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Is Your Dog Dreaming About You?

 

You’ve settled down for the day, and you’re relaxing to get ready for bed.  Your dog is way ahead of you, knocked out and snoring his cares away from his own stressful day.  As you continue to wind-down yourself, you notice some curious movement from your sound asleep dog; a bending leg or a flexing paw.  You notice the muscles twitching underneath the sleek coat, and you can see the eyes darting around inside their tightly-closed eyelids. Its not long until you hear whimpering, and, in some cases, you see running-in-place that suggests a striding sprint to a finish line.  Its obvious that your dog is dreaming, but what are they dreaming about? And should we wake them?

What Do Dogs Dream About?

You know that one co-worker who shares way too much about a dream they had lastnight?  One of life’s cruel ironies is that we can understand them, yet it’s not possible for your dog to tell you what he is dreaming about (at least not yet, but we sent a man to the moon…I’m confident someone is working on this breakthrough).  Researchers believe dogs dream about typical dog stuff.  More specifically, they dream about exciting things they did that day, or would like to do. I notice that on days that I play with my pit bull, Opie, and exhaust him intensely, he has more noticeable dreams later that night.  Just like us, the more exercise a dog gets, the easier it is to enter the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage of sleep that is responsible for vivid dreams.

Pit Bulls Dream About Hanging Out With You

Research indicates that dogs have breed-specific dreams about activities they enjoy. For example, “a dreaming pointer may immediately start searching for game and may even go on point, a sleeping Springer Spaniel may flush an imaginary bird in his dreams, while a dreaming Doberman pincher may pick a fight with a dream burglar.”[1]What does this mean for pit bulls specifically?  Knock on wood, but I’ve never had an intruder in my home, and my pit bulls probably wouldn’t care if one did.  But what really gets them going is hearing food wrappers, so I imagine them dreaming about running into the kitchen when I open the fridge.  Opie is more active, so I imagine he’s dreaming about me throwing his ball or chasing me on the 4-wheeler.

Bad Dreams and Nightmares: Should I Wake Them?

Just like us, dogs can have bad dreams, too.  I woke up one night to Opie, very much asleep, belting-out a blood-curdling howl worthy of a Halloween soundtrack.  He was probably dreaming about his beloved ball rolling under the fence, never to be played with again. The American Kennel Club advises not to wake a dog when he is dreaming, especially during what you believe to be a bad dream.[2]  The risk is that they will wake up dazed and confused and perceive you as part of the threat in their dream.  That’s a good reason, but beside that, your dog is in a deep state of sleep that is healthy and crucial for metabolizing toxins out of the brain (just like us), so it is advised to let sleeping dogs lie, as tempting as it is to wake them.

Next time you see your sleeping dog become shallow in breath, seemingly coming alive in their slumber, you’ll know that they’re probably dreaming about spending time with you.  Even if our dogs aren’t dreaming about protecting us, they’re dreaming about doing activities with us. We are their world, whether waking or sleeping, so let them dream!

[1] (Coren, 2010): https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/canine-corner/201010/do-dogs-dream

[2] (Donovan, 2015): https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/lifestyle/did-you-know/do-dogs-dream/

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