Those of us who have pets do wonder what is actually going on in their heads. We try to figure out what they are thinking constantly, but it’s impossible to know for sure what is actually happening in their minds at any given moment.
When humans go to sleep, we dream about those close to us in our day-to-day lives. Now, experts have given us insight as to what goes on in our pet dogs’ minds by revealing that they dream about the same things that we do!
Dr. Deirdre Barrett is a Clinical and Evolutionary Psychologist at Harvard Medical School who recently carried out a study that concluded that dogs dream about their human owners when they are sleeping. Barrett has spent years studying human sleep behaviors, and she explained that while one can never be 100 percent sure what animals are dreaming about, she can use the sleep information she has about the way humans sleep and translate it over to dogs.
Experts know that most mammals have similar sleep cycles to humans that involve moving fluidly through deep sleep to a less brain-active state and then on to the stage of Rapid Eye Movement. It’s in this final stage, known as REM, that humans have dreams.
Barrett said “that certainly makes it the best guess that other mammals are dreaming, too.” She then said that there have only ever been two animals that have shared their dreams with a human, and that these animals were the signing gorillas Koko and Michael.
“Researcher Penny Patterson reports that Koko occasionally signs about fantastic events, people and places she has not seen recently only upon awakening,” Barrett said. “Michael, who is known to have been captured when poachers killed his entire family, sometimes wakes up and signs ‘Bad people kill gorillas.’”
When it comes to dogs, Barrett believes we should base their dreams off of what humans dream of.
“Humans dream about the same things they’re interested in by day, though more visually and less logically,” she said. “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.”
We’ve all seen our dogs kick in their sleep, and Barrett thinks it’s likely that this is them acting out their dreams.
“Common sleep-walking doesn’t occur during dreaming sleep, but a much more vigorous ‘REM behavior disorder’ is accompanied by dreams, so the more pronounced and fast the movements, the more likely they’re acting out a dream,” she said.
Barrett concluded by giving some advice on how you can give your pet better dreams.
“The best way to give ourselves or our children better dreams is to have happy daytime experiences and to get plenty of sleep in a safe and comfortable environment,” the expert advised. “It’s a good bet this is also best for pets’ dreams.”