Our ‘Sleep-Talking’ Dogs

Ever freaked out on your canine when she starts yelping while supposedly asleep? Or her legs starts scurrying almost mid-air with her whiskers twitching and nose sniffing as if nothingness with her eyes closed? Apparently, our domesticated canines, otherwise known as Canis familiaris (Discovery Cove, Animal Bytes, Domestic Dogs, 2010), might experience dreams just as we do! Watch the following Youtube.com video for some comic (albeit rather painful) relief:

(Source: YouTube.com)

Dreams occur during the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep phase. The function of dreams in the Homo sapiens (humans) is that it helps us to consolidate memory traces from our waking hours via certain processes which occur in the hippocampus (a region of the brain that has been implicated in memory processes), strengthening processes of connections between regions of the brain (Macquet et. al., 2000). According to an article done by Firth, Perry, and Lumer (1999), when electroencephalography (EEG) readings were taken during the mammal’s sleep phases, “they show REM sleep characterized by a ‘waking’ pattern of EEG, rapid eye movements and inhibited muscle tone” (Firth, Perry, and Lumer, The neural correlates of conscious experience: an experimental framework, 1999). Simply put – animals appear to experience REM sleep phases as humans do.

dog dreams

(“Dog Dreams” by bobmarley753, Flickr.com)

…Do they, really?

We observe our pet dogs letting out muffled yelps and see their muscles twitch, and scientists have recorded EEG readings that are akin to REM sleep. But these do not necessarily mean that our dogs actually experience the ‘mental representations’ of dreams like we do. Perhaps there could be an experiment run using Positron Emission Tomography (PET) which shows the areas of the brain activated whenever there is neural activity – so perhaps, the evidence might be more conclusive with tests run on mammals during their REM sleep phases, measuring both EEG and PET simultaneously. Should it show that the visual areas of the brain are activated in the animals during their REM sleep like we do when we dream, then perhaps animals do really dream with the mental representations as we do.

Thus far in my research attempts, I have not found an article measuring both EEG patterns and PET readings for animals’ dreams. But having lived with my dog for almost 11 years and catching moments where she sometimes seem to be happily scurrying and ‘sniffing’ while asleep – and sometimes – barking herself awake silly, I like to think that she is dreaming of runs within a field and chasing some rodent of sorts (my dog is a Smooth Fox Terrier – a hunting breed, after all). 🙂

Two of a Kind(“Two of a Kind” by schilfregen, Flickr.com)


“Bizkit the Sleep Walking Dog” by MarinaHD2001. YouTube Channel, 10 February 2009. URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2BgjH_CtIA (accessed on 01 April 2010).

“Do Dogs Dream?” by Niki. AssociatedContent, 13 June 2007. URL: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/273331/do_dogs_dream.html?cat=10 (accessed on 01 April 2010).

“Dog Dreams” bybobmarley753. Flickr, 26 September 2006. URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bobmarley753/253261970/ (accessed on 02 April 2010).

“Domestic Dog” by Discovery Cove. DiscoveryCove, URL: http://www.discoverycove.org/animal-info/animal-bytes/animalia/eumetazoa/coelomates/deuterostomes/chordata/craniata/mammalia/carnivora/domestic-dog.htm#sc (accessed on 01 April 2010).

Maquet P., Laureys, S., Peigneux, P., Fuchs, S., Petiau, C., Phillips, C., Aerts, J., Fiore, G.D., Degueldre, C., Meulemans, T., Luxen, A., Franck, G., Linden, M.V.D, Smith, C., Cleeremans, A., 2000. Experience-dependent changes in cerebral activation during human REM sleep. Nature Neuroscience, Volume 3 no 8: 831-836.

“Two of a kind” by schilfregen. Flickr, 04 October 2009. URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/29116597@N04/3979910440/ (accessed on 02 April 2010).