6 min read


Does Your Dog Understand Cause And Effect?



6 min read


Does Your Dog Understand Cause And Effect?


It’s time to go further into the psyche of your family dog and enter the realm of cause and effect. It sounds ominous, but you might be amazed at the findings in this in-depth observation. 

Let's open Pandora’s Box and explain what this really means. Say your Fox Terrier decides to dig a hole under the fence and makes a great escape to the local park. Does he know this action could have a far –reaching effect? This little dog may not know that by leaving the safety of home (the cause) an effect could be he loses his way or something worse. Take the time to find out how your dog measures up. It’s sure to be a fascinating read!


Signs Your Dog Is Trying To Make Sense Of Cause And Effect

The news is out!

Your dog has a limited understanding of cause and effect. His power of reason has been stunted by becoming a household pet.

What once was a wolf is now a sweet, little Japanese Chin who can’t quite get his pretty Emperor head around the string going up the hallway and who is controlling it. It’s like pieces of a puzzle he can’t quite get to fit!

The human race has made your family dog completely reliant while reducing their cognitive skills. Out in the wilderness, dogs would need to use their powers of deduction like their brotherly wolves, to find plentiful hunting grounds plus shelter from predators and the elements.

Need an example?

You leave the house and return to find Max, your Bull Mastiff, standing in a sea of pillow inners, looking a little guilty for his sins. Max may be oblivious to the chaos he has caused and hasn’t given a whole lot of thought to the overall effect. In your mind, he has done wrong and your tone of annoyance is likely to make him either submissive or defensive. When confronted, Max is likely to show a mixture of doggy-body language including flattening his Bull Mastiff ears, wagging his tail or not looking directly at you.

Other indicators Max is nervous could be what appears to be a goofy grin, where his teeth show but not in a threatening way. Funny dog pictures often depict this unique phenomenon, but the truth is your pet pooch is not laughing out loud; instead, he’s displaying his submissive side.

Another scenario could be your beloved beagle Lucy has decided your home needed a décor makeover and spent the entire morning re-arranging the rugs and taking down the curtains. Lucy may have had good intentions and after all, you were thinking of changing the decor - but the look of horror on her pet-moms face might stimulate signs that sees her heading for the door. Lucy’s lack of awareness about how cause and effect works has her a little irate and she is growling as if she means it.

Another giveaway sign Lucy is not in a happy place is she's holding direct eye contact with you and it looks like she is about to lung. Such naughty behavior causes an instant response, but Lucy is not impressed and holds her rigid, alert stance as if preparing to fight.

She is now guarding her grand design and scratching the floor in retaliation.  Body language in dogs can be complex and easily misunderstand, so while Lucy is showing every indication she is about to strike, it could actually be out of fear. 

Mixed messages are classic in humans as well as dogs so learning to read the difference between fear and aggression will make life with your dog a paw-some time.

Body Language

Here are some clears signs your dog is unsure about cause and effect:<br/>

  • Growling
  • Alert
  • Guarding
  • Scratching
  • Wag Tail
  • Ears Drop

Other Signs

More signs your doggy pal is learning about cause and effect:<br/><br/><br/>

  • Barring His Teeth
  • Holding Eye Contact
  • Lunging
  • Attacking
  • Turning His Back On You

History Of Cause And Effect In Dogs


Dogs evolved from the grey wolf thousands of years ago, or so is the general consensus - but not so say a global team of researchers seeking the truth. They took chromosome samples from three grey wolves living in China, Croatia and Israel, where dogs first originated, then from the Dingo dog of Australia and Basenji dog in Africa. Their findings might just rock history as their study result was an Albert Einstein moment in the making!

If you are thinking the dog theory made more sense, you’d be right, as it throws long-held ideas we learned at school, right out the window. History is often a guessing game but us humans are downright curious and just have to know. Maybe there was fine romance with wolves that created dogs as we know them today - and maybe dogs have a distant Dingo daddy! 

