Do dogs dream? The secrets of their sleep

Do dogs dream just like cats? Where do they like to sleep and how much sleep does our four-legged friend really need? Before answering these and other questions with the help of Dr Maria Grazia Calore, veterinary doctor expert in pet behaviour, let’s start by underlining the key role of sleep – for the wellness of the dog.


A dog’s sleep: how, how much and where?

A dog’s sleep, just like a human’s one, is divided into a deep phase and a deep REM phase in which it dreams. This moment can be recognised by the following signs: softly barking, growling, whining, a wagging tail and paw movements that mimic running. In fact, during the REM phase, a dog ‘processes’ information gleaned during the day retracing its experiences and steps.

The duration of sleep varies depending on the age of the dog: a puppy up to the age of three weeks old sleeps from 15 to 18 hours a day and from eight weeks of age, 10-12 hours total. This prolonged sleep has an ethological explanation: a predator, just as we could consider a dog, can have long periods of rest because it does not always need to be alert to survive.

To avoid problems of coexistence at home we should not place a dog’s bed in a passageway: in this way he will not assume the ‘responsibility’ of controlling access around the house. Rather, we should put their bed in our room, if we want to sleep with them, or in another room. Moreover, the choice of the bed must be proportionate to our friend: it does not need to be too large because most dogs sleep curled up in a ball to maintain heat.


A dog’s sleep: a clue about their health

Even a dog’s sleep can provide information on its state of health or mind. For example, if it sleeps very little, wakes up at night and complains or is agitated at the time of going to sleep, it is probably going through a stressful or anxious period. If, instead, the dog sleeps more hours than the expected physiological duration, it may be suffering from depression.

In these cases, it is advisable to consult your veterinarian to rule out any physical disorders or metabolic diseases and deal with any behavioural problems with the help of an expert in pet behaviour.

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