Dog sleep disorders in Disney films

University of Barcelona researchers noted that dogs in classic Disney films frequently seem to exhibit REM behavior disorder (RBD). Below is the full abstract for their scientific paper, published in a 2007 issue of the journal Sleep Medicine:
During a viewing of Disney's animated film Cinderella (1950), one author (AI) noticed a dog having nightmares with dream-enactment that strongly resembled RBD. This prompted a study in which all Disney classic full-length animated films and shorts were analyzed for other examples of RBD. Three additional dogs were found with presumed RBD in the classic films Lady and the Tramp (1955) and The Fox and the Hound (1981), and in the short Pluto's Judgment Day (1935). These dogs were elderly males who would pant, whine, snuffle, howl, laugh, paddle, kick, and propel themselves while dreaming that they were chasing someone or running away. In Lady and the Tramp the dog was also losing both his sense of smell and his memory, two associated features of human RBD. These four films were released before RBD was first formally described in humans and dogs. In addition, systematic viewing of the Disney films identified a broad range of sleep disorders, including nightmares, sleepwalking, sleep related seizures, disruptive snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, insomnia and circadian rhythm sleep disorder. These sleep disorders were inserted as comic elements. The inclusion of a broad range of accurately depicted sleep disorders in these films indicates that the Disney screenwriters were astute observers of sleep and its disorders.
"REM sleep behavior disorder and other sleep disturbances in Disney animated films" (via NCBI ROFL)

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  1. Have these people never owned a dog? Dogs do this all the time, its perfectly normal for them to have “chased

  2. “The inclusion of a broad range of accurately depicted sleep disorders in these films indicates that the Disney screenwriters were astute observers of sleep and its disorders.”

    Couldn’t they just have been astute observers of, I don’t know…DOGS?

    Most dogs (and most people) talk, twitch, wiggle, moan, whatever while they are asleep at least a few times in their lives. I have a dog who randomly howls in his sleep, though he’s only done it probably 6 times that I’ve ever observed. But every dog I’ve ever had has flipped his/her paws around while sleeping every once in a while.

    I think most Disney animators are good at observing life in general and recreating it in moving drawings. That’s a big part of what makes their animated movies so good!

  3. My wife and I have endless conversations about what our dog dreams about. Squirrels is our best guess. (Dug from “Up” would be proud.) For your amusement, here’s a video of another dog with the most intense exhibition of REM behavior disorder I’ve ever seen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wI8XgJ3JebE

  4. Surprising, because it was thought that dogs did not twitch, run, or bark in their sleep until Science discovered it.

  5. Well, here’s another research study to confirm something we’ve known… in this case, for probably 20,000 years- dogs dream. Duh!

    I’m glad they mentioned that cartoon wherein Pluto dreams he goes to hell and is judged by a jury of cats. One of my favorites!

  6. My fascination with sleep orders combined with my love of Disney films = the perfect Boing Boing post.

  7. It could also be that, because Disney reuses so much raw footage in their animated films, that there was only one lonely dog with a disorder that simply perpetuated throughout the films.
    That or, as many others have noted, the dogs are just doing the normal thing (like my own did) while asleep.

  8. So, somebody actually sat around watching cartoon dogs and called it “research.” Fascinating.

  9. Membership at video store: $5.
    Popcorn: $2.
    Getting graduate-level credit for watching Disney films: priceless.

  10. “These four films were released before RBD was first formally described in humans and dogs. … The inclusion of a broad range of accurately depicted sleep disorders in these films indicates that the Disney screenwriters were astute observers of sleep and its disorders.”

    The study isn’t about dogs’ behaviour, it’s about Disney animators’ powers of observations.

  11. Anyone recall the doggie nightmare sequence (I believe it was in a Warner cartoon) where in the dream the mantra is repeated: “NUMBER ONE DOG!”? I can’t seem to find it on the youtubes.

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