What Do Dogs Chase in Their Sleep? Causes Explained

If you’ve ever observed your furry companion during their sleep, you might have noticed their paws twitching, their legs running in place, or even muffled barks escaping their mouths. 

It’s a fascinating sight to witness, leaving many dog owners wondering: What do dogs chase in their sleep? Are they dreaming of squirrels, balls, or perhaps imaginary creatures? 

In this article, we’ll delve into the realm of dog dreams and explore the various theories surrounding what dogs might be chasing in their slumber.

The Nature of Dreams

Before we dive into the specifics, it’s essential to understand that dogs, like humans, experience different stages of sleep, including REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, which is associated with dreams. 

During REM sleep, dogs’ brains become highly active, comparable to when they are awake, and this is the phase where most dreaming occurs. Just like humans, dogs engage in various dream activities, including running, wagging their tails, and even vocalizing.

Instincts and Memories

One popular theory regarding what dogs chase in their sleep is that they are reenacting their instinctual behaviors. Dogs are descendants of wolves, and many of their instincts are deeply ingrained. 

During dreams, they may be revisiting experiences from their waking lives, such as chasing prey or defending their territory. 

These dreams allow dogs to reinforce and refine their natural instincts, preparing them for real-life situations.

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Playing and Interacting

Another prevalent theory suggests that dogs may be dreaming about playtime and social interactions. Dogs are highly sociable animals, and play is an integral part of their lives. 

It’s not uncommon to see dogs engage in playful activities with other dogs, humans, or even toys. 

In their dreams, dogs might relive joyful moments of play, chasing after balls, frisbees, or their favorite squeaky toys. These dreams likely reflect their desire for social interaction and the enjoyment they derive from play.

Chasing Prey

Many dog owners have witnessed their pets exhibiting hunting behaviors during sleep, which raises the possibility that dogs may be dreaming about chasing prey. Whether it’s squirrels, birds, or other small animals, dogs have an inherent drive to hunt. 

During sleep, their dreams might simulate the excitement of the chase, allowing them to fulfill their natural predatory instincts. 

It’s fascinating to think that even domesticated dogs retain this primal aspect of their ancestry in their dreams.

Scent Adventures

Dogs have an incredibly keen sense of smell, and their dreams might involve olfactory sensations and scent-driven adventures. 

They may be chasing after a captivating smell that piques their curiosity or searching for hidden treats and rewards. 

The intricate world of scents plays a significant role in a dog’s life, and their dreams could be a reflection of the importance they place on their sense of smell.

Social Hierarchy and Dominance

In a pack dynamic, social hierarchy and dominance are crucial aspects. Dogs are inherently pack animals and have a natural inclination to establish their place within a social structure. 

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Consequently, their dreams may revolve around interactions with other dogs, symbolizing their desire to establish dominance or maintain their social status. 

These dreams could involve chasing or being chased, reflecting the intricate dynamics of pack life.

Mixed and Abstract Dreams

While the aforementioned theories provide plausible explanations for what dogs chase in their sleep, it’s essential to acknowledge that dogs’ dreams might not always have a clear narrative. 

Just like humans, dogs can experience abstract dreams, filled with fragmented images, emotions, and sensory impressions. 

These dreams may not always align with our human understanding, making it challenging to pinpoint exactly what dogs are chasing in their sleep. 

Nevertheless, they undoubtedly contribute to the rich and complex dream world of our canine companions.


Although we cannot fully decipher the contents of a dog’s dreams, it’s clear that they are active participants in their own sleep adventures. 

Dogs may dream about instinctual behaviors, playtime, chasing prey, scent-driven adventures, social dynamics, or even abstract experiences. 

While the true nature of their dreams remains a mystery, the importance of dreams for dogs’ cognitive and emotional well-being cannot be underestimated. 

So, the next time you see your furry friend engaged in a lively slumber, appreciate the mystery and marvel at the wonders of their dream world.