Do Dogs Think – What Does Your Dog Think About

what do dogs think about

Your dog is sitting at home and staring at you, you’re not doing anything interesting but they still seem interested. This is where the difficult question of, do dogs think and what do they think of.

Dogs are more than capable of thinking and conscious thought is something they naturally can do. What your dog thinks about and how they do it depends on the circumstances. A large part of your dog’s thought process comes from instinct and it’s whether humans define instinct as conscious thought or not. 

This is an interesting topic that will involve some in-depth discussion. Of course, dogs cannot explain in detail how they are able to think or what they think about and so humans need to interpret this action themselves. Let’s delve deeper into the subject.


How Do Dogs Think

Recent research has indicated that dogs think in similar ways to humans. In fact, MRI studies have shown that dog’s brains do not differ that much from our own. According to PetMD specific areas of a dogs brain respond in the same way as humans. It has to be noted that the layout of a dog’s brain differs in one major area, the olfactory bulb, this is the part of the brain that processes smell. Humans and dogs both have an olfactory bulb, however, on dogs, it is many times larger and attributes to a dog’s incredible sense of smell. Check out our article on “Understanding Your Dogs Nose”.

Many people believe that without language there can be no inner thoughts and so it could be argued that dogs don’t think with an inner monologue. For example, when your dog is hungry and comes up to you at the exact same time each evening, how do they process that thought. Many may think it’s pure instinct, but there must be some sort of process going on in their head to follow these steps. First, they feel hungry (instinct) next they sense the time in the day (instinct) finally they must think about the best method to get their food, do they just go to their bowl, or the place the food is kept or towards their owner who they know gives them the food. Although this seems to be driven by instinct the process of thought must be structured.

Only recently has it become more widely known that humans don’t always think in words and in fact many people can only think in pictures. As we only know what goes on in our own heads, you may discover that your best friend thinks in images or scenarios. Some people have suggested that when they read books the words are played out as images in their mind and not the sound of talking. Check out this article on inner monologues including the tweet that sparked a recent conversation. 

Unfortunately with the limited knowledge, we have about our own thoughts, knowing how your dog thinks becomes even more difficult. Despite this, you could safely assume that without any formal language to think in, your dog must think in the same way as humans without an internal monologue. Pictures, feelings, and scenarios playing out in sequence are highly likely how your dog thinks. An example of this would be communication from humans, the word “sit” spoken to your dog will manifest an image in their head of them sitting and so they will know what they need to do.

Why Do Dogs Wink

What Do Dogs Think About

This is always going to be a difficult question as the way dogs communicate can sometimes be very cryptic. As a recent study shows, a dog’s brain interacts with various stimulation such as a scent. Researchers gave the dogs a scent that would remind them of their owners. When the dogs smelt these scents certain areas relating to positive thought lit up during an MRI scan. Check out this article for more information. This shows a certain amount of conscious thought happening inside a dog’s brain. We may never know for sure what your dogs think about and how detailed their thoughts are. Despite this here are a few things that we think go through your dog’s head.

Do Dogs Think About Their Owners

A dog’s owner is a huge part of its life and in many cases the reason for its entire existence. Dogs are bred to provide love and companionship which is what they are great at doing. As a dog owner, I know the experience of coming home after a long day away and the joy my dog expresses when I walk through the door. It’s clear that dogs adore their owners and so it’s only right to suggest they think about us whilst we are away.

Do Dogs Think About Their Daily Routine

It is likely that your dog thinks about its daily routine in an instinctive way, this involves the repetitive tasks that your dog undertakes every day. It’s unlikely that an event that happens rarely will be able to affect your dog enough for them to actually think about it during the day. As an example my dog will always come to me when it is 6 in the evening, this of course is his dinner time and he knows it. Because we don’t have a designated time for taking the dog out, he doesn’t really bother us, although that does not mean he is not thinking about it during the day.

Do Dogs Think About Past Experiences

Most dog owners have seen their pooch start kicking their legs whilst in a deep sleep. The occasional woof signals that something exciting is happening inside their head. Of course, dreams are much different from the consciousness of thought. Despite this dogs must be able to conjure up images in their heads of past experience, the context of which may not be totally relevant. This shows that past experiences are the things that create those images dogs see when dreaming, this must also happen when they are awake as they know when to avoid something….such as the bathroom…hence my dog not being a fan of having a bath.

Do Dogs Think About The Future

Dogs are animals who live in the moment for much of their lives. If your dog thinks about the future it is most likely to avoid something like bad weather or burying something for later. Dogs will plan in a natural way, rather than thinking about the future and planning it in their heads. Mothers preparing comfortable places to give birth is a way to correlate dogs thinking about the future, but when it comes to thinking about the future, we will probably never know for sure if this is how a dog thinks.

do dogs like rain


Dog’s thoughts will be something that is studied for generations to come and we may or may not ever know the true detail of our favorite animals. Despite this hopefully, this article has given you something to think about yourself. If you enjoyed this article then check out our other articles on our homepage.

Dean Lissaman

As a child I grew up around dogs and have loved them ever since. I now have a beloved Golden Retriever who enjoys exploring the outside world. Being an outdoor enthusiast has inspired me to create the ultimate resource on relating both dogs and the outdoors. For more information on me check out my about page.

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