We all know our friend Jeep can sleep anywhere at anytime. She didn’t earn the nickname Sleepy Jeepie for nothing! (Did you know that the average dog sleeps about 14 hours a day? Of course, I always think Jeep is above average.) There is plenty of time to watch Jeep sleep. From time to time Jeep’s paws twitch and she whimpers while she is catching some Z-Z-Zs. But, does that mean that she is actually dreaming?
According to leading dog researcher Stanley Coren, the scientific evidence strongly suggests that not only do dogs dream, but they are very likely dreaming about waking activities much like people do. Like humans, dogs cycle through stages of sleep. During one of these cycles our eyelids remain closed, but our eyes dart quickly all over. This particular stage of sleep is called REM (Rapid Eye Movement). We dream in both REM and non-REM sleep, but during the REM sleep our dreams are more memorable. Scientists speculate that dreaming helps our brains learn and retain information. This is why it is so important for our own brains to get a good night’s sleep.
But back to Sleepy Jeepie. Dogs enter REM sleep in about 15 minutes and stay in REM for only 2 or 3 minutes. This is when we can see Jeep’s legs twitch and sometimes hear her utter a soft cry. Interestingly, this twitching muscle movement is much more common in puppies and old dogs. This is because the area of the brain called the pons which keeps the body from acting out a dream is not working well. In puppies (and babies) it is underdeveloped and in old dogs (and old people) it isn’t working as efficiently.
Oddly enough, different breeds of dogs make different movements when dreaming. Pointers (like Dottie Com) often point while dreaming. Labs and Dobermans often make running motions with their paws. Be sure to check out this funny video to see some sleeping dogs in action! Dogs Dreaming
In the meantime, it is best for Sleepy Jeepie that we remember to follow that old saying “Let sleeping dogs lie” since we know she is working on building a better brain. Doesn’t that make you want to take a nap, too?