Is your dog really dreaming about chasing a rabbit?

I like to think my Labrador dreams; he will occasionally twitch, paddle with his legs and sometimes give out one or two “woofs” while asleep. Do dogs dream? Do we know? How can I be sure he is 
not having a fit?

Wonder what our dogs dream about?

Whether or not dogs dream 
isn’t known with any scientific certainty; however, it is difficult 
to imagine that they don’t when 
they demonstrate behaviours 
in their sleep, like those you 
describe, that resemble what 
they do when fully awake and 
cause us to wonder what our 
dogs are dreaming about.


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The difference between dreams and fits

It is certainly possible to 
distinguish the signs associated 
with dreaming from those of a fit 
or seizure; particularly if you have 
ever witnessed a dog having a fit. 
For instance, dogs always have 
dreams while asleep; they commonly have a fit while awake. Their eyes will usually be partially closed while having dreams and they will look calm and relaxed. A dog’s eyes will typically 
be wide open during a fit.

Dogs may salivate, vomit and defecate while having a fit. This 
doesn’t happen during a dream. 
Dogs’ leg movements while asleep 
tend to look like they might be running, “chasing a rabbit”, while during a fit the leg movements are stiffer and more rigid and there will be more violent muscle activity, uncontrollable shaking and thrashing about. These motions while asleep are typically gentler and quite brief, whereas seizure activity lasts much longer.

Dogs are easily woken when dreaming and behave normally 
once awake. Seizures cannot be interrupted and the dog is usually disorientated and confused immediately afterwards.

Psychology Today says: “Also, during sleep the brain wave patterns of dogs are similar that of people, and go through the same stages of electrical activity observed in humans, all of which is consistent with the idea that dogs are dreaming.”


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Takeaways from this

  • Dreams and fits/seizures are quite different
  • Dreaming dogs are easily woken
  • After a fit a dog will be disorientated and confused
  • A dog will look calm and relaxed whilst dreaming