Every one who loves a dog has wondered. We’ll be lying in bed late at night, reading or watching TV, and our favorite pooch – and if we’re lucky, more than one favorite pooch – will be snuggled in their own little beds or near our feet, fast asleep but snorting and twitching. Sometimes, if they’re comfortably stretched out, their legs will begin to move as if they’re ready to run.
Are they dreaming? They must be, we tell ourselves. But what are they dreaming about?
We can’t ask them, but we can guess. Their brains are similar to ours in terms of basic structure. It’s likely that their dreams do for them what ours do for us. They process the day’s information, burning away images and sensations like excess calories and forming speedy little stories as they do. When their legs begin to churn, it’s pretty clear they’re chasing something!
One scientist told the magazine Psychology Today that he was convinced his little Basenji was dreaming of a bath. In waking life, this pooch hates to be wet and would ordinarily dodge the threat of yet another bath by cowering low behind his master’s legs. One night at about 3 a.m. the Basenji sprang out of a deep sleep, bolted for the scientist and tucked himself behind the man’s legs – something he never does unless he’s avoiding a bath, and for no other reason. The scientist was gratified to feel he had hard evidence of what one little dog dreams of. Even so he was a little embarrassed. He was sitting on the toilet when the little dog took its position behind his legs.
All animals dream in some way, we’ve begun to learn. But dogs are friends that we can actually dream with. It’s very likely they’re dreaming of the homes with which we’ve provided them. Who knows? They may even be dreaming of us.