Dog Dreams Interpreted by Dog Trainer Dr. Stanley Coren

  • Sleeping bulldogs enjoying dog dreams.

Dog Dreams Interpreted by Dog Trainer Dr. Stanley Coren

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What’s up with dog dreams? Body language offers clues

By Barry Alfonso

When your dog dreams, where does he or she go? What do you think your dog dreams about?

You’ve probably seen your canine companion twitch, quiver, whimper and/or move his paws while he’s sleeping. When I was a kid, our family dog Sampson did all those things, much to our amusement.

Sleeping bulldogs enjoying dog dreams.

Sleeping bulldogs enjoying dog dreams.

Sampson – part bulldog (like the dogs in the adjacent photo) and part who-knows-what-else – would make chewing motions and snort a little while his eyelids twitched, as if he were reliving some exciting (or upsetting) moment from his waking day.

Sometimes I’d stroke Sampson’s back to let him know everything was alright. Usually he’d quiet down after a few minutes, though sometimes the dreams would last longer than that. When he’d finally wake up, he seemed able to shake off whatever he had gone through in his doggie dreamland.

Dog Dreams, People Dreams and REM

Recent research by Dr. Stanley Coren (a dog trainer and psychologist who teaches at the University of British Columbia) sheds new light on this fascinating subject. He has found that the brain wave patterns of dogs are similar to those of humans. Like people, dogs have dreams when they enter the REM (rapid eye movement) sleep stage – you can tell they’ve reached it when their eyelids flicker and tremble.

While we cannot know with absolute certainty, it is likely that dogs dream about ordinary dog activities and that their dream experiences are reflected in their motions while asleep. Judging by their body movements, Dr. Coren found that “Dreaming Springer Spaniels flushed imaginary birds, while Doberman Pinschers picked fights with dream burglars.”

Dr. Coren has also found that the length and amount of dreams vary according to the breed. Large dogs like mastiffs and Great Danes might dream for five minutes at a time every 45 minutes, while a smaller breed might experience 60-second dreams every ten minutes.

If dogs really dream, what else might be going on in their minds? The study of canine sleeping habits opens the door to a range of profound questions. Dr. Coren has noted that Charles Darwin “basically claimed if you can prove that an animal dreams, then, in effect, you can prove that’s consciousness. Because after all, what is a dream other than a conscious image?”

This is weighty stuff to ponder. In the meantime, be gentle and respectful when Rover starts running in the middle of a nap. Try not to wake him suddenly.

And when nap time is over, give him some affection and maybe a few of his favorite dog treats. It’ll give him some happy moments to dream about next time.

Article: Dog Dreams Interpreted by Dog Trainer Dr. Stanley Coren
Author: Barry Alfonso
Category: Pet Training Tips
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Dog Dreams Interpreted by Dog Trainer Dr. Stanley Coren

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