What are Dog Dreams Like?

What are Dog Dreams Like?
Francisco María García

Written and verified by the lawyer Francisco María García.

Last update: 22 December, 2022

Although it might be difficult to believe, dog dreams are very similar to human dreams. In reality, it is no wonder. From a structural point of view, a dog’s brain is very similar to the human brain.

The involuntary movements that dogs make when they are sleeping, have aroused the interest of many researchers around the world. For this reason, many have taken it upon themselves to monitor dog dreams. They have done this by using electroencephalograms and other clinical tests.

The results prove that dogs do indeed dream. They also have nightmares. You only need to watch them sleep to realise this. Some move their legs, some move their jaws, and others even bark. Others simply move their eyes behind their closed eyelids.

The Content of Dog Dreams

It is impossible to know exactly what dog dreams consist of. However, the pictures drawn out by brain scans give us some idea. The results seem to be very similar to those of humans. For this reason, we can deduce that the content is likely to be similar to our dreams too.

A dog lying on a rug on the grass

We might suppose that if a dog is moving their legs and stirring, then it is because they are dreaming of playing or chasing something. Sometimes they move their jaws as if they were eating, and that is probably exactly what they are dreaming about. If they show signs of distress or even aggression, they are probably having a nightmare.

It is also known that during sleep, dogs consolidate their experiences and learning, just like humans. This means that dog dreams do not just work to restore, but also to reorganise information in the brain.

The Different Stages of Sleep for Dogs

Many people believe that, when sleeping, brain functions are reduced. In reality, what happens is the opposite. This is just the same in dogs as it is in humans. Some brain activities become even more dynamic. This happens during the first stage of sleep, called, slow wave sleep. (SWS).

In dog dreams, this slow wave sleep phase is continually interrupted multiple times by the REM stage (rapid eye movement). During these lapses, the brain activity is intensified. It is exactly in this phase when a dog is considered to be sleeping.

This is also the stage where the dog will be moving or making a noise. Although they are relaxed, because they are in a deep sleep, their brain is still working. Even more than when they are awake.

Particular Things About Dog Dreams

Not all dogs dream the same. Science has been able to prove that small dogs dream more than big dogs. In just the same way, puppies have more dreams than adult dogs. However, the reason for this is unknown.

What they have managed to establish is that, for example, a toy poodle can dream every 10 minutes. On the other hand, a large dog, such as a Golden Retriever, only manages to dream every 90 minutes (on average).

In the case of puppies, everything seems to indicate that they have more dreams because they are still developing. This means that they are learning many more new things and are having many new experiences. As a result, their brain has a greater amount of information to process during sleep.

Intermittent Sleep

It is important to stress that whilst dogs are sleeping, not all of the time is REM or dreaming. For example, if a dog sleeps for 8 hours, only a third of this time will be spent dreaming.

Just like a wolf, dogs alternate between sleep and being awake. In this respect, they are much more like their ancestors than humans are. Commonly they will sleep for between five and twenty minutes continuously, and then wake for five minutes. They then repeat the cycle.

This characteristic is due to the fact that dogs, for living alongside humans for so long, have the genes of hunters. Their instinct forces them to stay alert. As a result, they wake up frequently so as not to lose track of what is going on around them.

It is Best Not to Wake Them

Dogs need to sleep without interruptions so that they can rest properlyLack of sleep can do physical and mental damage. Therefore, it is best not to bother them and to let them sleep.

Four small dogs having dog dreams

In fact, a dog which is normally very friendly, could even become aggressive if you wake them. If they wake up suddenly, they could have palpitations. Your dog will feel scared and their instinct could be to attack.

This happens particularly if your dog has been in the REM phase of deep sleep. You will know they are in this phase because they will make quiet noises or involuntary movements. If you see these signs and their breathing is regular and relaxed, it really is best not to wake them.


The contents of My Animals are written for informational purposes. They can't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment from a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.