There are many theories out there about whether humans are the only mammals that dream. As you might guess, researchers have delved into this topic to figure out once and for all if Fido is just twitching in his sleep or having a full-fledged dream.
If your dog ever appears to be running in her sleep, it's hard to imagine anything BUT a vivid dream. And you are right - just as people's brains need an active dream state in order to process and store the day's information, so do other mammals. Twitching, rapid eye movement, and shallow breathing, are all signs that little Pebbles, is, in fact, chasing a squirrel (or maybe a donut?) around in Dreamland!
Animal researchers have discovered that when rats are dreaming, their brains mimic the same pattern as if they were completing an actual task, like running the maze they did earlier that day all over again. When verifying dream-states in dogs, researchers were able to safely allow dogs to enlist larger muscles to act out their dreams. From this, they found that dogs will do typical dog activities like eating, running, or sniffing amidst catching Z's. And the larger the dog, the longer and less-frequent the dream.
Are dog dreams always happy? No. Dogs can have nightmares too, so if your dog whimpers or appears otherwise disturbed during sleep, it's best to "let a sleeping dog lie" so you don't cause additional stress. If you can, stick around for your pooch during the nightmare. That way, if Scooter wakes up mid-dream, you can help be a calming presence if need be.
To read the full article about dog dreams, click here.