What do dogs think about?

Dogs are remarkably intelligent creatures, able to experience complex and difficult-to-interpret emotions. What do dogs actually think about, though, what is going through their heads, and what do they want? Let's find out.

What do dogs think about on a day-to-day basis? Food, squirrels, humans?
What do dogs think about on a day-to-day basis? Food, squirrels, humans?  © Collage: 123RF/Mukphotos/Serezniy

As much as we seek to read our dog's body language, provide them with all the training and experience that we can, and make them happy and comfortable, we'll never know exactly what they think. Do dogs hold complex opinions, or are their brains simply working in ones and zeros, yes and no?

Find out what dogs think about humans, music, and more, in this dog guide. What do dogs think about, do they have complex thoughts, and what should you know about the way that your perfect pooch's brain works?

Can dogs think? Do dogs have thoughts?

A dog's brain is both similar and dissimilar to a human one, both capable of complex functions and thoughts, but one more sophisticated than the other. While the more complicated brain is, of course, the human brain, dogs are capable of complex emotions as well as a variety of functions that even humans are not equipped to achieve.

Both brains consist of two halves, lobes that have vastly different but equally complex functions that provide the continuous flow of information throughout the body. Indeed, a dog can dream, recall memories (though these memories take vastly different forms to human memories), and can form associations.

Your perfect pooch can collect all sorts of sensory stimuli and process it in its brain. In fact, a dog's ability to process smell and sound is far more sophisticated than what we can process. When it comes to thoughts, dogs do think, but in a much different way to how we think.

What do dogs think about?

Dogs have extremely complex brains and think about a vast variety of different things. They observe and develop opinions, they wonder what's in store for their relationships and when they'll get their next bowl of food. While there's no way to specifically define their thoughts, there are a few assumptions we can make.

What's important is that a dog has no real concept of the future. It's not thinking about that vacation it's going to take with you in 3 months' time but instead will carefully consider what's about to happen at any given moment. Indeed, everything your doggo thinks about is generally extremely immediate and centered around themselves and their activities.

Here are a few of the main things dogs think about:

  • Playing and activities: Everyone knows that dogs love to play! They also require long walks, plenty of attention, and lots of exercise. You need to keep your dog active because it will get extremely restless if left inside, alone, and without any movement for long stretches of time.
  • Food: Like any animal including humans, dogs are preoccupied with their next meal. When will they get food, will their human give them a snack or a treat, if they do a certain task then will their human shower them with food? These are all the thoughts of your average doggo.
  • Love and emotions: Dogs feel very strongly, expressing their love for their humans through looks and glances, and often worrying about the state of their various relationships. They get happy, they get sad, they get excited, and they get curious.
  • Comfort and rest: Every dog will get tired after a while, and this will greatly cloud their brain and take up every inch of their thought bubbles. If your doggo is super tired then it will realize this, think about it, and take appropriate action (i.e. go to sleep).
  • Anxieties and curiosities: Separation anxiety and other serious dog anxieties often pair with an extreme curiosity for new and interesting things that are appearing or occurring within a dog's life. These new things will dominate their thoughts.

Always pay attention to your dog and look out for its body language and the way it is behaving. You'll be able to tell a lot about what it's thinking and pondering once you have gotten to know it.

Pugs have a look of constant befuddlement printed permanently upon their faces.
Pugs have a look of constant befuddlement printed permanently upon their faces.  © Unsplash/charlesdeluvio

What do dogs think about music?

While it is a complicated matter of whether or not dogs actually like and enjoy music, whether they think or consider the music is a different matter. Seeing as dogs have even far more powerful ears than we humans do, it almost goes without saying that they notice the sounds produced by the music we listen to – but do they actually think about what they're hearing?

The short answer is simply "no". While dogs will hear the music and will often respond in positive or negative ways depending on the music itself, they're not actively thinking of it as "music." Instead, they consider it a series of noises that they can either ignore or which agitate them in some way or another.

What do dogs think about humans?

The way your dog looks at you shows all of its emotions and opinions.
The way your dog looks at you shows all of its emotions and opinions.  © 123RF/rodimovpavel

Dogs observe their owners very closely and read their behavior better than probably any other animal (yes, including cats.) Most dogs have an intense amount of empathy and form a very strong and protective attachment with their beloved human owners. This is in large part the reason why dogs are referred to as "man's best friend," because dogs truly love the humans that look after them.

It is undisputed that dogs can, and do, think. They read your facial expression, the tone of your voice, and the way that you touch them in various ways and act according to these indicators. As such, their thoughts about you are singular to each individual human, with special love, esteem, and respect sent the way of their master.

There is no real evidence to suggest that dogs think particularly intensely about the future or about the lives of their humans. Instead, thoughts relating to humans are entirely based around the selfishness of your hound, and what the relationship has in store for them.

Dogs think, too – just differently!

You're never going to have a dog that considers the intricacies of politics. No doggo's going to care about Joe Biden or whether taxes on cheese are too high (though the outcomes of such a tax may end up having a disproportionate impact upon a cheese-loving doggo's lifestyle). All that your canine companion cares about is the love of its owner and the food in its stomach.

Don't go around thinking that dogs don't think about anything, that they're stupid, or that you don't need to keep your dog's feelings in mind! They can absolutely be hurt or emotionally distressed – it's just that the way they think is a little different to us.

Cover photo: Collage: 123RF/Mukphotos/Serezniy

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