What Do Dogs Dream About? (2024)

by Dr. Hannah Godfrey

  • by Dr. Hannah Godfrey

Dec 14, 2022


Updated: Apr 9, 23

What Do Dogs Dream About? (1)

Have you ever watched your dog sleeping? As well as snoring, they often twitch, paddle their legs, or even whine during sleep. So, what does it mean when your dog looks restless while resting? Could they be having a doggy dream? Let’s find out.

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Do Dogs Dream?

Studies have suggested that dogs have dreams, just like we do. Again, just like us, they have sleep phases that vary in depth. In humans, dreaming occurs during the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) phase, and dogs go through a similar dreaming phase while they are dozing. But how do we know? Various experiments have looked at the brain activity of dogs and other animals while they sleep, and it seems to mimic a similar pattern to activities during wake time. It’s even been demonstrated that if the part of the brain that stops us from acting out our dreams is temporarily ‘switched off’ in dogs, they act out their dreams too. You can find out more about dog dreams and their sleep science here.

On the other hand, if you’re concerned that your dog is stressed and doesn’t spend enough time sleeping speak to your veterinarian and follow this link for more information.

Studies have suggested that dogs have dreams, just like we do. Again, just like us, they have sleep phases that vary in depth.

What do dogs dream about?

Since we can’t read their minds, it’s impossible to know what dogs dream about when they sleep. However, research suggests that they might dream about recent activities, experiences, and memories, just like we do. Even though we’re a long way off being able to know accurate details of a dog’s dreams, their behavior while they’re dreaming might give us some clues. Here are some examples:

What do dogs dream about when they cry?

If your dog cries or whimpers in their sleep, it might mean they’re dreaming about something that’s causing them fear or distress. If your dog has had a recent traumatic, painful, or scary experience, it could be that they’re dreaming about that. Or if they have a longstanding fear of other dogs, strangers, storms, or fireworks, perhaps that’s the reason behind their worried outburst.

Research suggests that they might dream about recent activities, experiences, and memories, just like we do.

What do dogs dream about when they bark?

Similarly, if you’re wondering what your dog dreams about when they growl or bark in their sleep, it could be that they feel threatened in their dream. Perhaps they’re warning off an intruder, protecting their human family from a predator, or looking after their lunch. If your dog barks in certain situations when they’re awake, they could be having a similar experience in their dream. For example, perhaps a poor postal worker is approaching the home, or another dog they don’t care for has invaded their personal space. If you’re struggling with your dog barking excessively when they’re awake, check out more information here. On the other hand, it might not be a sign of a bad dream. Suppose your dog usually barks when they’re excited. In that case, they could be dreaming about you taking them out for beach walkies or your long-awaited return from work!

What do dogs dream about when they twitch?

If your dog is twitching, it probably just means that the Pons (the part of the brain that stops them from acting out their dreams) is doing a decent job. They could be doing any movement in their dream, from running after a ball, jumping over a fence, or paddling in the sea, but all we see is the odd twitch. If you think about it, this mechanism is essential because it keeps them safe while they rest.

What do dogs dream about when they run?

If your dog paddles their legs during sleep, they’re likely running in their dream. This could mean playtime with their canine companion, zoomies in the living room, or a run on the beach. Whatever your dog enjoys and regularly does, is most likely to be what they’re dreaming about.

when they growl or bark in their sleep, it could be that they feel threatened in their dream.

Do dogs have nightmares?

Sadly, if dogs can dream, it also means that they can have nightmares. Some of the behaviors above, like growling, crying, or whimpering, might suggest that your dog is having a nightmare. It’s not easy to watch your dog having a bad dream and not be able to do anything about it. However, it’s important to resist the urge to wake them. Dogs can become disorientated for a moment when they’re woken unexpectedly, and this could cause them to lash out aggressively. Instead, wait for your dog to wake naturally and offer them plenty of cuddles. You never know; they might not even remember the nightmare when they wake up. If your dog seems very distressed after waking up, you can try these methods to calm them down.

It's not easy to watch your dog having a bad dream and not be able to do anything about it. However, it's important to resist the urge to wake them.


Interestingly, dogs have dreams, just like humans do. So, next time you see your dog snoozing and notice that they’re crying out, twitching, or even running in mid-air, you’ll know that there’s an adventure going on in their head!


We can’t know for sure what dogs dream about because we can’t ask them. However, some studies of their brain activity suggest that they relive moments and experiences, just like we do. So, this might mean they dream about a trip to the park, walkies in the forest, or a mini adventure in the garden.What do dogs dream about when they sleep?

While it’s impossible to be sure about the details of your dog’s dreams, you might be able to get a few hints from their body language and behavior. They might be running after a frisbee if they’re moving their legs. If they’re moving their lips or jaw, they might be tucking into their favorite meal. On the other hand, if they’re twitching a lot, growling, whimpering, or crying, they might be reliving a scary moment.

It might be hard to determine whether your dog is having a good dream or a nightmare. However, if they’re barking, growling, or whimpering, it might be because they’re afraid or distressed. Don’t be tempted to wake them, even if you think they’re having a nightmare. Your dog might not come to straight away and may bite or be aggressive, thinking their dream is real.

