When dogs fall asleep, much like humans, they smile, move around, and talk, with a little bark or growl. But do they dream? It appears that they do, and according to Harvard psychologist Dr. Deirdre Barrett, the canine is likely having sweet dreams of the beloved humans in their life.
How do you find out what dogs dream about? A Clinical and Evolutionary Psychologist at Harvard Medical School, Barrett has been studying sleep behavior in humans for years. And though she can’t be 100% sure about animals and their dreams, based on her research, the psychologist assumes that dogs, like humans, dream about their loved ones, too. After all, dogs and humans are both animals.
Barrett said, “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.”
While doggie dreams may be uncertain, experts agree that most mammals, including dogs and humans, have similar sleep cycles. This means that sleep moves seamlessly from a deep sleep state, becomes less brain-active, then reaches a stage of Rapid Eye Movement (REM). In humans, dreams occur on the last phase of the sleep cycle.
REM sleep is believed to be the stage that is most responsible for vivid dreams, the ones that seem most real, and is believed to be a part of how the mind processes memory. With the shared features of the sleep cycle in dogs and humans, Barrett presumes, “That certainly makes it the best guess that other mammals are dreaming, too.”
And when dogs jerk and kick out their legs as if running and moving in their sleep? The psychologist explained that the dogs are likely acting out their dreams.
“Common sleep-walking doesn’t occur during dreaming sleep, but a much more vigorous ‘REM behavior disorder’ is accompanied by dreams, so the more pronounced and fast the movements, the more likely they’re acting out a dream,” Barrett said.The only way people can know about an animal’s dreams is if they shared a common language. According to Barrett, only two animals have been able to share information on their dreams with a human – the signing gorillas Koko and Michael.
The psychologist stated, “Researcher Penny Patterson reports that Koko occasionally signs about fantastic events, people, and places she has not seen recently only upon awakening. Michael, who is known to have been captured when poachers killed his entire family, sometimes wakes up and signs ‘Bad people kill gorillas.’”
Not all human dreams are good, and it can be expected that bad memories and experiences are recalled when animals are asleep, too.
While people can’t know for sure, it is definitely heartwarming to think that dogs might actually be dreaming about their human family while sleeping. The best bet for ensuring that dogs have happy dreams is to have the best and most pleasant dog-human interaction.
The psychologist recommended, “The best way to give ourselves or our children better dreams is to have happy daytime experiences and to get plenty of sleep in a safe and comfortable environment. It’s a good bet this is also best for pets’ dreams.”