Environment Can Influence How Dogs Dream, Study Shows

Environment Can Influence How Dogs Dream, Study Shows

No one can tell what exactly dogs are dreaming about, but researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) might have some insights about the way that dogs dream—and how their immediate environments influence those dreams.

Matthew Wilson, a professor of neurobiology at MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, has led a research effort on rats that may have implications for how dogs and other mammals with similar brain structures handle dreaming. Wilson’s team discovered that, similar to humans, rat brains replay memories of their experiences during the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of their sleep cycle. This means that dogs, whose brains are built similarly to those of rats, could be processing information about their environments in the same way and in the same stage of sleep.

Woman’s World reports that Wilson’s team attached electrodes to rats’ brains to record activity in the hippocampus—the area of the brain responsible for learning and memory. The team conducted the experiment while the rats were awake to find “patterns” in brain activity and check if these patterns also occurred while the rodents were asleep. Wilson noted that the patterns did reoccur in the same sequence as if the animals were moving through their environments and seeing images present in those settings.

According to Wilson, it’s highly likely that dogs are also dreaming about movement in familiar spaces—in particular, during REM sleep.

The Need for Quality Sleep

Just as humans need optimal sleep conditions to support brain function, dogs also need uninterrupted sleep to help them process their environments better. Good sleep is the key to having a great memory as well as the ability to understand concepts, including training lessons.

Sound is an important factor, too. Wilson notes that the brain’s auditory cortex, which processes sound, is active during sleep and while awake. So, even though your pup seems to be unresponsive, their brain could be processing the sounds around them—sounds that could influence their dreams. As such, it would be ideal to keep lights and sounds to a minimum to avoid stressing your pup out once they’re awake.

Creating a Comfy Space for Your Pooch

To give your pup sweet dreams, you need to provide a comfy setup where they can have some peace and quiet. You may want to designate an area in your home where they can sleep soundly, perhaps a corner in your room where outside noise can be blocked out. It might help to check out custom dog beds, especially those made from high-quality materials that ensure a snug and comfortable sleep. If you have an excitable or anxious pup, you may also want to consider personalized dog blankets for them to wrap themselves around or burrow into.

With a comfy space of their own, your pup can get enough rest and wake up ready to keep exploring the world around them.


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