What do dogs think when they wake up from their dreams?

I am dog-sitting Niska the wonderdog for a couple of weeks. She is a gorgeous and very sweet Siberian husky mix. While she is generally loving and affectionate, she can also instantly transform into a snarling raised-hackle wolf-cross when faced with an aggressive dog or for that matter, ANY dog in her territory (yard, home, bed). Her owner’s boyfriend even once tossed her out the door to see what she would do with the bear that was rummaging around the cabin and sure enough, she went from domesticated house companion to a wild demon, snarling and barking at the bear and indeed, chasing it off the property. The fellow who did this did it in the interest of testing how well his hiking companion would protect him in the wilderness if faced with an unexpected bear incident. Of course, having scared the bear away, the dog came triumphantly back into the cabin, head held high, and no doubt, looking for some extra “Beggin’ Bits” or “Snausages”.

That is all a preface to my main point. I was watching Niska sleeping on her side in her bed this evening, and from watching her it was obvious that she was in hot pursuit of something. Her muzzle and lips were twitching, as were her front and rear paws. You could see that while the brain wanted to engage her full body, the part of her brain that blocked her full-on motion had dampened her run down to only a few small twitches.

Stanley Coren, wrote the following in his book “What do dogs know?

“…one mental process that dogs share with us is that they dream much the way that we do. Of course, dogs dream only doggy things. We know this because there is a special structure in the brain that keeps all of us from acting our our dreams. In experiments when scientists have removed that part of the brain from dogs, the animals would start to move around when they were dreaming. This occurred despire the fact that electrical recordings of their brains indicated that thwy were still fast asleep. As these dogs moved, they actually began to act out the actions they were performing in their dreams. Thus researchers found that a dreaming pointer might immeidately start searching for game (and might even go on point), a sleeping springer spaniel might flush an imaginary bird, while the slumbering Doberman pinscher might pick a fight with a dream burglar.”

I woke her up to take her out before bedtime, and wondered: What does she think when one second she is chasing a squirrel through the forest and the next second, she is lying sideways on the floor and I’m nudging her to go outside? Does she understand that she was dreaming? Or does she just simply move back and forth between the two worlds with no understanding of the distinction, unquestioning?

I wonder.