Can Dogs Think? The Science Behind Canine Cognition Explained

Can Dogs Think? The Science Behind Canine Cognition Explained

As faithful friends, we observe our dogs, ready to learn our instructions, predict our tasks, work and play with us and help us solve our problems. We capitalize on their ability to use their good sense of smell and their urge to safeguard and defend us but have we taken a break to consider dogs’ willingness to think like ourselves? We know that dogs have ways of understanding things that support our everyday life to be a lot safer. But can dogs think?

Yes, Dogs can think. Even though they cannot describe you in words about what they are thinking, your dog can still think like a three or five year’s old human. Acquiring knowledge and solving a simple problem is like a piece of cake for them if you provide proper training with positive reinforcements. All the healthy pooches can also improve memory, attention, comprehension, and information with proper guidance. They are known to respond to familiar voices and decide whether someone is a friend or foe. Well if you’re still wondering whether or not your pooch can think, read on to know further.

How Well Can Dogs Think?

The brain of the dog is similar but smaller than the human brain. While dogs are not physically capable of speaking human words, they show us that they have critical thinking abilities. Scientists have demonstrated that dogs are as intelligent as a child when it comes to vocabulary. They have the mathematical skill of a pre-school child.

Dogs have remarkable recall powers, too. They have developed a memory system for recognizing familiar animals, foods, people, and places. Dogs can also create routines in their homes and predict human behaviors. With their exceptional skill of smell, they can identify stale or fresh traces of blood, drugs, and even locate bombs just by sniffing. Sniffing pooches and trained canines are considered the most effective bomb detectors; four times better and faster than humans. So, there is no doubt that their ability of thinking and judging smell /odor is exceptional. These skills are based on cognitive mechanisms that are not unlike the way people solve problems and respond to everyday challenges.

You might also be interested in What Do Dogs Think About? 

Can Dogs Think Like Humans?

Studies at Duke University’s Canine Cognition Center reveals that just like humans, different dogs have different capacity to brainstorm. The differences between dogs to figure out and understand things completely depend upon age, experience, opportunities, motivation, and presence of support. Dogs react to human commands and demeanor far better than any other animal species. This does not mean that your dog will even obey strangers. Like a toddler, dogs will respond, obey and be loyal to whoever loves them, feed them, and knows them better.

Just as a human becomes happy when appreciated, dogs also become cheerful when they’re appreciated. We bet that now you know there are striking similarities between human and dog brains. Researchers with MRI, or brain scans, have shown that as words and rewards light up some areas of the brain in humans, the same areas of the brain of dogs get brighter too. Like humans, dogs tend to have brain structures that have a vocal sensitivity and sensitivity to the content of their emotions. The discoveries gave a fascinating neurobiological insight into a canine logical system, their reasoning, and response which have never been identified in any non-primate species of the animal kingdom.

Why Can’t Dogs Think Like Humans?

Dogs and humans have strikingly similar brains. However, the formation and development of the frontal cortex are where people and dogs differ. Dogs have a slightly smaller frontal lobe than humans. This is the part of the brain associated with higher-level thinking-executive functions that control behavior and thoughts. In terms of impulse control, this can explain the differences between dogs and humans. Therefore, a dog may be capable of solving simple problems but they cannot solve complex problems with high reasoning like humans can.

Also, check out Do Dogs Dream?

How Do I Know If My Dog Is Thinking?

Owners think a lot for their furry friends, don’t they?  Likewise, your dog may be thinking about you too. Even if it’s not you or some quantum physics that they’re thinking about, they might still be thinking about their favorite snacks or when you last appreciated them. Wouldn’t it be amazing to witness your dog thinking out loud?

Here’s how you can figure out when they’re thinking:

  • Usually, dogs tilt their heads while thinking.
  • When your dog’s mind is hard at work, they’ll howl. Like howling in the wild summons their pack, dogs howl when they’re lonely and want company.
  • Lip licking and nose licking can be noticed especially before mealtime or when they’re expecting treats.
  • They’ll put up a forward posture like bowing when they anticipate you to play with them
  • Closing eyes and yawning can be observed when they’re tired of thinking

How Can I Make My Dog A Better Thinker?

The human brain develops from challenges and opportunities. As much as you like jigsaw puzzles and ways to use your mind to resolve problems funnily, your dog in the same way likes to challenge their abilities to think too. Some games emphasize and improvise your dog’s instinct and thinking capacity. Some of them are:

  • Treasure Hunt: This game focuses on capitalizing on your dog’s ability to use scent and solve problems to trace an object. Start by hiding their favorite toys in plain sight; get them to track the toy. Once they successfully locate it, increase the complexity of the game by hiding the toy in even difficult places.
  • Hide and seek: Just like a treasure hunt, this game capitalizes on your dog’s ability to track a scent and locate you.
  • Toy pick up: With positive reinforcements and a lot of dedication, your dog can learn to arrange toys exactly how you teach them to. Start it slow by teaching them the proper position of toys, this may take a lot of time but have patience. Don’t forget to reward them as they progress. This game will improve your dog’s memory and thinking ability.


So, can dogs think? Yes dogs can think. There are a lot of similarities between a dog’s brain and a human’s brain. Dogs can anticipate routines and behaviors just like humans. Your furry friend can understand your gestures and body behavior. So, it’s obvious that they think about you too.

Thank you for reading the article.

To explore more, check out our other articles related to dogs and their cognition here. 

Have you ever figured out when your dog is thinking? What do they tend to do when they’re in their deep thoughts? We would love to hear from you. Please share with our community by leaving a comment below!

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