What dreams may come


I love watching my dogs dream. They twitch, sometimes making little running motions with their feet, and Brody in particular makes a noise just like one of the Three Stooges- “whoopwhoopwhoopwhoopwhoop,” a sound never heard when he’s actually awake.

I’ve always wondered what they dream about. Do their brains use the time to work out subconscious fears like we do? What can they be all that worried about anyway? They have it pretty easy.

Are their dreams populated with the surreal workings of REM enhanced grey matter like ours- do they dream of walking through a field of cats naked? Or are they literal dreamers, romping after squirrels and rolling in rotting leaves just like they do during their waking hours?

Brody’s definitely the most physical dreamer in the house. Koa will sometimes put out the tiniest whimper, but for the most part she sleeps like a log. Apollo is for all intents and purposes comatose when he is asleep.

I found an article by psychology professor Stanley Cohen that details some of the scientific evidence that dogs, and even rats, do indeed dream:

At the structural level, the brains of dogs are similar to those of humans. Also, during sleep the brain wave patterns of dogs are similar that of people, and go through the same stages of electrical activity observed in humans, all of which is consistent with the idea that dogs are dreaming.

Of course, you probably don’t need to go so far as brainwave analysis to come to the same conclusion. All you need to do is, you know, watch a couple dogs sleeping.

Mine never run into walls like that poor pup making the rounds on YouTube, thank goodness, but Brody’s come pretty close to launch a few times. Must be a reallllly fast squirrel. Koa, I’m sure, dreams either about being pet by me or eating. Her two purposes in life. Apollo, well, I think he dreams about sleeping.

What do you think your pets dream about?

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  • http://livelaughlaura.blogspot.com Laura

    I love watching my dog Milo sleep when he is dreaming! He makes light barky noises that are more like big puffs of air…I know something exciting is happening in his dream when those come more frequently like last night. They are never enough to wake me up or anything…but if I am up and I catch him its so funny! He also does the twitchy thing with his feet but I don’t think he has ever almost got himself up and moving.

    He has woken me up though…with a HOWL! The two times this ever happened were sort of close together. First at my parents house my night owl mom was awake and he did it near her and she was sure it woke up the house…but she knew he was dreaming because he immediately stopped when she called his name and woke him up. A few nights later we were back at home and in the middle of the night it happened again….howwwwwlllll! All I had to do was say “Milo” and it stopped…he wasn’t up at the door or anything…just laying there howling in his sleep.

    It hasn’t happened again but he has NEVER EVER howled while awake so thinking about it sort of cracks me up…I wonder what sort of call of the wild dream he was having! hahaha

    • http://thefosterdog.blogspot.com/ Michelle

      The night howling is the worst! I had a foster who would very occasionally wake me up with what we dubbed the “death howl” and it always terrified the crap out of me! It would always be in the dead of night and I’d jump out of bed and run to her thinking she was in some sort of mind blowing pain. She was always sleeping! I’d shake her (“Let sleeping dogs lie” never met a howler) and she’d wake up and give me a kiss like nothing happened!

      Like your dogs, she NEVER howled while awake. Maybe it’s their wild spirit coming out, lol!

  • http://ineedorange.blogspot.com Vicki in Michigan

    My dog was stray the first year of his life. We know he was shot (xrays for other reasons show metal still in body), and when we got him, he would hide if he saw anyone using a hose, or if anyone picked up a chair……

    When we first got him, he had nightmares. I would put my hand near his nose, so he could begin to remember that he was safe, and then I’d wake him up.

    I think they must work on their issues, in sleep, just as we apparently do.

    I have read that all mammals dream, except echidnas, I think……. What I remember reading was something about sizes of parts of the brain, and one part is very big in echidnas because they don’t have dreams to deal with memories(?) in the same way the other mammals do.

    I have read that the poor dog who runs into the wall in that awful video is likely to be having a seizure. What nice creatures we are (not!) to find that funny….

    • http://www.pawcurious.com Dr. V

      Yes, I watched that video thinking of putting it in the post if it was cute, but I had the same suspicion- especially in the longer version of the video. So I didn’t link it.

  • http://www.briarcliffanimal.com/blog Mary

    One of my cats has crazy dreams – unfortunately it’s the one that sleeps next to my husbands pillow. He wakes up and darts off the bed with no warning. It must be a bad dream! He’s scratched my husband a few times unintentionally. He’s the antagonizer at our house, so I wonder if the others are getting their revenge on him in his dreams.