So how does this brand new theory equate to our gregarious Griffin or regal Bichion and their issue with cause and effect? Putting the psychology aside it, could the Dingo – Basenji dog or an extinct species of wolf have given us these loyal companions? After all, the Aussie Dingo is a wild dog renowned for its quick-witted, logical and extremely inventive attributes.

This exciting stuff recorded on "CS Monitor “is sure to be debated for years. History shows mankind has made a profound change to the way dogs view cause and effect, impeding the razor sharp skills possessed by their wild dog and wolf ancestors.

Science Debates Cause And Effect In Dogs


Next time you tell Rover its chow time, have a thought for his ancient forefather, the wolf, who was a master at the art of cause and effect. Recent studies offer proof that turning dogs into cute family pets has weakened their ability to grasp what wolves take for granted. 

“The Daily Mail” featured a great piece where 14 dogs and 13 people-socialized wolves were put through their paces, finding the awareness of wolves was rated higher than man’s best friend. This fascinating insight took place at the Wolf Science Center in Vienna, where wolves were voted the supreme winners when it to came to the power of perception. It’s interesting to note that many ancient cultures recognized the wolf as a powerful, intuitive animal -worthy of its spiritual symbolism.

So what happened to our pooch pal, who snuggles up to us at night and is waiting with such loyalty when we return home from work? In a nutshell, our affection and need to treat them as our own, has made Max and Lucy our dependents. Where they once walked through the wild, howling at the moon, today they are happy playing with their toys and waiting for their pet mom or dad to show them some love. Times have changed and with that, the evolution of dogs has been altered

Wait one moment!

There is a glimmer of hope pertaining to the real-life story of Bobby the Wonder Dog, as recorded by “Story Pick,” who by chance was lost (cause) when his family went on a road trip to Indiana. Over the course of six months, he travelled 4, 105 Km to return home to his family (effect).

Bobby worked out his pet parents were gone and realized he alone had to use his wolf powers of deduction to get back to those he loved. Other stories like this show a hope for the domestic dog to re-kindle his survival code and harness the perception of cause and effect.

Other animals who are tuned to the principle of cause and effect are parrots, cats, rats, raccoons and more. The common denominator being all these animals are independent and intelligent.

Train Your Dog To Understand Cause And Effect


Now we know Bailey, your much adored German shepherd, has lost a few survival skills, so its essential he has a good training program to keep him safe. In the wild, he would instinctively sense danger, but in the comfort of his pet bed, Bailey is not aware there is a lot to be concerned about. 

Every day the dingo has one eye open as opportunity for food comes into sight. Bailey, on the other hand, has his food on tap, so a nice snooze before dinner is preferable. Training domesticated dogs like Bailey reclaims his ability to perceive cause and effect.

During the course of a day and while in the local park, Bailey might pick up something that could hurt him, so the classic “LEAVE IT” is a good start with safety training. This way, the action is quick and hopefully, no harm is done.

A quick training trip is to sit on the floor with your pal holding treats enclosed in both hands. When Bailey tries to get a treat, say “leave it” - close your hand and keep repeating the process. When he finally stops trying to take the treat, give him a tasty morsel from your other hand. He’ll soon understand rewards are for getting it right.The other "DROP IT" command works just as well and you can use a ball to teach it to Rover.

Wild dogs and wolves have an uncanny way of knowing through intuition and smell not to pick up that plastic bag or piece of old hamburger thrown down by a careless person. Bailey might be more curious and unaware it could hurt him, so when his guardian says "leave it", he listens. Teaching your pooch to do this on request will require patience and repetition.

"WAIT" is another safety-training-essential to keep Bailey protected when he is off-leash. To be honest, that one word could save his life if danger is imminent. When teaching to wait, put him on a leash, hold the other end and say wait. When he does, say "good"," yes" or any positive word followed by a treat.

Your dog may never be as smart as Sherlock Holmes when it comes to problem-solving, but deep within lies a wilder side, waiting to master the art of cause and effect.

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Written by a Japanese Chin lover Linda Cole

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 01/26/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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