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What Do Dogs Think About?

It's no secret that dogs are man's best friend. They're loyal, loving, and always there to lend a paw. But do you ever wonder what goes through a pup's mind? What are they thinking about when they cock an eyebrow or tilt their head?

Do they really love us as much as we love them? Do they think about what kind of food we'll feed them for dinner? Or are their thoughts as deep and complex as ours?

It turns out that doggy minds have some similarities with ours, after all. In this article, we'll reveal some things we've learned about dogs and their inner thoughts!

Dog Cognition Research

Alexandra Horowitz, a Professor of Psychology, heads the Dog Cognition Lab in New York City. The lab conducts research into dog cognition which helps dog owners, veterinarians, trainers, and animal behaviorists learn how a dog's mind works.

Dr. Horowitz explains the attention dogs lavish on their owners and states they somewhat compare to anthropologists. Dogs are observant and notice our movements and habits. They can distinguish between our movements if we're going into the kitchen or preparing to leave the house.

How Do You Know What Your Dog Is Thinking?

Dogs can understand the meaning of certain words if they hear them frequently. In one long-term study with a Border Collie, she could comprehend more than 1000 words because she heard them so often.

Dr. Horowitz explains some theories about how dogs bark, howl, or whine that go back to their ancestors, the wolves. The belief is that when dogs were being domesticated, dogs that barked more may have been chosen as guard dogs because they alerted their owners to disturbances. As dogs became domesticated and started making other noises like yapping and whimpering, they may have been trying to mimic human speech.

Dogs And Dreams

black puppy sleeping on the floor

Have you ever watched your dog's paws twitch while sleeping and wondered what they're dreaming about? We may never know what happens in a dog's mind during REM sleep, but it's fun to speculate.

Perhaps they dream of chasing that elusive squirrel up the tree in the backyard or catching their favorite toy. Or maybe it's a dream where they finally get to eat all the treats in the treat jar without getting in trouble!

Whatever the content of Fido's dreams, we know that dogs experience similar sleep cycles as humans, including deep sleep and REM sleep, where dreaming occurs. Their eyes move rapidly under their eyelids, their breathing becomes irregular, and their limbs often twitch—all signs that point to dogs dreaming just like us.

The main difference is that a pup's sleep-wake cycle is shorter, so they dream more frequently, up to every 10 minutes. That's a lot of squirrel-chasing and treat-eating dreams!

When they wake up from a dream, especially an intense one with a lot of movement, your dog may seem momentarily disoriented. Give them some gentle pets and speak in a soft, soothing tone to help ease them back into wakefulness. Their dream world can seem quite real, after all.

Once fully awake, you may get a clue into what they were dreaming about based on their immediate behavior. If they head straight for the treat jar or run to the window to look for squirrels, you'll have a pretty good idea what was going on in that furry little head of theirs during dreamland. Our canine companions lead such a ruff life, don't they?

Brain Scan Imaging

The technology behind scanning the brain has evolved, so questions about dogs' cognitive capacity fascinate scientists to the extent that they're studying the canine brain. Research shows that dogs depend on us for everything, including protection, love, and affection, more than they do other dogs.

Canine Psychology: Do Dogs Think Like Humans?

For years scientists that studied animal behavior were focused on what animals did, but not on what they felt and if they had emotions similar to humans. Animal welfare groups made us more aware of dogs and their feelings. Numerous studies indicate that dogs feel about half the emotions that people do, and dog owners sometimes misinterpret their dog's body language.

Basic And Reflective Emotions

Guilty dog with slippers on the grass

Dogs can feel basic emotions, but that isn't true for complex reflection. If a dog owner says their dog looks guilty when they've done something wrong, it isn't capable of that emotion. They're fearful because they anticipate some form of punishment. 

So how do dogs see their owners? Dogs are very receptive to their owner's body language and verbal cues. Scientists have determined that dogs can pick up on humans' body language better than we can. When learning new skills, dogs are more flexible than people. They're swift learners, and although they may not know how we feel about them, what they think about is their love and affection for us.

Browse For Some Goodies!

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What do dogs think of humans?

Well, apparently, they love us! We assumed as much (have you seen those puppy-dog eyes?), but scientists have been getting a better picture over the last few decades. In some cases, it's thought that domesticated dogs see or think of us as their pack leaders, so they listen to us and obey commands.

What do dogs think of cats?

This one's a bit complicated. See, it depends on the individual dog and the cat—some dogs can't get along with cats no matter what, but others will be chill around them. It all comes down to how well-socialized the pup is…and whether or not Fluffy is always ready to start a fight!

Do dogs feel jealousy?

Well, research has suggested that they can undoubtedly feel envy if another person or pet gets more attention than them. So when you're showing off your new pet, ensure Fido gets plenty of love too!


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