Fun

If Dogs Can Dream, Does That Mean They Can Have Nightmares?

Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

April 5, 2016

If you’re a dog owner, chances are you’ve caught your pup twitching or whimpering in their sleep once or twice before. These physical reactions are likely manifesting as a result of doggie dreams or maybe even dog-mares, as we like to call them.

As it turns out, the brains of dogs are incredibly similar to those of humans at the structural level. Research conducted in 2001 by Matthew Wilson and Kenway Louie of MIT further proved that our brain wave patterns and stages of electrical activity are also alike1. So it is safe to assume that, if we share this kind of brain activity, our pups might share our capacity to dream as well. But what’s all the huffing and puffing? Well, with dreams often come nightmares.

Humans have a tendency to dream about things related to the goings-on in our day-to-day lives; maybe an argument with our boss stressed us out, or we watched a horror film that gave us night terrors for weeks. However, when your pup is snoozing we doubt they’re dreaming about a bad day at the office. Doggie dreams and doggie nightmares probably involve, you know, doggie stuff.

If your pooch is moving his legs like he’s running, he could be pleasantly dreaming that he’s digging another hole in your yard, but it’s also possible that he’s having a nightmare of being chased by another dog. If he’s breathing quickly and barking, he could be attacking a scary burglar, or maybe he’s just warding off another squirrel outside the window. There is no real way of knowing. But one thing is for sure—the old saying, “Let sleeping dogs lie” holds true.

Even though your pup’s panicked movements and nervous whines might make your heart ache, you probably shouldn’t wake them unless absolutely necessary. Have you ever woken up from a nightmare confused with your heart pounding? I’m sure you have. A dog startled out of sleep might have the same trouble differentiating their dream from reality and has the potential to bite.

In fact, around 60% of kids bitten by dogs are bit when waking one, according to the Veterinary Centers Of American (VCA)2. If you really can’t resist and want to comfort your pet, don’t touch them or shout their name. Instead, try speaking to them in a soft tone of voice to help coax them out of their nightmare slowly. Then you can kiss and hug them all you want!

Sources:


1 “Animals Have Complex Dreams, MIT Researcher Proves.” MIT News: On Campus And Around The World, MIT | Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 24 Jan. 2001, https://news.mit.edu/2001/dreaming

2 Llera, Ryan, DVM and Lynn Buzhardt, DVM. “Do Dogs Dream?” VCA Animal Hospital, VCA, https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/do-dogs-dream

Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

April 5, 2016

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