Ever wonder what your furry little friend is dreaming about when he or she goes to bed at night? According to one Harvard psychologist, they’re probably dreaming about you.
Dr. Deirdre Barrett, a teacher and a Clinical and Evolutionary Psychologist at Harvard Medical School, told People that dogs likely dreaming about their owners.
She says that while there’s no way to know for sure what dogs are seeing when they dream, it’s safe to assume that their dreams draw from everyday experiences, like humans.
“Humans dream about the same things they’re interested in by day, though more visually and less logically,” Barrett told People. “There’s no reason to think animals are any different. Since dogs are generally extremely attached to their human owners, it’s likely your dog is dreaming of your face, your smell and of pleasing or annoying you.”
Barrett also confirmed that dogs are likely acting out their dreams when their legs move in running motion in their sleep.
She also offered advice to pet owners who want to make sure their friend’s dreams are sweet.
“The best way to give ourselves or our children better dreams is to have happy daytime experiences and to get plenty of sleep in a safe and comfortable environment. It’s a good bet this is also best for pets’ dreams.”
To figure out what dogs might dream of, researchers performed a test that temporarily disabled the pons.
If, like me, you’d never heard of the pons before this, let me explain. The pons is the part of the brain stem that is involved in the control of sleep cycles and the regulation of deep sleep and is responsible for inhibiting your large muscles from moving during sleep. In other words, you can thank the pons for preventing your partner from flailing around during dreams and waking you up. Without the pons, we might act out everything we were dreaming about — probably with disastrous results.
You may have noticed that puppies and older dogs twitch and move a lot in their sleep. This is because the pons is underdeveloped in puppies and less efficient in older dogs, according to Stanley Coren, a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of British Columbia.