Who has never seen his dog shake his paws, shake his tongues or emit special little sounds when he sleeps? Should we deduce that he is dreaming? And if so, what can he think of? The dog’s sleep consists of phases similar to those of human sleep and asserting that the pet is capable of dreaming is quite right. Nevertheless, defining these dreams and giving them an image as we can with ours is a whole different story.
How does the dog sleep?
As in humans, the dog’s sleep breaks down into two phases: deep sleep and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.
Deep sleep: deep sleep is a phase of real rest, relatively calm. It is devoid of physical and mental activity and agitation. This phase is the longest with almost 80% of the sleep time, the most restorative and the most essential in terms of balance. It is not recommended to disturb your pet during this phase, as this can lead to sleep disturbances.
REM sleep: This shorter phase is a sort of waking up where brain activity awakens. It contributes to the well-being of the animal’s metabolism by acting on a large number of factors (healing, adaptation, cognition, etc.). It is during REM sleep that the dog dreams.
Is the dog really dreaming?
It is difficult to know if the dog is able to dream as we want. As humans, we have values, symbols and concepts that we associate with the real and for which we develop feelings. Good and evil do not exist in the dog, who benefits from an advantage or not, who gets what he asks not. Nevertheless, the dream is not necessarily the expression of a symbol, but often of a kind of relatively classical reality.
The dog’s dream in its learning and education
Because of its nature, the REM sleep phase contributes to the dog’s learning and education.
The animal is more agitated during this sleep phase when it has been physically or psychically solicited, or when it has carried out new experiments before falling asleep. Letting him rest after such a session is a good way to allow him to assimilate these new achievements and develop them.
One of the proofs that scientists put forward to make the link between dream and learning is that the brain and physical activity of the puppy is more intense than that of the adult dog during the REM sleep phase. Now, it is at this period of his life that the animal learns the most and experiences the newest discoveries.
It is difficult to know exactly what the dog dreams of. Can he imagine a cat, child or prey and dream that he is chasing or playing with it? Hard to say…
On the other hand, scientists assume that the animal is capable of assembling several biological, sensory and emotional factors during its REM sleep, and that these can cause physical reactions related to it.
How do we explain it?
- Memory: the dog is assimilating a new experience.
- The association: the smells or noises it captures in its sleep evoke previous experiences and trigger associated movements.
- Tensions and biological phenomena: the animal can express nervous, psychic or muscular tensions or its brain activity can regulate certain natural functions.
Thus, if it is possible to affirm that the dog dreams, it is difficult to give a shape to them. Are these only natural functions and elements or more concrete images, such as a walk, a game, a person, an animal, its food, etc.? One can legitimately think that images of the past – more or less distant – of the animal reappear in his mind when he sleeps, just as it happens to us, humans. We can say that our little companions dream of activities that are familiar to them, but as long as none of them decides to tell us his dreams when he wakes up, we can only make suggestions!
Should you wake up your pet when he’s restless in his sleep?
In any case, when your dog is asleep, do not try to wake him or disturb him. Even if he gets agitated, you have nothing to worry about. On the contrary, waking him up can surprise him violently and trigger a very disturbing or even aggressive reaction on his part.
Sleep contributes to its learning, as we have seen, but also to its good brain activity. Interrupting is disruptive and harmful to your dog.
Allow him to sleep in a healthy and soothing environment and respect his sleep at all costs. His health and well-being are at stake!