How Dogs Think
Ever wonder what your pup is pondering? Us too! To solve the mystery, we dig into a couple of great articles about how dogs think by dog cognition experts.
Then we read a variety of Puppy Parent Replies to the question, “What do you think your dog thinks about?”
Do Dogs Experience Emotions?
Dogs have the same brain structures that produce emotions in humans. They have the same hormones and undergo the same chemical changes that humans do during emotional states. Dogs even have the hormone oxytocin, which in humans is involved with love and affection. So it seems reasonable to suggest that dogs also have emotions similar to ours. However, it is important not to go overboard: The mind of a dog is roughly equivalent to that of a human who is 2 to 2½ years old. A child that age clearly has emotions, but not all possible emotions, since many emerge later in the path to adulthood.
Dogs go through their developmental stages much more quickly than humans do, attaining their full emotional range by the time they are 4 to 6 months old. Much like a human toddler, a dog has the basic emotions: joy, fear, anger, disgust, excitement, contentment, distress, and even love. A dog does not have, and will not develop, more complex emotions, like guilt, pride, contempt, and shame.
Thinking About How Dogs Think
In this article, Kavin references several studies that help us “think about how dogs think.” She speaks about Alexandra Horowitz, a senior research fellow at Barnard College in New York City. Horowitz’s research in dog cognition, includes the mental processes that go into tasks such as learning, problem-solving, and communication. Her research helped open the door to more research into how dogs think.
The Canine Cognition Center at Yale University, using a game where humans offer dogs pointing and looking cues to spot where treats are hidden, showed that dogs can follow our thinking even without verbal commands. The Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany figured out that dogs are smart about getting what they want — they will eat forbidden food more frequently if humans can’t see them.
Researchers from Austria, Israel and Britain determined that seeing a caregiver, versus a stranger, activated dogs’ brain regions of emotion and attachment much as it does in the human mother-child bond.
Whatever they’re thinking about, one thing we know for sure is we love when they tilt their head!
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