What is Your Dog Thinking?

Golden retriever puppy laying on a couch with a quizzical look

I get it. We are incredibly enlightened and interesting beings. Who wouldn’t want to know what goes through our head on a daily basis? Stay tuned people. It’s about to get weird up in here.

Dogs have the cognitive capacity to experience emotional, yet redundant thoughts throughout the day. A dog’s thought process is derived from consistent human interaction, along with continuous training, physical stimulation, and daily repetition. Dog’s have identical emotional brain structures to humans and even produce oxytocin, the hormone responsible for love.

Disclaimer: The Can My Dog articles contain information based on the individual research and opinions of the author of the site – who just so happens to be a dog. How you utilize the information given is completely up to you. Proceed at your own risk.

Can My Dog Have Thoughts?

Have you ever had a one on one stare off with your dog and wondered…what are they thinking about right now? Can they even have thoughts? Does he feel guilty about chewing my flip flop? Does he actually enjoy watching TV with me?

In short, yes, your dog can and does have thoughts.

Luckily for us, neuroscientists have had the same questions for decades and have since studied the brains, actions, and behaviors of dogs in order to fully understand a pupper’s thought process.

Leading the way on the topic is Behaviorist, Stanley Coren from The University of British Colombia who continues to highlight the behavioral responses and receptiveness of dogs through their barks, tail wags, and dream state.

Are Dogs Emotional?

A dog’s brain structure is identical to the synapsis yielding emotion in their human counterparts.

As a matter of fact, dogs have oxytocin, the hormone responsible for love and affection.

Hold on though. Don’t get too carried away with the emotional capabilities of your dog. Most dogs have the mental capacity of a 2 year old human child.




Not always.

Nevertheless, your dog will progress through mental development stages at a much faster rate than a two-legged child will.

Basic Dog Emotions

  • Fear
  • Excitement
  • Anxiety or Distress
  • Joy
  • Love
  • Anger

Some people may argue a dog’s ability to feel shame.

When you come home to a trash bag torn open with garbage strung across your living room floor and find your dog cowering in the corner with the look of guilt and shame slathered across his face, you have a solid shame argument.

However, your dog is actually anticipating your anger and his punishment. He doesn’t understand shame or guilt. This is why they don’t necessarily care if you dress them in a hotdog costume for Halloween.

As a matter of fact, this type of destructive behavior you just came home to could be an indicator of boredom. I wrote an entire article on that very topic. I’ll link it here for your reference.

Does My Dog Enjoy Watching TV With Me?

On an old TV?


On a new TV?


A dogs eyesight is exponentially better than that of a human’s. Older televisions display light and imaging at a slower rate than the newer models.

Because of the lack of visual display in older tv sets, dogs had a hard time observing images off of a screen the same way humans did. The pictures just weren’t worthy of their time.

Now though, with higher resolution screens refreshing images at a faster rate, your dog can focus their attention on the TV in a more meaningful manner.

Dog’s particularly enjoy watching other animals on TV. They are familiar with the sounds and this yields to their innate instincts.

The animal planet is definitely a channel you and your pup can bond over.

As a matter of fact, I made a case for your dog’s ability to learn things from watching television. If you’re at all interested, I’ll link that article here for you.

If My Dog Has Thoughts – Do They Dream Too?

Have you ever hear your dog bark in their sleep?

What about cry in their sleep?

I’m sure you’ve seen them running in their sleep.

All of these are indicative of your dog having a dream while asleep. As a matter of fact, as a dog sleeps, their brain wave activity closely parallels that of a human’s brain.

Most dreams are in direct response to what has happened to you that day or weeks past – some even on a subconscious level. That being said, a dog naturally has dreams of their experiences from that day or days before.

Animals far less superior – mentally speaking – to dogs have been said to experience a dream state. Mice for example are among these. If mice can dream, best believe a dog has the capabilities.

Scientifically speaking, electrical patterns appear during a sleeping dog’s recorded brain activity in exactly the same way a dream is recorded in a human’s brain.

If Dogs Dream – Do They Have a Good Memory?

Yes. Dog’s have the ability to memorize and remember occurrences, actions, behaviors, and commands.

Have you ever taught your dog how to sit?

Once you repeat and teach this command, what do they do when you tell them to sit?

They sit.

In it’s most basic form, this is a direct reflection of your dogs ability to remember and / or memorize out of repetition.

In fact, your dog may remember more than you think.

“Researchers explored whether dogs have access to episodic memory, meaning remembering moments that have happened, but with no conditioning to expect that these moments may occur again. The results showed that the dogs were able to recall unconditioned episodes after a period of time passed, similar to human experience. This means that dogs remember people, places, and especially phrases without having to be rewarded for their behavior. It helps them better learn how humans communicate with them, and how they can most effectively communicate with us.” (Source)

The End.

Dogs are truly brilliant creatures with expansive mental capabilities that far exceed many expectations.

It is important to talk to your dog, train your dog on a consistent and an on-going basis, and love your dog every day. These interactions allow for productive engagement causing heightened cognitive abilities in your dog.

When this happens, their thought process improves drastically.

Don’t underestimate us, humans!

And as always, continue to Live, Love, Laugh, and Scratch our bellies often.

Love you guys,


P.S. If you’re new to this world, you may want to check out my Ultimate Guide for First Time Dog Parents. It’s a great reference to get you started on this journey.

This article has been reviewed by our Editorial Board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our Editorial Policies.

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