Thursday, March 26, 2009

Do Pets Dream?

You’re quietly watching a scary movie late one night. It’s not too terribly scary because you have your faithful canine companion curled up on the sofa next to you, snoring contentedly. Suddenly, at the very spot in the movie that the “evil clown” attacks, your dog twitches and then falls off the couch. Popcorn flying, you’re convinced that the clown really is in the next room, but you’re too afraid to look because your pup is growling softly at, well, nothing....

If this has ever happened to you, I’m betting you know as well as I do that dogs dream. The fact is, this is true.

Dogs experience sleep patterns that are very similar to our own. The process begins when your dog walks around in a circle three times (we’ll get to that little phenomenon later), settles into a heap of fur, curls into a ball and tucks his nose under his tail.

So far, very similar to the way that we fall asleep. Of course, we probably don’t turn around three times, or tuck our noses under tails (I hope), but the rest of it fairly close.

Like us, our dogs will enter into rapid eye movement (REM) after a few minutes. This is known as the “active stage of sleep”. His eyes will roll under his closed lids (much as our own do when we enter REM), and he may bark or whine (just as my husband does). His legs will probably jerk a little, and all in all, the brain activity that would be seen if you were to hook him up to a monitor is similar to that seen during the dreaming sleep of humans.

In humans, there are five stages of sleep. The “Dreaming” stage occurs in the fifth stage, or REM stage of sleep. This is the most active state of sleep for pets and people, where kicking and running comes into play.

So, the short answer to this question is that yes, dogs do dream.

Incidentally, dogs spend between 10% and 12% of their lives sleeping. Unless you’re one of my dogs, then you’ll spend closer to 75-80% of your life asleep. And no, I never medicate my pets! They are just really, really tired....

And in case you need further proof of the dreaming capacity of dogs, take a gander at this “sleep walking dog” video. Then be very grateful that you don’t have to worry about this with your pet. If you do live with a dog like this, you might want to rethink watching those horror movies.

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