4 min read


Can Dogs Read Minds?



4 min read


Can Dogs Read Minds?


Does it ever seem like your pup can read your mind? Do they just seem to know when you’re about to do something or go somewhere despite your best efforts? Spooky, isn’t it? 

It turns out, in a sense, your dog can read your mind. That's right. Your furry friend might be able to read your mind and tell the future. How? Well, for a few reasons.


Signs Your Dog Might Be Able to Tell What You're Thinking

Per usual, every dog is different and reacts differently to outside stimuli. So, there is no set way a dog will act if they are “reading your mind.” However, they may react similarly in some situations where they know what you're thinking. 

For example, if you're getting ready to take your dog for a walk, and your dog loves walks - you might not say the word "walk" until you're fully ready to leave. However, if you start putting on your coat, shoes, and picking up things you typically take outside, your dog might take notice.

If they love walks, they might start jumping up, wagging their tail, barking at the door, and pacing by the door until you're ready to leave, and they might even try to go grab their leash for you, to speed up the process. Cute right? Cute and maybe a little scary too, since they seem to know what you're thinking and anticipate your every move.

On the reverse side, this might mean your pup knows when something unpleasant, in their mind, is coming. Some things you might notice if your dog knows you're about to take them to do something not so fun (like to the vet) will be drastically different. Even if you don't say anything, they might hide from you as to try and avoid the event. 

Once you find them, they’ll probably have their ears down, and their tail between their legs. They might even try to run away or hide again if they can manage it! Lastly, they might look at you sadly with those big eyes and they might try... alright, succeed, to melt your heart. So watch out!

Body Language

Here are a few signs you might notice if your dog can tell you're going to do something fun:

  • Barking
  • Jumping Up
  • Wag Tail
  • Pacing

Other Signs

Here are some signs you might notice if your dog can tell you're about to do something they don't like:

  • Hiding From You
  • Ears Down
  • Tail Between Their Legs
  • Running Away

History of Dogs and Mind Reading


Historically, humans have been obsessed with mind reading for centuries. There are stories dating back thousands of years of people being able to do "magic" by telling the future and reading minds. People have learned tricks, that seem to help them to have sudden bouts of clairvoyance. 

It seems that dogs, too, have picked up on these abilities and have had an uncanny ability to tell what their human is thinking for a long time. Things that humans and dogs look at our body language, people’s habits, and things they say. This can be helpful in many situations and annoying in others, like when you're late and trying to get somewhere in a hurry.

Science Behind Dogs and Mind Reading


Is there a scientific reason for a dog's ability to read minds? Yes, according to a lot of different research, dogs have what is called "theory of mind." Theory of mind is defined by as “the ability to interpret one’s own and other people’s mental and emotional states, understanding that each person has unique motives, perspectives, etc”.

According to dog trainer Cesar Millan’s website, Cesar's Way, this means a dog has five things. Dogs can empathize, they can understand a human's point of view, they have a sense of jealousy, they trust their human's judgment, and they understand what's going on.

The website goes on to mention several different experiments that have been performed that outline and prove all of the above points. One of the most notable experiments was one that shows that dogs can actually tell what a human can and can’t see and will react accordingly. 

So, in the experiment, researchers put a dog at one end of a table and a human at the other end of the table. There were two toys in the middle of the table that the dog could see. However, on the human’s side of the table, there was clear glass, so the human could see one toy, and the other toy was obstructed from the human’s view. 

When the human subject asked the dog to bring them a toy, the dog always brought them the toy behind the clear glass that that human could see. Interestingly, when the human turned their back so they couldn’t see either toy, the dog brought them one of the toys randomly. So, they know what we can see to an extent.

Dogs also trust us and know we have information they don't. They are also really just very keen observers and great studies of our body language and behaviors. Guess what? Humans can do that too if they stop and observe things more closely. 

One thing humans don't have that dogs do is strong senses of smell and hearing. These senses also help your dog discern what is happening around them. Dogs are very, very resourceful and they use everything at their disposal.

Training Your Dog to Read Minds


So, don't rush out and buy your dog a crystal ball. You can't train them to tell you the future. However, you can help them stay healthy and strong so they can continue to be perceptive. 

Always make sure your dog is eating a balanced diet and getting plenty of clean water. Make sure to keep them clean and groomed so they can use their amazing senses comfortably and unobstructed by fur (we're looking at you, eyes) or ear wax. 

It's also critical that your dog is getting enough exercise. Walks and play time are key to a healthy body. Lastly, just love your dog! Give them plenty of attention and love, and they'll trust and protect you forever. This can also only strengthen their ability to "read your mind" as they trust you more.

So, can dogs read minds? Sort of... not in the sense of looking into your eyes and staring into your soul. However, they can observe you and tell what you might do next. So, it’s best to be mindful of your body language and what signs your giving to them - especially if you're trying to get out the door in the next five minutes.

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Written by Katie Anderson

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 05/09/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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