You’ve seen it before. Your best furry friend, wiggling, sniffing, looking like he’s chasing a squirrel or playing fetch in her sleep. They’re so adorable to watch while they’re off in dreamland.
We all know that our furry little friends love their sleep, but have you ever wondered what exactly it is that they’re dreaming about? Are they really running after another critter? Maybe snuffling as they dream of a delicious bowl of dog food?
Dr. Deirdre Barrett, professor and clinical and evolutionary psychologist at Harvard Medical School, said you’d be surprised to learn exactly what dogs are dreaming about. In an interview with PEOPLE, Barrett explained that most mammals fall into a sleep cycle that’s quite similar to what humans experience. This includes a deep sleep stage where the brain is less active and a solid, hard sleep occurs. This is buffered by REM sleep, or rapid eye movement, which is the phase where dreams occur for humans. Barrett said it’s believed that other mammals dream in the REM stage, too.
Humans usually dream about what’s interesting and exciting to them. Because of the similarities in sleep patterns between humans and mammals, Barrett told PEOPLE it makes sense to think that animals, particularly your four-legged furry friend, dreams of wonderful things, too. But what might that be?
You. Because dogs usually have an incredibly loyal and strong bond with their owners, you are what gets dogs excited and makes them feel happy. Going for a walk or a run, playing fetch, cuddling up together–you are what makes your sweet fur baby happy. So Barrett said your sweet doggie is likely dreaming about you–your scent, your smiling face, your gentle touch when petting him or her, playing with you and pleasing you, their owner.
Stanley Coren, a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of British Columbia and the author of “Do Dogs Dream? Nearly Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know,” also confirmed that dogs really do dream. In fact, Coren said dogs actually sleep more than people do. Coren told Live Science that dogs tend to take a lot of catnaps, but their sleep patterns are virtually identical to those of humans.