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The Science Behind Why Dogs and Humans Dream Alike

Image Credit: Jari Hindstrom

This article is courtesy of Crappy Clean Up Pet Waste Removal

Do dogs dream? The short answer is yes, dogs dream. Research has shown that dogs experience REM sleep, just like humans, and that this is when dreaming occurs. The amount of time a dog spends in REM sleep depends on their breed and age, but it is estimated that they spend about 10% of their sleep time in this stage.

Rapid Eye Movement in Dogs and Humans

Rapid Eye Movement (REM) is widely recognized as the period during which humans, dogs, and other animals experience vivid dreams and memory consolidation takes place. Interestingly, it was in the 1950s that REM sleep was first identified by researchers who observed rapid and distinct eye movements in sleeping infants. These frequent eye movements, dubbed REMs, are in fact responsible for the name given to REM sleep.

REM sleep promotes brain development. Animals born with less developed brains such as humans and puppies, spend even more time in REM sleep during infancy than those that are born with more developed brains, like horses and birds.

Processing Memories and Experiences

Scientists believe that dogs and humans process memories and emotions during their dreams, which can help them process and retain new experiences. This may be especially beneficial for dogs who are exposed to a variety of new experiences (such as therapy or service dogs), as dreaming may help them better adjust and process the different stimuli they encounter. Overall, further research in this area can give insight into the inner lives of our furry companions and inform how we interact with them.

Difference in Dog and Human Dreams

Image Credits: K Thalhofer from Getty Images

There are striking differences in the ways human and dog dreams manifest. First, dogs tend to have shorter dream cycles, lasting about 20-30 minutes, while humans have a longer dream cycle lasting about 90 minutes. Second, the structure of a dog's brain and its level of consciousness play a significant role in their sleep behavior. Dogs lack the ability to distinguish between reality and dream state, which means they can't tell the difference between a dream and waking life. Third, while human dreams often involve narrative storylines, dogs experience more sensory dreams, such as chasing a ball or catching a scent.

How to Tell if a Dog is Dreaming

While we can't necessarily ask our pups what they're dreaming about, animal behaviorists suggest that dogs may dream about experiences they've had throughout the day. It can be difficult to tell if your dog is dreaming, but there are some signs to look out for. During REM sleep, dogs may twitch, move their legs, or make noises like whining or growling. They may also seem like they are running or chasing something. It's important to note that these movements are normal and not a cause for concern.

If your dog is growling or whimpering in their sleep, they may be dreaming about something that scared or upset them. Dogs that have been through trauma or abuse may also have more intense or disturbing dreams. For dogs that seem to be in distress or experiencing nightmares frequently, it's important to speak to your veterinarian.

While we may never know what exactly our furry friends are dreaming about, it's reassuring to know that our bond with them extends beyond just waking hours.

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