Your dog is probably dreaming about you
But does it also have nightmares about you?
You may have experienced that your dog is lying peacefully on the couch. Suddenly, it starts barking, howling, and maybe air running its legs. When you take a second look at your dog, you discover that it is not conscious, but instead, far into dreamland.
For sure, dogs can dream. In fact, research suggests that all mammals dream.
Dreams during REM sleep
Dogs often make sounds during sleep, whether grunting, snoring, whistling, or barking; it is quite comparable to a sleep-talking person.
Recent research suggests that dogs' dreams fulfill the same function as in us humans. This means that dreams contribute to the dogs processing senses and impressions from the day's experiences.
The dogs' sleep cycle goes through different phases. Sleep is divided into "rapid-eye-movement" (REM) and "non-rapid-eye-movement". 12 percent of the time they spend sleeping is in the REM phase.
That is the phase when the body's movements are paralyzed while the brain is hyperactive. It is in this phase that the dog's body can make involuntary movements and sounds. Which is also where intense dreaming occurs.
So the next time you see uncontrolled face-twitching, or if the dog is "running" in his sleep, you know that the dog is probably in the REM phase.
Processes experiences and impressions
But what does your four-legged friend dream about? Do they dream about food? Or that they are on a walk? Or do they dream of meeting other dogs?
Although we do not know for sure, there is good reason to believe that dogs can dream of all the abovementioned examples. Because if a dog's dreams are about processing impressions, it will probably dream about everything that goes on in its life.
This means that it will also dream about you since you are a central part of the dog's life.
Dreams do not always have to be pleasant or realistic. Dogs can experience nightmares too.
Such nightmares probably come from the dog reliving previous negative experiences. Still, they are probably not nightmares of zombie dogs coming to murder their family. Dogs are known to have a well-developed long-term memory, but they lack imagination.
Dogs with a traumatic upbringing - whether they were abandoned by their owners when they were young or abused earlier in life - are more likely to suffer from nightmares than dogs with a safe and stable upbringing.