Most dog owners know that their dogs dream. The sighs, soft barks, and paw twitches that mimic running while they are asleep — indicate your dog is experiencing their very own subconscious dream world.
But do dogs daydream?
Daydreams are a form of altered consciousness. Our conscious minds, whether human or canine, simply reflect our level of awareness of what’s going on around us at all times. When we daydream, though, we take a slight break from being ultra-aware. We alter our consciousness to imagine something — like what it would feel like to fly like a bird, or simply to ponder what you need to buy at the grocery store after work.
Dogs have the same brain structures that produce emotions in humans. So it is not surprising that research suggests dogs do daydream. But they don’t daydream in the same way we do. Dogs have thoughts when they rest, but their thoughts are much different from our own. Their thoughts are not related to planning for the future or having deep thoughts about the past — or imagining they can fly like a bird.
Due to the absence of mindreading, it is impossible to say for sure. However, we can guess what they might be daydreaming about based on how we know they experience the world. Scientific American reports that dogs can remember actions above and beyond basic commands, commands that reap a reward of some sort. Dogs can remember moments that have happened even without conditioning. This means that dogs can remember people, places, and phrases.
So we can assume a daydreaming dog may be pondering a person, a place they’ve visited, or an experience they’ve had in the past.
So, the next time your dog seems to be in a bit of a reverie, perhaps they’re thinking about food (that’s an easy guess!), or thinking about you, their family. Maybe that cool breeze coming through the window reminded them of a thrilling squirrel chase they had last fall.
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to know exactly what a dog is daydreaming about. But you know your dog better than anyone — you’ll be able to fill in the dots for a pretty good guess!