Dreams are one of the coolest aspects of sleeping. The fact that our imagination produces vivid scenarios that merge reality and fantasy is an inventive phenomenon. It then makes us wonder, are dreams unique to only humans? And what is the purpose of dreaming? REM sleep is the period responsible for the most memorable and vivid dreams and is believed to be a part of how the body processes memory, among other things. Research has found that mammals experience REM sleep, just like humans, and have similar sleep patterns and cycles.
Why do we dream?
It is unknown what the exact origin of dreams come from in the brain, but it is known that your neurotransmitters are turned off during that time and it is just a release of thoughts, sometimes abstract and sometimes familiar. It is guessed that it is a deeper release of thoughts, that are focusing in on aspects daily life doesn’t explore, thus the brain’s way to analyze on a different level.
The only mammals to tell us about their dreams have been two gorillas, Koko and Michael, that knew sign language. Koko, on occasion, upon waking tells of weird, unrealistic things she has not seen recently. And Michael signs sometimes when he wakes about “bad people hurting gorillas”, which makes us think dream material is from experiences in our lives, as Michael was taken in after poachers killed the rest of his family. All other studies about animal dreams have been through observation.
What do dogs dream?
Do dogs dream? You may see your dog running, barking and moving during nap time and, to many of us, this looks spasmodic. To figure out what dogs dreamed about, researchers temporarily disabled some dogs pon’s. The pons is a section of the brain in both humans and animals that control our physical actions while we are asleep. Without the pons, we would act out everything we dream and as we could imagine, this could have some negative results. During this study, in a controlled environment, the dog’s pons were disabled and researchers were able to see what the dogs were dreaming through the dog’s actions. In conclusion of the study, researchers found that dog dream about what we would imagine: doggy things, like running or swimming or cats or toys. On occasion, they act out their dreams with twitches and yips. According to the American Kennel Club, the breed of a dog affects the dog’s type of dreams. Pointers will point at imaginary birds, and Doberman Pinschers will chase dream intruders. Labrador Retrievers are more likely to dream about chasing tennis balls than a Pug is. Furthermore, your dog is more than likely to dream about actions involving his or her owner. It’s safe to say that most dogs are attached to their human owners, and, according to Harvard experts, it’s likely your dog is dreaming of your face and your smell.
Unfortunately, some dreams aren’t always good ones. Some dreams are nightmares and we all have them, including our dogs. It is a normal reaction to want to wake your dog when it seems they are having a nightmare by shuffling a lot or maybe even whining, but this is not always safe. Just coming out of dream can be confusing, your dog may need a minute to come back to their senses and realize where they are and even who you are, so startling them could lead them to attack out of fear. The best option is to just be loving to your dog once he or she wakes up.
The frequency of dog’s dreams varies just like humans. Some of us dream every night and some of us dream rarely, but knowing that dogs dream as a bi-product of their emotions and instincts is proof that they are sensitive animals that experience things deeply too. Dreaming hints to the conclusion that they may be able to experience empathy on some level. They are to be cared for and loved because they are more than just instinct. So, the next time you see your dog dreaming, smile because their dream could very likely be of their devotion and love of you.