If you've ever stumbled upon your slumbering pooch, you've probably asked yourself, "What do dogs dream about?" When their tiny legs start twitching, it's easy to imagine them sprinting after a ball or digging a hole for their bone — but do dogs have dreams in the first place?
Do dogs dream?
Given how animated dogs can get while sleeping — complete with whining, leg thrashing, and chomping at the air — you would guess they're having very vivid dreams. And it turns out that yes, research is consistent with dogs being able to dream.
Dogs go through different sleep stages during the night, just like humans. That their brain activity is similar to that of sleeping humans adds to the case for dreaming dogs.
Furthermore, creatures even simpler than dogs have shown the ability to dream during experiments. In a January 2001 study published in the journal Neuron, MIT researchers concluded that lab rats who were put through a maze appeared to dream about the course. Matthew Wilson and Kenway Louie looked at the rats' brainwaves while they were in the maze and noted that when the rats were asleep, those same areas of the brain lit up. This led Wilson and Louie to believe the rats were dreaming about the maze — and, amazingly, researchers found that they could pinpoint where in the labyrinth the rats were dreaming that they were based on matching the rats' brainwaves from their time in the maze. Because a dog's brain is more developed than that of a rat, it stands to reason that dogs are also capable of dreaming.
What do dogs dream about?
Every doting pet owner wants to believe their little furball dreams about them, but do dogs dream about their owners? One expert thinks yes! "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," Harvard psychologist Deirdre Barrett, PhD, told People.
Considering we often dream about our pets, it's touching to learn that our beloved fur babies are dreaming about us too — even if it's just because they associate our faces with food.