Scientific Research Tells Us What Dogs Are Thinking

I bet you’ve looked at your dog’s innocent little eyes and wondered, “What’s he thinking?” Unlike my Yorkie, Leonard, who stands on my chest, cries in my face, and then leads me to the fridge like Lassie leading people to rescue Timmy from the well, maybe your four-legged friend hasn’t figured out how to let you know he wants a bedtime snack… or a little extra lovins’… or that she’s sorry for pooping on your flip flop.

It turns out that science isn’t all serious – although I do consider communicating with dogs no laughing matter. Dogs’ thoughts and ability to communicate are more popular topics among scholars than you might think.

Remember, speech is just one facet of communication. Parts of speech like inflection, body language, and dialect are all important parts of communication. Some humans are non-verbal but they’re able to adapt and communicate their wants and needs, so why can’t dogs?

Dogs Are Intellectual, Intelligent, and Deeply Connected To Humans

Science has taken a look at the way a dog’s brain works in regards to communication. It’s also examined popular beliefs about dogs and what they feel in certain situations.

Scientist Marc Bekoff wrote the book, Canine Confidential: Why Dogs Do What They Do. This book dove deeper into common beliefs about dogs like, “You should never hug a dog,” “Dogs don’t feel guilt,” and “Dogs only live in the present.” Here’s what he found:

They need our love just as much as we need theirs.

It’s a common idea and favorite phrase: A dog’s love is unconditional. This might be true for that special good boy in your life, but anyone who has known a dog with a history of abuse knows that this isn’t always the case. Much like humans who have experienced traumas, dogs who have been abused often need heaping amounts of patience, reassurance, and guidance to learn to trust and love again.

Dogs are not hardwired to love humans no matter what we do but instead, their love is reciprocated. Just like human children, dogs need more than the basic necessities from us in order to live fulfilling lives. They rely on us for emotional and intellectual stimulation as well as social support. Playing a game of fetch or stopping to sniff every mailbox on the street is more important than us humans realize.

There’s a good chance they feel guilty when they eat our favorite shoes.

Some people believe that dogs don’t feel guilt. Ask my Leonard, “Who poopied in the house?” and hanging head and puppy dog eyes would convince you otherwise. Guilty Leonard aside, there have been neuroimaging studies that show dogs feel a wide range of emotions, guilt included.

They remember their past and they look forward to their future.

It’s a common misconception that dogs live in the present, although this idea may be changing. Google “dog reunited with soldier” and you’ll have no doubt that dogs have an impressive memory.

Some pups really love to be hugged.

People say you shouldn’t hug a dog and in some cases that is absolutely correct. However, being hugged is a preference, and just like some humans love it, so do some pups. Some dogs like to be hugged in certain situations, by certain people, or under certain conditions. It’s probably best to hold off on the hugs for dogs you don’t know, but if your fur baby is into it, then hug away!

Gotta go! Leonard is crying in front of the fridge again. What do your pups have to say?

Featured Photo: Belinda Fewings via Unsplash

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