Research Shows That Your Dog Is Probably Dreaming About You · The Wildest

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Your Dog Is Probably Dreaming About You, Research Shows

Finally, some good (and really cute) news.

by Sio Hornbuckle
February 8, 2024
Beautiful woman sleeping with her pet jack russell terrier dog on sofa in living room at home.
freemixer / iStock

Nothing is sweeter than the sight of a pup’s little arms and legs going wild in their sleep (bonus points if there’s some yapping involved). If you’ve ever been lucky enough to witness one of those slumbering one-man (or, er, one-dog) shows, you’ve probably found yourself wondering what exactly the adorable little guys are dreaming about. Good news, especially if you need an ego boost: According to experts, your pup’s probably dreaming about you. 

Dog sleep behavior

When it comes to the science behind dog naps, there’s no big mystery. It turns out a dog’s sleep behavior is pretty similar to a human’s. “Dogs undergo Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, the stage associated with vivid dreaming in humans,” says The Wildest Collective member and Antelope Pet’s chief veterinary officer Dr. Lindsey Wendt. “The electrical sequences recorded in the brain during this phase align with the patterns observed in humans, reinforcing the idea that dogs experience a dream state similar to ours.” 

Dr. Wendt adds that you can observe your pup’s sleep stages with your own two eyes. “Identifying when your dog is dreaming doesn’t require resorting to invasive measures like electrical recordings — it’s a relatively straightforward process,” she says. “As their sleep deepens, you’ll notice a shift in their breathing pattern towards regularity. Approximately 20 minutes into sleep for an average-sized dog, the initial dream phase typically commences.”

There are a few things to look out for when this switch into REM happens. “This transition becomes apparent as the dog’s breathing turns shallow and irregular. You might observe peculiar muscle twitches, and if you pay very close attention, you’ll even see the dog’s eyes moving behind closed eyelids,” Dr. Wendt says. “These eye movements signify that the dog is actively engaged with dream images, perceiving them as if they were real-world scenes. Such eye movements are particularly indicative of the dreaming sleep phase. When humans are awakened during the REM sleep phase, they consistently report having been in a state of dreaming.”

What do dogs dream about? 

Dr. Deirdre Barrett, a clinical and evolutionary psychologist at Harvard Medical School, spent years researching dog sleep habits, and she’s come to some conclusions about what pups may dream about. First, she’s clear that, since dogs can’t communicate using language, no one can know for certain what they remember from their sleep. “Anything about what animals dream, or even if they dream, is speculative,” Dr. Barrett told . “The only two animals even suggested to have ever told their dreams to a human are the signing gorillas Koko and Michael.”

But she agrees with Dr. Wendt, since dogs and humans have matching REM behavior, we likely have matching dream behavior, too. She adds that their dream habits may not be exactly like ours, even if the mechanics are very similar. “In terms of potential differences, we know that small animals, like mice, go through the sleep stages much more quickly so they would likely be having shorter, more frequent dreams,” she said.

But it is possible to guess about the content of puppy dreams. “While we can’t definitively pinpoint the content of a dog’s dreams, research emphasizes that dogs likely dream about familiar activities,” says Dr. Wendt. And those familiar activities include hanging out with you, their bestie. “Since dogs often engage with their owners in various daily interactions, it’s plausible that elements of these experiences could find their way into a dog’s dreams.”

Dr. Barrett agrees. “Humans dream about the same things they’re interested in by day, though more visually and less logically,” she told People. “There’s no reason to think animals are any different. 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.”

So, just like humans, pups are probably dreaming about all kinds of things from their daily life. That could mean they’re chasing their tail or rummaging through the trash in their sleep, but it could also mean they’re dreaming of a fun play session with their favorite person: you. All the more reason to “aww” at those twitching, sleepy little paws.

Sio Hornbuckle

Sio Hornbuckle is a writer living in New York City with their cat, Toni Collette.

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