  • Cathey

    Fun post! Yeah, all our dogs over the years have dreamed. We call it chasin’ bunnies. Not sure if it’s because they are/were all hunters & herders or what, but it’s sure interesting to watch. Even lying on my lap Lizzie will flail her paws about & do the “whoopwhoopwhoop” thing you spoke of.

  • Tonya

    Clyde seems to be dreaming more often lately, and he is always running in his dreams (we say he’s chasing rabbits or squirrels). A few weeks ago, he would run (scratching the wall the whole time), and I would wake him up. Then he’d go back to sleep and start running again. We went through about 3 cycles of this. I usually let him sleep through it unless I realize it’s going to be a marathon or unless he’s actually going to tear up the wall or the furniture. The last time he did it, we’d gone to “fungility” class earlier that day. My husband thought he must have been dreaming about doing fungility!

  • http://istillwantmorepuppies.blogspot.com Pup Fan

    Bella’s always dreaming… in very noisy fashion, I might add. Sometimes I hear her paws scratching against the wall, or some high pitched yips… always something…

  • http://finnspawprint.blogspot.com/ Susan Montgomery

    Finn woke me up this morning with his dream. He was whining, and I thought he needed to go out, but he was sound asleep on his bed. I don’t think it was a happy dream :-(

  • Karen B.

    Hmm, I think Theo dreams about chasing squirrels and Finn dreams about squashing Theo’s head when he’s being annoying.

    P.S. I think the psychologist’s name is CoRen, not Cohen. :-)

  • Roseofskye

    My cat definitely twitches in his deep sleep and I always wonder what he’s dreaming about when that happens. And once, just once, he stuck his tongue out in the middle of that. It was the cutest thing ever but I couldn’t get to a camera fast enough. I haven’t seen him do it since!

  • Chile

    Cookie is a verbal sleeper. She does a lot of barking and growling in her sleep (she’s a lot like Blade in that respect). She also has the twitching like she’s running after something but when she starts twitching her nose, it’s even cuter. I wonder if she’s chasing people away from her house with all the barking and growing. Or if she’s playing with the dogs that she normally runs a fence with. I do think that the few rare times that she’s howled in her sleep that Blade is visiting her. Or she’s just dreaming about big mounds of cheese and tomatoes and green peppers.

    Toby aka fosterdog also twitches quite a bit and makes this chuffing noise like an old man. He’s also been known to wag his tail non-stop while he sleeps. And as much as Toby runs in his sleep I think he’s trying to escape. He spent the first 6-9 years of his life chained in a backyard and any minute he gets off leash he’s gone like a rocket. So I think he’s dreaming of freedom off the chain, even though he’ll never leave a chained lifestyle again.

  • http://thefosterdog.blogspot.com/ Michelle

    I can always tell the happy dreams from the scary dreams.

    When Callie is having a happy dream she woofs quietly, maybe wags her tail. When she’s having a bad dream her woof’s become a little shorter and whiney.

    When she has her good dreams and I wake her up, all I get is dirty looks. When she has the bad dreams I always try to wake her up quietly by saying “Callie, it’s okay, I’m here!” or something along those lines. She ends up waking up and jumping into my lap and snuggling up as close as she can for comfort. Nothing makes me feel more important than helping her out of a bad dream.

  • K

    I was watching a show on HBO about naturalized citizens, and it included a man who said, “I saw a man walking his dog with little booties, and I asked him why his dog has socks, and he said, the ground is too hot. I thought to myself, what a miraculous country where people treat their pets better than people are treated where I am from. I am proud to be an American…” I’d like to hope our pets have better dreams than anyplace else in the world :-)

  • http://www.doggydessertchef.com Doggy Dessert Chef

    When we first got Big B from the shelter he would have awful dreams where he would whine and twitch then wake up and check his food bowl. Now he snores and wags his tail, I like to think it’s because he’s fat and happy and knows he’s home for good!

  • http://www.pawcurious.com Sheila

    Miss Madee barks and sends out the eerie sounds when she dreams; twitches, wags her tail and looks like she’s running. I think she’s running after the dreaded squirrels in the backyard or she has finally cornered the bunny and is about to have a snack!
    Of course I could only hope that she’s just recalling my home coming and is so very happy to see me, but …

  • http://delicious.com/guinness416 guinness416

    Digging.

  • http://www.corgidogs.org Toby Jon

    Dogs dreaming = possibly the cutest thing ever! :)