Is your dog dreaming about you while it sleeps?

Have you heard your dog bark while sleeping? Have you seen his eyes move, or does he roll around a lot? Experts explain what your pet might be dreaming about.

 Dog sleeping on a couch. (photo credit: CREATIVE COMMONS)
Dog sleeping on a couch.
(photo credit: CREATIVE COMMONS)

Most dog owners have wondered from time to time what their animal dreams about, especially when they roll around or bark while sleeping. Luckily, an expert from the University of British Columbia found the answer, claiming that each breed of dog dreams about something different.

According to Stanley Coren, a senior professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, dogs don't only dream, but they can also control what they dream about. This is in a way similar, if not exactly the same, to the way humans may have slight control over their own dreams.

The Daily Mirror reported that Coren claims that dogs choose the appropriate activity for their breed and include it in their dreams.

For example, Dobermans will probably dream of chasing away danger, while Golden Retrievers will look for their favorite food, or dream of cuddling with their owner.

Yes, it's as cute as it sounds!

"What we found is that dogs dream about doggy things," Coren said. For example, pointer dogs will dream of birds, while Dobermans will dream of chasing robbers. It seems that the pattern of dreams in dogs is very similar to that of humans."

In his research, he discovered that the size of the dog determines how much it will dream, with smaller dogs having shorter dreams, and large dogs having less frequent but longer ones.

 Napping dog (credit: CREATIVE COMMONS) Napping dog (credit: CREATIVE COMMONS)

Coren's research is supported by Dr. Deirdre Barrett, a developmental and clinical physiologist at Harvard Medical School, who claims that dogs dream about their daily activities, just like humans.

Barrett told People, "Humans dream about the things they are interested in on a daily basis, in a more visual and less logical way. There is no reason why animals should be any different. Since they are very attached to their owners, it is very possible that your dog dreams about your face, your smell, and how to please or upset you."

Although there's no way to know for sure what a dog dreams about, Dr. Barrett says they're probably dreaming of running when their paws start moving, or that they're dreaming of communicating with a dog or human when they barks in his sleep. She says that most animals have a sleep cycle similar to that of humans, going from light, deep, to very deep sleep.

For humans, dreams occur during REM sleep - sleep with rapid eye movement, and apparently, this is also when other animals will dream as well. In humans, the REM phase occurs 90 minutes after falling asleep, and lasts between 5 and 15 minutes, with each phase getting longer during the night.

How can you help your dog's dream experience?

Dr. Barrett says humans can improve their dogs' dreams by exposing them to happy things and creating a safe environment for them to rest at night. But when it comes to nightmares, the American Kennel Club suggests letting dogs continue to sleep, because they will act aggressively toward anyone who wakes them up.

"Not all human dreams are good, so we assume that dogs have nightmares too. They are difficult to observe and predict. It is sometimes tempting to wake the dog to try and stop the nightmare, as you do with children, but there are some risks associated with dog nightmares that are worth sharing with your family."

"If you've ever been woken up from a scary dream, you probably know that it can take you a minute or two to remember where you are and who you're with. Like some people, dogs can also react aggressively toward the person who wakes them up. This can be dangerous, especially for children. The best thing you can do for a dog you think is having a bad dream is waiting for him to wake up and be there to comfort him."