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When Your Dog Is Dreaming They're Likely Dreaming About You, Expert Says

Amy Pilkington 23 Nov 2019

As I write this, my two dogs are snoozing on the back of the couch, enjoying the early-morning sunshine. One of them is twitching his nose in the cutest way.

Of course, I've often wondered what they dream about and sort of hoped it was me and not dinner, but how could we ever know for sure?

Dr. Deirdre Barrett says that it's a pretty good assumption to make, based on what we know about the canine brain.

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Dr. Barrett is a professor of Clinical and Evolutionary Psychologist at Harvard Medical School, and has studied extensively about how dreams are formed and what they do for our brains.

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By combining her knowledge with research into animal brains, she feels pretty confident saying that our dogs are dreaming about us.

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She explained to PEOPLE:

"What we do know for sure is that most mammals have a similar sleep cycle to humans, going into a deep sleep stage, in which the brain is much less active, and then into periods of activity called Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, in which dreams occur for humans. That certainly makes it the best guess that other mammals are dreaming, too. [...]

"Reptiles and fish don’t have the REM/non REM cycles, so they probably have dreamless sleep."

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As for the content of those dreams, it's a safe bet that, like humans, dogs dream about things in their lives.

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"Since dogs are generally extremely attached to their human owners, it’s likely your dog is dreaming of your face, your smell and of pleasing or annoying you."

My dog is definitely dreaming about annoying me. Probably by trying to knock my computer of my lap to make room for himself.

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Of course, it's very difficult to prove what dogs are dreaming about.

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All we can say for sure is that their brains show similar activity patterns when monitored to those of dreaming humans.

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However, we can more easily say that cats are more likely to be dreaming about the hunt than their humans.

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Mammals have a part of their brain that prevents movement during REM sleep stages. Dr. Barrett explained that an early sleep researcher named Michel Jouvet actually "destroyed" the part of a cat's brain that controlled that movement:

"Cats lay quietly through the other stages of sleep, and when REM began, they leapt up, stalked, pounced, arched their backs and hissed. They looked like they were hunting mice in their dreams."

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Just another example of why dogs are better than cats.

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Just kidding.

Anyway, if you want to ensure your pet has pleasant dreams, whether about you or not, all you need to do is be a good pet parent. Happy days and a safe, comfortable place for a restful sleep is perfect.

h/t: PEOPLE

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