Early this morning my husband and I leapt out of bed and went racing to the bedside of our 3 year old Husky Alusia Sue thinking something was wrong. Alusia was screaming out in a tone that clearly was stating distress. So I shook her awake and she looked at both of us, did a husky talk, and rolled over for a belly scratch on her bed. Huh? We thought she was in pain by the sound of her screams. Obviously so did Yukon our shep/husky since he started throwing himself against the crate. Our coon hound slept through the entire incident in the bed right next to her. Clearly Alusia had a nightmare which made me want to do more research into the question Do Dogs Dream?
We often see our dogs move their legs along the floor and twitch their nose when sleeping as in pursuit of a varmint. Stanley Coren, Ph.D in Psychology Today states “Actually if dogs didn’t dream this would be a much greater surprise given that recent evidence suggests that animals that are simpler and less intelligent than dogs seem to dream. There is also evidence that they dream about common dog activities. This kind of research takes advantage of the fact that there is a special structure in the brainstem (the pons) that keeps all of us from acting out our dreams. When scientists removed or inactivated the part of the brain that suppresses acting out of dreams in dogs, they observed that they began to move around, despite the fact that electrical recordings of their brains indicated that the dogs were still fast asleep. The dogs only started to move when the brain entered that stage of sleep associated with dreaming. During the course of a dream episode these dogs actually began to execute the actions that they were performing in their dreams. Thus researchers found that a dreaming pointer may immediately start searching for game and may even go on point, a sleeping Springer Spaniel may flush an imaginary bird in his dreams, while a dreaming Doberman pincher may pick a fight with a dream burglar.”
This leads us to the next question: Do dogs have nightmares? Nightmares are pretty much the same thing as dreams. Both dreams and nightmares occur during the Rapid Eye Movement portion of sleep. Since humans and dogs are thought to be about 95% similar in genetics it makes since that yes dogs would have nightmares. Although unlike humans since the nightmare may not be considered by the dog to be unpleasant they probably won’t remember the nightmare at all. Thus Alusia rolling over on her back following the screams and looking at us like wow I get doggie attention. So obviously this incident was harder on us and Yukon then our husky.
So bottom line is dogs dream and dogs have nightmares and Alusia Sue will never be able to share with us the details of that dream so we will be left to wonder.