Since it seems that dogs dream about recent experiences and memories, they are likely to also dream about their owners. After all, some of their favorite activities involve their favorite human family members.

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What Do Dogs Dream About? (2024)


What Do Dogs Dream About? ›

What Do Dogs Dream About? While no one knows for sure what your dog dreams about, researchers think they likely dream about dog things like chasing squirrels, running after rabbits, and playing fetch with you. But while dogs dream happy dreams about fun activities, they can also have bad dreams or nightmares.

What do dogs dream about when they whimper? ›

Dogs have long-term memories just like us, so they often dream about specific events. Generally, they dream about their day or chasing a neighborhood squirrel or cat, but if your dog was abandoned, or traumatized, he is more likely to suffer from nightmares. Signs of a nightmare include excessive whimpering and crying.

What do dogs dream about their owners? ›

As Dr Barrett explains, '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. ' The comparable sleep pattern of humans and dogs is further evidenced by the presence of different stages of sleep.

Do dogs see in their dreams? ›

A dog's eyes move behind the closed lids and dart about as if the dog is looking at something. It is believed that during this REM sleep, dogs are visualizing dream images much like their owners do in this phase of sleep.

What do dogs think about all day? ›

Overall, dogs are complex creatures that think about a wide range of things, including social relationships, their physical environment, daily routine, physical needs, and health and well-being.

Should I wake my dog up if he is having a nightmare? ›

If you believe your dog is having a bad dream, it's best not to disturb them—even though it may be tempting to wake them up and comfort them. It could take your pet a moment to realise that they are no longer asleep, and you don't want to risk them lashing out as though still in the dream.

Does my dog really love me? ›

Your dog might jump on you, lick your face, and they'll definitely wag their tail. Being excited and happy to see you is one way you can be assured they love and miss you. They seek physical contact. This can come in the form of a quick nuzzle, a cuddle, or the famous lean.

Should I pet my dog while dreaming? ›

"Touching a dog when he is dreaming may startle him and cause him to bite or scratch involuntarily," the AKC says. If you do decide to wake up your dog from a nightmare, don't touch or shake her. "Consider gently rousing her by softly speaking her name. Don't touch a dog to rouse her from night terrors.

What colors can dogs see? ›

Dogs' eyes only have 2 types of cones (just 20 percent of the cones in human eyes). Because of this, a dog's color spectrum is limited to shades of gray, brown, yellow and blue. This is called dichromatic vision, which is similar to humans who experience red-green color blindness.

Can dogs see in the dark? ›

Obviously, his stronger sense of smell is useful, but it's also because dogs can see movement and light in the dark, and other low-light situations, better than humans. They are assisted by the high number of light-sensitive rods within the retina of their eyes. Rods collect dim light, supporting better night vision.

Why do dogs lick you? ›

Licking is a natural and instinctive behaviour to dogs. For them it's a way of grooming, bonding, and expressing themselves. Your dog may lick you to say they love you, to get your attention, to help soothe themselves if they're stressed, to show empathy or because you taste good to them!

Do dogs have memories? ›

Dogs Remember More Than You Think : Shots - Health News : NPR. Dogs Remember More Than You Think : Shots - Health News Our canine pals remember lots of facts, like where to find the food bowl. Now there's evidence they also have aspects of "episodic memory," which allow them to relive experiences and events.

Do dogs remember people? ›

Dogs also have associated memory which mean they can in fact remember people based on their experiences associated with them. Your dog may have a memory of you leaving the house and due to the strong positive association with you mean they'll celebrate when you get home.

Do dogs think we are their parents? ›

They have the same feeling as a child towards their parents and so they are not just an animal but a child to us and for them we are family. If ever you wonder whether your pooch is just like your child or not, think again. For them you are their parents.

What do dogs think when you kiss them? ›

When you kiss your dog, you may notice signs that indicate they know that the kiss is a gesture of affection. As puppies, this is not something that dogs would recognize, although they would feel you doing it. However, as they get older they associate the kisses and cuddles with you being happy with them.

Do dogs think we're dogs too? ›

The short answer to “do dogs think humans are dogs?” is no. Sometimes, they'd probably like us to roll in the mud with them and get as excited about the dog park. Beyond that, they probably don't think of us as tall hairless doggos with a source of dog treats.

Why does my dog make a whimpering sound? ›

Whining and whimpering can mean a lot of different things, but it's usually a sign that your dog wants your attention. Whether they need a good play session or simply want to be petted, fed, or noticed by their owner, whining and whimpering is a harmless way of saying they need interaction.

Why do dogs kick and whimper in their sleep? ›

A dog twitching while sleeping means that they're in the later stages of sleep, known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Just like with humans, this often involves dreams that can result in spasms and whimpers. If your dog isn't twitching nonstop for more than 30 seconds, you don't need to worry.

What does whimpering mean in dogs? ›

Whimpering is a natural way for dogs to communicate, and is learned by puppies as they interact with their mothers. Most often, whimpering begins as a call for something that is needed, such as food. You may hear your dog whimper and whine in certain situations, or as a call to get a toy or attention.

What do dogs dream about when they twitch in their sleep? ›

Puppies and senior dogs tend to twitch in their sleep more than other dogs. Psychologists theorize that dogs dream about their daily experiences. It's best not to wake a dog, even from a nightmare.

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