in that book was his ranking of breeds' intelligence. I think he had Dobes in the top 5

Cool about the dog dreams!
 

JanS

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One of the more fun things in that book was his ranking of breeds' intelligence. I think he had Dobes in the top 5
They've always been up there. The other day they (the radio station) read a list of the least intelligent dogs and they had the English Mastiff way up there. I wouldn't necessarily say they're stupid but they're laid back and don't have a high drive to do anything fast. My old coworker just texted me the other day and said her Mastiff finally started lifting his leg now that he's 18 months. LOL
 

Dasz88

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Great article!!! Gilly is my first non rescue dog... it's interesting because he has little woofs and snuffles in his dreams but nothing much. Whereas, all my previous dogs were rescues with pretty rough pasts, and they would growl, cry, whimper and sleep startle. Gilly has had an easy life of luxury and zero trauma*, so he doesn't have nightmares.

*actual trauma. Gilly feels he is abused when he has to be in a crate or is not allowed to crawl on your face. But this is not actual trauma 😆
 

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