Dog Dream Psychology: What Canines Dream About

Unlock the curiosities of canine slumber with this blog that outlines dog dreams. Dive into the world of their sleepy adventures and what happens inside their minds.

Dec 5, 2023byNikita Hillier
dog dream psychology what canines dream about

Dogs are bounding, happy, loving bundles of joy with unwavering loyalty. This is why it comes as no shock that they have piqued the curiosity of many, many people over the years. As we watch their little legs kick with enthusiasm, and their whiskers wiggle in their slumber, it is normal to wonder what they dream about.

What’s going on inside their heads? Do they truly dream? In this post, we will take a deep dive into the fascinating world of dog dreams.

The Science of Sleep in Canines

labrador dog laying on dog bed
Image Credit: Irina on Unsplash

Before we try to understand what dogs dream about, if they do dream, we need to first understand sleep science. Much like humans, dogs go through interesting sleep cycles. These sleep cycles include non-REM and REM sleep.

During non-REM sleep, dogs experience something known as restorative rest. However, when the imaginary action happens, your dog is in REM sleep. REM (also known as rapid eye movement) is the sleep cycle where dreams come to life.

When dogs are in REM sleep, their brain lights up with activity, and dreams begin. While the duration of REM sleep will vary between different canines, it is much the same. Most commonly, bigger dogs have longer periods of REM sleep, while smaller canines experience shorter periods of REM sleep.

What Do Dogs Dream About?

brown poodle dog asleep in blanket
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If you thought the previous section was interesting, now we get into the nitty-gritty! While we don’t understand exactly what dogs dream about, it is quite easy to make an educated guess based on their actions. There are some very intriguing clues about what your dog could be dreaming about during their REM sleep cycles.

Whether their leg is shaking, they’re barking, or their ears are twitching, we can give you a hint as to what your beloved canine companion is dreaming about! Let’s take a look!


If you notice your dog’s legs twitching or making movements much like running, they are likely dreaming about chasing something or running around with you. Most often, they’re likely dreaming about chasing their favorite toys, tennis balls, squirrels, or even their owners! It is all a playful pursuit in their mind.

If your dog is quite the canine athlete, they will commonly dream of these things.

Imaginary Situations

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Sometimes, you may notice your dog emitting little whimpers, growls, and barks. Usually, this means they are dreaming about socializing or re-enacting situations where they have been particularly vocal.

Using Their Senses

If your dog is twitching its body, whiskers, or ears, they are likely using their scent detection or exploring some of their favorite places. These movements will often mean your dog loves exploring and adventuring so much, they do it in their sleep!

Reliving Moments

As you probably know, dogs are creatures of habit. This is why it isn’t uncommon for dogs to dream about their daily routine. They may dream about walking, going for a swim, visiting the dog park, snuggling with you, or eating one of your favorite DIY doggy meals!

Past Experiences

Dogs, just like humans, may dream about their past experiences. This can include life events, such as their adoption or preparing for a dog show!


Dogs are incredible when it comes to problem-solving, which is why it often appears in their dreams. They may be dreaming about retrieving a toy, opening a gate, or stealing that forbidden chicken off the counter.

Fearful Situations

Just like us, dog dreams can often feature anxiety and fear. This can lead to restlessness, whimpering, and twitching. If dogs have experienced something distressing, this event could appear in their dreams.

Dreams Are Part of a Dog’s Psyche

brown and black german shepherd laying down
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While there are behavioral cues that could indicate what dogs dream about, it goes much beyond that. There is an overwhelming amount of growing recognition as to the emotional aspect of dog dreams. Just like us, dogs are very emotional beings.

This means that their dreams might feature feelings of joy, happiness, excitement, fear, and anxiety. Dogs may dream about adored activities like playing with you, sharing snacks, or being patted. This can lead to positive surges in their dreams.

Sadly, dogs may also revisit traumatic experiences, which could fill their dreams with distress and unease. By wholeheartedly understanding what our dogs may be dealing with in their dreams, we can appreciate them more for the sensitive creatures they are.

The Role of Breed and Genetics in Dreams

white dog sleeping outside on verandah
Image Credit: Sarah Crawford on Unsplash

Your dog’s breed could have a say in what they dream about. As an example, dogs who have been bred for hunting, such as the Bracco Italiano, will often dream about chasing prey, while herding breeds, such as the Newfoundland dog, will dream of herding livestock.

Whether your dog is a mixed breed may even make a difference. On top of this, their individual personalities and differences will play a role. Just like humans, not all dogs will dream the same.

Their dreams will depend on their experiences, personality, and daily life. This just adds to the intriguing nature of where our dogs wander in their slumber.

Should You Let a Sleeping Dog Lie?

brown chihuahua snuggled in bed
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As you watch your canine companion dream, you may wonder if waking them is a good idea. Well, as a rule of thumb, it is best to just let your dog enjoy their dreams. If you wake a dog from their sleep abruptly, they may become startled and instinctively bite to protect themselves.

However, if you notice your dog looking distressed, you should consider waking them with a soothing voice and a soft touch. This can provide them some comfort and allow them to either wake up or drift back into a nicer sleep. It is a good idea to use your judgment in this instance.

Consider your dog’s well-being and how well you know them before you wake them from a dream. As their owner, you will be able to make an informed decision.

Nikita Hillier
byNikita Hillier

Nikita is a huge animal lover who has grown up on a farm with many different animals, from dogs and cats to horses and cows! She has a lot of experience in the equine industry and is even in the process of studying for an internationally accredited Equine Sports Massage Certificate! In her spare time, she enjoys writing and spending time with her beloved animals!