6 min read


Do Dogs Think Logically?



6 min read


Do Dogs Think Logically?


It’s time to find out if our dogs can think logically or if they are simply on auto-pilot as proclaimed centuries ago by respected scientists and philosophers. The arrogant analysts of the past were positive humans occupied all realms of thinking, while animals were driven by their basic instincts. There are archaic dog trainers who agree with this long-held belief and encourage us to be leaders of a human hierarchy where the family mutt follows instruction from the head of the pack. 

Luckily, modern science has portrayed the family dog as an emotional being capable of logical thought, blowing away the leaves of obsolete notions and paving the way for a better understanding of our canine friends. Do you think a dog can be logical? Let's explore the possibilities.


Signs a Dog Could Think Logically

 To understand if dogs can think logically, we find the medical director of Blue Pearl Veterinary Partner’s, Michigan Hospitals tells us dogs have the brain power of a 2-5-year-old and can problem solve. Like people, they can also be better at some things than others. Dog’s share a similar mammal brain to ours and can feel happy, sad, stressed or depressed. They feel fear the way we do and are capable of experiencing jealousy. They share similar diseases and talk to us with their own unique body language. 

When a dog tilts its head to the side we think its cute, but they are listening and trying to understand our intentions. If we have just asked our Collie to work out a mathematical equation, chances are their inquisitive mind will be analyzing the tone of our voice, while taking in our facial expressions to understand the request. That’s a big ask for anyone at the best of times, so your curious Collie may raise their paw as a gesture or whine and avert your eyes nervously. 

Dogs have a ton of body movements at their disposable from staring intently into your eyes to wagging their tail. When a woofer's not sure what you want of them, they can spin around, jump up and down, or start barking for attention. There's a certain logic in that, as they work through every available option to understand. 

Dogs with a smart, intelligent outlook are pooches of choice for the police and military whose lives can depend on their dog’s ability to think logically in a dangerous situation. If a bad guy has restrained a cop, it’s up to his pooch to make a conscious decision to help or run. Even though they are highly trained, how the dog is able to free his handler without injury will be up to the dog’s ability to think on their paws. Logic will kick in as the dog analyzes the best approach to getting the handler out of the situation safely. Some may disagree, but if you are a dog owner, you already know our woofers are capable of working things out.

Body Language

Signs a dog is trying to think logically include:<br/>

  • Staring
  • Barking
  • Head Tilting
  • Whining
  • Wag Tail
  • Averting Eyes
  • Paw Raised

Other Signs

More signs a dog could be thinking logically are:<br/>

  • Trying To Understand A Request Made By Their Owner
  • Logically Assess The Best Way To Do Something
  • Protecting Their Owner Or Handler

The History of Dogs Thinking Logically


If you’ve been living on planet earth and love dogs, it's likely you know that once upon a time, wolves met up with a few humans and decided it could be fun to hunt together and become supreme predators. There may have been more to the story, but it is true that wolves and man started working together and with the hunting logic of the wolf and the human's primitive but effective weapons - were a formidable force.

Humans are logical beings who saw the sense in combining forces with a powerful hunting machine like the wolf that could also protect their families from other predators. These two, smart creatures changed the playing field of evolution by then breeding the wolf into dogs with a purpose.

It didn’t stop there, as mankind saw the power in his hands and created Beagles, Poodles, Siberian Huskies, and Pugs. Like the mad scientist who created Frankenstein, humans literally played God and kept making more versions of dogs for companionship, vanity, and work.

The end result is a super-cool companion who leads the blind, listens out for those who can’t hear, and does a variety of jobs like detecting termites and finding contraband while helping the military and partnering with the police force. The grey wolf that had the logic to enter the camp-grounds of early man might be intrigued to see how things worked out.

Dogs may have drawn the short straw when it comes to being logical, as a study featured by NBC News explains. Researchers from Eotvos University in Hungary pitted wolves raised in captivity against domesticated dogs to find wolves were observant and could logically work out the best way to do a task. However, the dogs were constantly looking at humans for cues. All that training to sit, stay and fetch may have made our dogs too reliant on us. Wolves still have their wild instincts, which makes problem-solving a logical survival trait.

Researchers believe wolves and dogs are no smarter than each other, but the way they are wired is different. Thousands of domestication years have created traits that make our dogs similar to toddlers, who look to mom and dad for logical solutions to problems.

The Science Behind Dogs Thinking Logically


We couldn’t discuss the merit of dogs having a Dr. Spock type of reasoning without mentioning Chaser, the Border collie who has learned over 1000 words.

Elsevier tells us Chaser was trained from a very early age by her psychologist guardian who wanted to see how much a dog could learn. Chaser was tested over and over again by inquiring minds, fascinated to find this dog could logically determine that certain objects (her toys) had names and that the commands given to get the specific toy were separate from the name. Her powers of deduction could challenge Sherlock Holmes, as Chaser also knew her 1000 objects, were "toys," showing she could categorize all the items into one name.

According to Time Magazine, a study at Yale University showed dogs could use reason to complete a task while the children involved struggled. Kids and pups were taught to turn a lever to get a treat out of a box, which was then altered so it was no longer needed. The woofers used logic to open the box while the children kept reverting back to the defunct lever.

Quora attempts to evaluate whether animals think logically by referencing how wolves, the ancestor of dogs, hunt in a pack, and figure out how they can bring down a large Bison without injury. The guest writer believes wolves make logical decisions about nature and work within the confines of their calculations. 

If they were to approach a flock of sheep guarded by a dog, the chances of one member of the pack getting hurt would be reason enough for them to walk away. The dog could call for human help and the wolves would not have time to eat their kill before reinforcements arrived. The forefathers of dogs use basic logic to keep their pack safe. Dogs may have lost some of their wild instincts but are able to logically assess cues in training, which enables them to do great things

Training Dogs to Think Logically


According to Psychology Today, training your dog could make them a better problem-solver. Researchers of the Psychology Department at the University of Milan tested this theory. They chose one group of untrained dogs and a selection of trained dogs to open a box with a treat inside. They were initially taught how to use their paw on an attached apparatus or nose to lift the lid. The dogs could easily see the treat was inside the box and when the researchers closed the lid, they ensured each dog had seen them do it.

The study officially started when the dogs were allowed to roam freely and try to open the box, without any human help. The results verified that the untrained dogs were slow to solve the problem and only 30% of them were able to retrieve the treat. The trained group of dogs was more adept at completing the task with a 61% success score. It is thought that dogs with a high degree of training have learned to think more logically.

If you want your pet Pug, Bulldog, or German Shepherd to think smarter, there are fun games you can play to up their IQ

Mother Nature shares games that are designed for kids but could help woofers evolve their intelligence. The first game teaches your pooch that toys can have names. You might have a Chaser-like super mutt in the making as you put labels on your dog’s favorite toys.

Another cool game is teaching your dog to be tidy. Your pooch will need to have mastered the drop-it command for this lesson in logic to work. The idea is to get all the doggy toys into their box or basket, so this is bound to be a brain teaser. Asking your Rottweiler, Labrador, or cheeky Chihuahua to put their toys away is cultivating nice house manners and teaching them how to problem solve. When they pick up a toy, ask them to drop it in their toy box. Whenever they get it right, reward them with a treat.

The hot and cold game keeps your pooch alert as you place a toy or object on the ground and ask your dog to retrieve it. If they move away say "cold"  but when they get closer, tell them "hot", with a treat reward. A dog will need to think logically to understand what their owner is trying to convey, giving more food to the canine mind.

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Written by a Japanese Chin lover Linda Cole

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 04/17/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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