What do dogs think about? If you’ve ever wondered that, you’re not alone. People have been asking this question for a long time, and answers are finally coming to the surface.

Our pooches are pretty intelligent animals, and understanding their way of thinking and feeling can help us understand ourselves better. Not to mention the perks of knowing what your dog wants every time they look at you with those beautiful puppy eyes.

Let’s find out the answers to these questions:

Do Dogs Have Thoughts?

In recent years, dogs have become quite popular in the science world. Until the middle of the 20th century, scientists considered them merely biological machines unable to feel or think. But now, researchers are starting to realize that’s not the case.

Dogs’ brains are a lot smaller than ours. The brain-to-body ratio of a human is about 1:40, while a dog’s ratio is just 1:125 (no matter the breed). It’s a measurement that’s been used historically to show how intelligent an animal is.

But size is not everything. So even if your fluffy bestie has a smaller brain, that doesn’t mean she can’t think. It’s quite hard to figure out what exactly goes on in her beautiful head, but one is for sure — it’s not static. 

How Do Dogs Think?

Our beloved canine friends can’t talk or write (some can definitely sing, though — Huskies, I’m talking about you!). So they most certainly don’t think in words. Then how?

Well, nobody knows yet. We’ve seen that specific parts of dogs’ brains light up in response to stimuli, but what goes inside their mind remains a mystery.

But we do know a few exciting facts about dog cognition. 

Do Dogs Think About Their Owners?

Our puppies love us. Maybe not in the same way we love them, but dogs feel affection, attachment, and even empathy.

We’re a huge part of our puppies’ lives — they’ve been shown to prefer us to the company of other dogs. Also, they feel more relaxed and less anxious around their humans in a new environment. But if you can’t always be with your pup, a calming fluffy dog bed is another way to decrease anxiety.

One study also showed that when dogs smell their owners, the “reward center” in their brains lights up. What’s even more interesting is that the dogs prioritized their owner’s scent over other dogs or unfamiliar people.

So, we can assume that dogs think about us.

Dogs Can Count

So do dogs have thoughts? Yes, and they can even count, which is direct proof of that.

Pups can process numbers much like humans. Interestingly, even without training, dogs’ brains responded to different amounts of dots projected on a screen. 

What’s more, a pup can be taught to count to five and would even spot basic computational errors (e.g., 1+1=3). So dogs can count, but it’s best not to let them manage your finances.  

Dogs Have Object Permanence

Object permanence is the ability to understand that when an object is out of sight, it still exists and hasn’t vanished. Human babies start grasping this basic concept around four to eight months. In contrast, puppies need only four weeks.

Dog Brain vs Human Brain

One of the most prominent differences between human and canine brains is the size. A dog’s brain-to-body ratio is about three times smaller than that of a human. Also, the biggest part of the brain  — the cerebral cortex — is radically different in dogs and humans.

What’s more, dogs’ prefrontal cortex is less developed. That’s why dogs can’t make plans for the future like we do. Our puppies live in the moment, and I sure envy them for that.

So do dogs think like humans? Not quite. Your pup’s brain is primarily dedicated to smells. Dogs have powerful noses and can associate scents with memories. That’s because the olfactory bulb, which is the part of the brain responsible for smell, is a lot bigger in dogs.

So we could suppose that dogs think largely with their noses.

Do Dogs Have a Good Memory?

Ever wondered what do dogs think about when they are alone? Are they curious where you are, or do they recall the last time they sniffed Cookie’s behind? We might never know for sure, but one is certain — dogs have an incredible memory.

Our pups remember faces and smells brilliantly. They never forget their owners, even after years without seeing them. Also, they can learn numerous commands and tricks.

But our furry pals don’t remember the same way we do. They can’t recall events or walk down memory lane. 

Dogs remember through associations. So a dog would associate an event happening now with a smell, sound, or image they’ve experienced before. For example, if you put your jacket on, they’ll remember that it’s time for a walk.

Dog Communication Myths

What do dogs think about? And could we ever understand them?

Thanks to thousands of years of communication with our best buddies, we’ve learned to understand them partially.

dog lying on a couch looking at the camera

How We Project Our Thoughts on Dogs

When we think about our pets, we often fall into the trap of anthropomorphism. This is the concept of attributing human emotions, traits, and intentions to non-human entities.

Imagine your dog has just won a prize in the obedience competition. He looks so cheerful and happy, and even proud of the achievement. But is your pup really feeling like that?

Dogs can’t feel pride. Instead, research has shown that owners tend to project their personalities, beliefs, and feelings onto their pets.

So next time you wonder what do dogs think when you leave, be sure it’s nothing like: “Oh mother, why hath thou forsaken me?”

Does My Dog Think I’m His Mom?

Our puppies love us and enjoy spending time with us. But do they view us as their parents?

Dogs see us as their providers and protectors. In their world, that’s as close as it gets to a “mom.” But it all depends on the way we treat them, the time we spend with them, and how often we train them.

If you want your puppy to love you, use positive reinforcement. Take your pup on walks regularly, and play together. Allowing dogs to socialize with other humans and dogs also strengthens your relationship.

Do Dogs Think About Revenge?

Dogs are beautiful, gentle, and lovely creatures. They simply don’t understand the concept of revenge.

Maybe you were out the whole day and neglected your pup. So you come home and what do you see? A whole pile of torn clothes on the floor. You might think your puppy did it as revenge for not getting attention, but that’s not the case.

