Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Does Your Dog Chase Rabbits in His Dreams?

By Suzanne Alicie

Have you ever watched a dog sleep? First, it is really sweet to see their highly animated and active faces resting peacefully, but it is also rather entertaining to watch and wonder what is going on in a dog’s dreams. Their feet may move, their tail may wag, they may growl or even bark. Some dogs have been known to sleep walk and even sleep eat. In these ways dogs are much like humans; I am sure it would be interesting to know what a dog is really dreaming about that causes these activities.

Around our house we call it “chasing rabbits” when our dog is sleeping peacefully and then suddenly seems to be running, all the while lying on her side with her feet making running motions. Then it will stop and she will seem to rest peacefully again for a while. I have also heard our dog growl deep in her throat and the hackles on her neck stand up while she is sleeping. I made sure not to disturb her or wake her up for fear of being attacked simply because she was in a dream state. This is one reason that people who sleep with their pets should be wary.

Veterinarian Dr. Nicholas Dodman reports in his article Do Dogs Dream that scientists tend to dwell on the differences between humans and dogs, while others search for similarities. Like humans, dogs have two main types of sleep – rapid eye movement or REM sleep, and Slow Wave or SWS sleep. Also like humans, the first stage of sleep is the SWS stage when the mind slips into sleep. The thought processes are muted but bodily process and muscle tone remain active. Once the body is fully relaxed and the dog is in REM sleep, the mind begins to dream, and the eyes may dart rapidly. During REM sleep is it common for dogs to whine or whimper, growl, bark, breathe rapidly and show other signs associated with being awake.

Unfortunately, our canine friends can’t tell us what they are dreaming about which leads us to watch them sleep and come to our own conclusions. I enjoy watching our dog sleep and wondering what is going on in her head. I hope she is having an active and fun dream that involves running free, chasing rabbits and rolling around in the grass.

While I enjoy watching our dog dream I have found several videos on YouTube that just seem cruel to me – of dogs who dream bad things and jump up still asleep snarling and run into walls and furniture. I don’t know what the solution is for the owners of dogs like this, but I would assume that a responsible pet owner would take the dog to a vet instead of taking videos of the dog hurting himself to post for entertainment value. Imagine if that were your child instead of a dog, would you let your child harm himself while sleeping and laugh about it? This also leads me to wonder what type of treatment those dogs have been through that make them have dreams like that over and over again.

Rather than dwell on unpleasant thoughts, I think I’ll just go give my dog a CANIDAE Snap-Bits™ treat and hope she naps soon so I can indulge in daydreaming while I watch her.

Read more articles by Suzanne Alicie


  1. Yes both my dogs chase something in their dreams but don't know if it is rabbits. They never have told me.Great post. Interesting information.

  2. While an interesting article, can you curb your judgmental nature? It detracts greatly from your credibility.


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