Soon after the dog goes to sleep, you begin to hear them whimpering. Their paws start to move as if they are running. Some dogs might even quiver in their sleep. Others have been known to growl, even snapping their teeth at times.

These physical reactions during a sleep cycle have caused many people to believe that dogs do dream. When you look at the structure of a dog’s brain compared to a human brain, you’ll see numerous similarities. The brainwave pattern of sleep for dogs is also similar to humans, and our furry friends also go through the same stages of electrical activity within the brain during sleep that humans do.

All of this leads us to the assumption that dogs dream.

Dogs Dream About Their Daily Routines

When researches inactivate or remove the part of the brain which suppresses physical actions in dreams, the dogs being studied began to move around. This movement occurred even though the electrical recordings indicated that the dogs were still in a deep stage of sleep.

Dogs only moved during the stages of sleep associated with dreaming.

As the dreams progressed, researchers found that specific dog breeds would perform actions related to their dreams based on their life circumstances. A sleeping Doberman, for example, might dream about protecting his home from a burglar. Hunting dogs might flush out prey.

You can see the same thing happening with your dog without the fancy equipment. The dreaming cycle begins about 20 minutes after your dog settles down to doze off. You’ll see their breathing become regular and deeper. Then there will be changes to their breathing patterns.

Does Size Matter for Dogs When Dreaming?

The American Kennel Club reports that smaller dogs tend to dream much more often at night when compared to larger dogs. A Chihuahua might experience a new dream every 10 to 20 minutes during their sleep cycle, whereas a larger dog might only experience one or two dreams throughout their extended sleep.

Age also matters when looking at how dogs dream. Puppies and senior dogs (defined as being 8+ years old) tend to dream more often than dogs who are between those two age categories. 

You may also find specific behaviors occurring if a dog suddenly awakens from a dream, which gives you an indication of what the dog may have been dreaming about. That is why it is recommended to avoid waking a sleeping dog trained for guarding or defending. In the dream, they are doing their job, which means you might be confused for an intruder when they wake up.

There is one exception to consider here: dogs who experience an increase in physical dream responses may be dealing with a thyroid issue. Because hypothyroidism may look like other conditions, testing by your veterinarian is necessary to confirm this issue. Thyroid problems can occur in any breed, but it is most common in Golden Retrievers, Irish Setters, and Doberman Pinchers – along with other medium to large breeds.