5 min read


Can Dogs Think Like People?



5 min read


Can Dogs Think Like People?


Ask a few philosophers from the past what their thoughts are on dogs having such a human condition and you’d hear the words "machine", "robot" or "dumb animal". 

Times have thankfully moved on and now we wonder what dogs think about. Scientists have been busy assessing the canine mind and have discovered their cognitive skills are very similar to ours. The fact that dogs can get a kind of Alzheimer’s suggests woofers have thinking minds. Ask a dog to learn 1200 words and a Border collie named Chaser might show you how! These prodigy pooches are letting us know they are thinkers. What do you believe?


Signs Your Dog is a Thinker

Dogs are super-smart and only the doubters think they’re not. Any dog owner will tell you there’s a lot going in their fluffy heads. They may not be able to talk, but they can sure suss us out, offering a wagging tail when we are down, or a ball to get us in an upbeat mood. This implies a thinker with the ability to reason most responses.

If you ask your Doberman to sing like Beyonce, they’ll try to understand as you dance around the living room with a fake microphone in your hand. They might even try to mimic you, jumping up and down, bobbing their head and barking to the cool, musical sounds. 

Dogs are awesome creatures that really like their human friends. They’ve been hanging around with us for centuries and learning how we think, feel, and love. They too feel fear, pain, and jealousy when you bring a new dog home. They are also amazing emotional support dogs for people who live in a dark space. Dogs make choices in their everyday routine. 

Our dogs can understand commands; recognize familiar faces and sense when that salesperson is not what they seem. You might hear a growl as your Maltese complains. They are sensing the stranger might be a danger to their pet mom. If it’s a doggy-friendly guy at the door, your Maltese will be all puppy fun. 

As mammals, their brains have the same thinking process as humans, but dogs use their nose a little more than us. Their super-sonic nostrils can sniff out that cat hiding behind the door or smell gold in the mines and drugs at the airport.

Dogs are thinking souls and, like humans, can excel at certain things. You might be a creative artist while your Papillon is an agility champ. Maybe you could ask your clever Collie to help with the kid’s homework, as dogs are problem solvers who use their senses to evaluate.  

Body Language

Signs your dog has something on their mind are:<br/>

  • Growling
  • Barking
  • Jumping Up
  • Wag Tail
  • Head Bobbing
  • Play Bowing

Other Signs

More signs your dog is thinking include:<br/>

  • Recognizing A Past Owner
  • Bringing You A Toy
  • Imitating You
  • Picking Up On Emotions

The History of Dogs Thinking


Its common knowledge that dogs evolved from wolves - who were obviously thinkers when they became the companions of man. Their hunting grounds were under threat, as was their very existence, so who was the brazen wolf that walked into the campfire and shook a cave man’s hand?

Wolves appear to be thinkers as highlighted by a study involving 10 pet dogs, 10 wolves, and 10 shelter dogs. Each animal was a given a box containing treats that could be opened in a certain way. Most of the wolves worked it out, but the dogs looked to the humans for help.

It's evident that dogs inherited their brain power from wolves but living in close quarters with humans has made them more reliant. Over time, some of their thinking skills dwindled.

We made our mutts the underdogs and taught them commands so they were obedient. What also happened was dogs turned to their new leaders for information. They began imitating our facial expressions, movements, and emotions. The history of our wolfy-woofers has been adjusted by their interaction with us as their doting guardians.

The apparent clever minds of earlier centuries who literally threw dogs off the cliff as unintelligent have been proven wrong! That’s the best news for Animal Welfare groups trying to give dogs a respected place in the world.

Science Behind Dogs Thinking


Ask a 17th-century scientist if a dog has a thinking mind and they’d say defiantly not. Our poor doggy buddies suffered centuries of intelligence-denial as mankind was adamant, dogs were un-thinking machines. Now the lights are on and its all systems go for the canine revolution, as researchers set the record straight.

Let's begins with a statement made by an Anthropologist who believes the intellect of animals is not inferior to humans - just different. He likened it to a person going to Paris and not being able to understand the lingo. This set the ball rolling and was picked up by paw- inspired scientists who began all kinds of studies to get to the truth.

When you consider around 50% of families in the US alone own a dog, it’s easy to see why the interest in how they operate is so strong. There are woofer research facilities all over the planet and that’s a good thing for the universal plight of dogs.

Training Thinking Dogs


Training techniques for dogs have been generally based on a pack leader mentality until new age trainers like Victoria Stilwell began a “No Force,” regime that sparked controversy among trainers. She is not alone with others following this path as we learn dogs are thinkers who respond to positive reinforcement.

The CIA trains dogs to sniff out explosives and posted a story of a black Labrador who was super-smart. Part of the training process involves cans placed in a circle with explosives in some and other scents in the rest. The explosive cans are dented so the handlers can recognize them. The CIA dog trainers were amazed to see the Lab choose the cans because of the dent. This meant they were picking the right can by sight, not scent. Seeing they had been duped, the trainers then marked the appropriate cans with chalk. This Labrador sleuth observed the changes and once again chose the correct cans.

This holds true to the premise that all dogs have intellect but, like humans, some are bound to be smarter than others. The new school of thought is dogs need motivation and each one may have a preference. Like people learning a new job or studying for a degree need feedback and encouragement - so do our dogs.

Understanding your canine’s cognition is the key to helping a dog learn cues that will advance their intelligence and keep them safe. Think of it this way. Back in the day, kids were bunched together in a classroom and had to learn the curriculum whether it was relevant or not. The uniqueness of a child was often over-looked as some went to the top and others fell behind.

There was a time when a woofer was trained to sit, stay, and come. All respectable commands, that allow for control over a dog. Now it’s about finding the genius within and recognizing that dogs, like people, have various skills and abilities unique to them.

It’s not a question of can a dog think, it is how much do they really know?

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By a Japanese Chin lover Linda Cole

Published: 03/16/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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