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Do Dogs Dream of Their Owners? Insights from Harvard Psychologist

dogs dream of their owners
dogs dream of their owners

Have you ever watched your canine companion as they sleep, witnessing their twitching noses, and legs that move as if they’re running? It’s easy to speculate about what could be occupying their dreams, especially after an active day of chasing balls and exploring the outdoors. However, recent research by Harvard psychologist Dr Deirdre Barrett suggests that dogs may be dreaming of something more heartwarming than we might have imagined – their beloved human owners.

dogs dream of their owners
Courtesy of Lisa Fotios (image from Pexels)

Understanding Dog Dreams

Dr Deirdre Barrett, a Clinical and Evolutionary Psychologist at Harvard Medical School, has dedicated years to studying sleep behavior in humans. Building on her extensive work with people, she believes that dogs, much like humans, likely dream about their everyday experiences. If her hypothesis holds true, this could shed new light on the depths of the emotional connection between dogs and their owners.

Dogs Dreaming of Their Owners

Dr Barrett explains that humans typically dream about things that interest them during the day, albeit in a more visual and less logical manner. Extrapolating from this, she theorizes that animals may share a similar pattern. Given that dogs are known for their strong attachment to their human owners, it’s reasonable to assume that they dream about us – our faces, our scent, and our interactions with them. Dogs are, after all, known for their desire to please or occasionally, for their mischief.

While there’s no way to confirm what exactly dogs see when they dream, Dr Barrett’s perspective underscores the emotional bonds shared between dogs and their owners, deepening our appreciation for the unique relationships we have with our furry friends.

Similar Sleep Patterns

It’s not just their dreams; dogs also share similar sleep patterns with humans. According to Live Science, the typical sleep cycle of dogs includes stages of wakefulness, rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep, and non-rapid-eye-movement (NREM) sleep. REM sleep is the phase in which humans typically dream. Indicators that dogs may be in this stage include barking, leg movements, and the shifting of their eyes under closed lids.

Watching your pup during this phase might just reveal a glimpse into their dream world – a world where they might be running after that stick you threw for them yesterday or exploring the fields. Most importantly, it’s a world where your face and scent provide the greatest comfort.

Cats’ Dreams and Sleep

Cats, too, have their dreams, but their content is distinct from dogs. Dr Barrett notes that when cats enter their REM phase, their dreams often revolve around hunting and chasing. Unlike dogs, they don’t dream about their human companions, maintaining their aloofness even in their dreams. Michel Jouvet, one of the earliest sleep researchers, made significant observations by disabling the part of a cat’s brain that inhibits movements during REM sleep. As a result, cats displayed behaviors during this stage that resembled hunting and stalking, underscoring the distinctiveness of their dream content.

Improving Pet Dreams

Dr Barrett suggests that the best way to ensure our pets have good dreams is to provide them with positive daytime experiences and a comfortable, safe place to sleep. This advice mirrors the conditions that lead to pleasant dreams in humans. Just as happy memories and restful sleep enhance our dream experiences, the same likely holds true for our furry companions.

dogs dream of their owners
Courtesy of Albina White (image from Pexels)


While we can’t enter the dreamscapes of our canine friends, the research by Harvard psychologist Dr Deirdre Barrett provides an intriguing perspective on their dream patterns. It’s not just about dogs dreaming; it’s about the emotional connection they share with their human owners that likely forms the basis of their dreams. As responsible pet owners, we can contribute to the happiness of our pets by ensuring their daytime experiences are filled with love, play, and comfort, setting the stage for sweet dreams where we may just make an appearance. This insight adds another layer of wonder to our already special bond with our four-legged family members.

What do you think about how dogs dream of their owners? Leave a comment below.
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