Instead, your dog might have separation anxiety issues, or maybe something scared or stressed it out. Dogs prone to destructive behaviors don’t act out of spite — the reason is often loneliness, depression, and anxiety.

So no, even the most aggressive dog breeds would never think of revenge.

Do Dogs Know They’re Dogs?

Dogs have an excellent sense of smell. They rely on it for almost everything — finding food, socializing with other dogs, and recognizing people. So they can differentiate between other animals and themselves.

Whether or not they know they’re “dogs” is unclear, but they know they’re not cats or pigeons. 

What’s more, dogs’ smell is so good that there’s no chance they think we’re dogs either — our scent is too different. 

Dogs Don’t Feel Guilty

Guilt is a higher emotion that dogs can’t feel. The puppy eyes they give you when they’ve peed on the carpet aren’t guilt. That’s your dog using its associative memory and being afraid of the punishment that might follow.

How Do Dogs’ Brains Work? — Canine Emotional Intelligence

Dogs’ emotional intelligence is like that of a two-year-old child. They can feel basic emotions like joy, fear, and disgust.

But how does it happen?

Much like in humans — the body secretes hormones, such as oxytocin and cortisol, in response to stimuli, like hugging or shouting, respectively. These hormones transmit chemical messages to the brain, resulting in a specific dog reaction (wagging their tail if they’re happy or growling if they’re afraid).   

What Do Dogs Understand From Human Speech?

When we talk to our dogs, it’s more important how we say things than what we say. Dogs perceive human speech similarly to us — intonation comes first, followed by the meaning.

Our puppies understand our emotions quite well. Even if they don’t know what you’re saying, the way you’re saying it reveals your intentions.

What Do Dogs Think About All Day?

Dogs are our best friends, so it’s normal to be curious about how they feel and what they’re thinking. Let’s see what probably goes on in our beloved pooches brains’ throughout the day.

  • Walks. Dogs love their walkies and definitely think about them during the day, especially when they see you preparing to go out. 
  • Food. That’s what I think about all the time, so I’m pretty sure my always-hungry dog does, too.
  • You. Our puppies like spending time with us and can even develop separation anxiety. They sure think about you.
  • Happy memories. Dogs have a pretty nice memory, so recalling happy walks with their humans probably happens often.

What Do You Think Dogs Dream About?

If you have a puppy, you know that dogs have dreams. Research also suggests dog brain activity increases around 20 minutes after falling asleep, indicating they’ve entered the rapid eye movement (REM) dream phase.

During REM, the body is relaxed, and the sleeper dreams vividly. But what would a doggy dream about?

Just like humans, dogs dream about what they did awake. Studies on dog sleep analyzed the parts of the brain that light up during running and playing. It turns out the same parts light up during REM sleep.

So your puppy’s probably dreaming about running through the park with you and other pals or enjoying breakfast.  

How to Know What Your Dog Is Thinking?

Understanding your dog’s emotions and thoughts helps your communication. After all, we want our pups to feel happy and comfortable around us, and that’s only possible if we learn their language. 

  • Wagging its tail is often a sign of happiness.
  • Tail tucked between its legs indicates fear and stress.
  • What do dogs think about while yawning? Well, they might be trying to show you they’re not a threat. But it can also be a sign of anxiety.
  • When your pup puts its belly up, it means it trusts you and wants belly rubs.
  • One paw up means your dog needs you to do something for it. Maybe it’s time for dinner, or your pup needs water.
  • A tilted head shows that your pup is trying to understand what you want from it. 
Black and white large dog lying down with its face on its paws looking into the distance

Training Your Dog to Be a Thinker

Do dogs think? Yes, and some are better at it than others (just like humans). So how can you train your puppy to be a thinker? 

Games and Toys

Playing with your dog and teaching it basic doggy tricks is essential for your pup’s development and well-being. It delays some neurodegenerative disorders common in senior dogs. Plus, it keeps your puppy occupied and less prone to destructive behavior.

Providing puzzle toys for dogs when you’re away is also an excellent way to stimulate your puppy’s brain and keep it active.

Exercise

Ever wondered what do dogs think about when playing? During a game, all they think about is having fun and winning.

Daily exercise keeps your dog’s body and mind healthy. Also, it contributes to sleep quality and makes your pup happy. It’s best to walk your dog at least two times a day. Plus, you could include additional exercises like command learning.

Diet

What do dogs think about humans? Give your puppy a nice chewy treat, and you’ll have the answer. One of the main reasons why dogs love us is because we’re their food providers

A diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids increases the problem-solving and information-processing skills in young puppies. What’s more, well-balanced meals high in animal protein without filler ingredients like grains are also beneficial. They support your doggy’s physical and mental health.

Conclusion

The idea that dogs are intelligent creatures is fairly new to the scientific world. But researchers have found that dogs are capable of thinking. Plus, they have a fantastic memory and a brain pretty similar to our own.

So what do dogs think about? It’s mostly food, other puppies, and their favorite humans. But we wouldn’t have known that without studying their body language and dream patterns.

Understanding how dogs think would ease our communication. But be careful not to fall into the trap of anthropomorphism — dogs don’t have the same thought processes we do.

Like all amazing animal species that inhabit our green planet, our furry pals are unique in their own way. 

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Miglena loves spending time with friends and talking about science over a glass of wine. Born and raised in a small town, she’s always been surrounded by animals. Cats, dogs, chickens, cows, and goats have all been her companions from an early age. Her passion for the animal kingdom became even stronger after she went to study microbiology in Scotland. Miglena’s love for writing, combined with her curiosity, makes her a valuable member of the pawsome advice team.