Here’s What Science Says Your Dog Is Dreaming About
Sadly, they're not floating off to paradise.
Many dog owners have seen it firsthand: Even when your pup is snoozing, he or she appears to be running, snacking, or even barking in the throes of a deep sleep. Much like their human counterparts, dogs do have dreams—and according to science, they’re not all that different from ours.
A landmark 2001 study conducted by researchers at MIT gave credence to the theory that not only do animals dream, they dream about some version of daily life, just like people. In the animals studied—rats in this case—the same neurons fired in a particular pattern while the animals were completing a maze and afterward, during their REM sleep, indicating that they were dreaming of the activity they’d recently undertaken. So, when your dog looks like he’s sprinting after a ball while he’s sleeping, odds are he’s reliving that trip to the park from earlier in the day.
“It seems reasonable to assume they dream about things within the context of their life and experiences. Thus, a dog that is outside a lot may dream of running at the park or chasing squirrels,” says Dr. Gary Richter, a veterinary medical expert with Rover.com.
According to Dr. Deirdre Barrett, a Clinical and Evolutionary Psychologist at Harvard Medical School, a dog’s owner is probably a big part of what they dream about, too.
“Since dogs are generally extremely attached to their human owners, it’s likely your dog is dreaming of your face, your smell and of pleasing or annoying you,” she told People.
Naturally (and sadly), that probably means your dog is having some not-so-pleasant dreams—losing a ball, running into an unfriendly pup at the park, getting scolded for snacking on trash—as well. However, as hard as it may be to see your pup upset, it’s probably not necessary to do anything about it.
“It is not generally dangerous to wake a dreaming dog, but unless they seem to be in real distress, it is not necessary,” says Dr. Richter. That said, “If they do seem upset, comforting can be very helpful.” And if you can’t get enough cute pups in your life, meet these 40 Dogs So Ugly They’re Actually Cute.
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