As humans, we understand the concept of dreaming as stories and scenarios that our brains create while we are asleep. Our brains are full of activity throughout the night and conjure wild images and creations, usually during the rapid-eye movement (REM) stage of sleep.
But although we understand dreaming (whether we dream regularly or not), we may wonder—do our beloved four-legged friends experience these vivid situations, as well?
Here are some interesting things you may not have known about your pup and its sleeping habits.
On dogs and dreaming
The major question so many pet parents have asked themselves over the years is whether or not dogs actually dream. While Fido lacks the communication skills necessary to tell us for certain, pet experts believe that, yes, dogs do dream.
Based on studies animals during sleep, experts believe that dogs experience stages of sleep much like humans do. They have REM and non-REM stages and likely dream most during REM sleep. During REM, you might notice that your dog’s breathing becomes irregular. The muscles may also twitch during this stage, although this is more common in very young or very old dogs.
Experts also think that dogs dream about day-to-day activities in the same way humans do. So, when your pup is twitching and looks like it is running in its sleep, it may be running around in its dream, as well. Your pup might be dreaming about things that happened during its day, or even about you!
Another interesting fact is that your dog’s size might influence the frequency and length of its dreams. Small dogs are more likely to have shorter dreams in more frequent patterns. Larger dogs tend to have longer dreams, but they are less frequent.
What about nightmares?
On the topic of dreaming, you may also wonder: “If my dog can dream, can it also have nightmares?" The answer? Most likely. Since dogs dream in such a similar way to humans, it’s very likely that they can experience scary dreams in the same ways we do.
Therefore, if your dog is whimpering in its sleep, it may be frightened due to a nightmare. Fortunately, the dream will probably end relatively quickly, and your dog will go on to have better dreams of chasing squirrels and chowing down on yummy treats.
Try to avoid waking your dog from a nightmare, as this can startle it and possibly make it aggressive until it gets its bearings.
Bedtime for dogs
It’s nearly impossible to talk about our dogs and dreaming without also considering their bedtime routines. Some dogs have a nightly routine they have to follow or else they won’t sleep, while others can lay down just about anywhere and go right to bed. Establishing these bedtime routines isn’t always easy, but consistency is key.
It can be difficult for puppies to get to sleep easily at night, since they are extremely excitable and have not yet established a bedtime routine with their owners. A few things can help you quickly put a routine in place and get a solid night’s rest. First, tire your puppy out during the day and try to not let it doze. By nighttime, it should be so tired it will fall asleep quickly and easily. Also, give your dog a bed to call home and make sure it knows that that’s the place it sleeps. Whether that’s in a crate, a soft doggy bed or the foot of your own bed, train it to go there when it’s bedtime and to not wander throughout the night.
With both puppies and adult dogs, establishing other parts of a bedtime routine and sticking to them every day can help teach your dog what is supposed to happen before bed. Always take your dog out to pee before bed so there are no nighttime accidents awaiting you in the morning.
Additionally, calm the house down before bed to signal to your dog it’s almost time to sleep. If people are talking loudly or excitedly, playing with the dog and otherwise riling it up, it will have a more difficult time settling in for the night. Soften the lights in your home, relax and give your pooch some loving and calming touches to help it calm down and get ready for sleep.
In time, your dog should be able to follow its bedtime routine on its own, calming down and heading to its spot to sleep with ease.