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 What Do Dogs Think About?
Dog BehaviorDog Facts

What Do Dogs Think About?

When you look into a dog’s large beautiful eyes as they gaze lovingly into yours, you have no idea what they are really thinking. That’s mainly because while dogs are our most devoted and trustworthy friends, learning more about the thoughts of a dog is not everyone’s top priority. However, it is a really interesting area and by understanding how they see the environment we can investigate the mysterious inner world of dogs. If you want to foster a closer bond with your dog, you must know what goes on in their minds at any given time. 

Do Dogs Have Thoughts?

Before we look deeper into the specifics of the thoughts that occupy a dog's mind, let's address the most basic question: Do dogs really have thoughts like us? Scientific research in animal cognition does suggest that the answer to this is a resounding yes. Dogs do possess cognitive abilities that let them perceive, interpret, and respond to stimuli.

According to the American Animal Hospital Association,

“Dogs comprehend human point of view.”

How Do Dogs Think?

Dogs do not have the same thinking process as humans do. They form most of their thoughts through sensory experiences such as smell, touch and hearing and emotional responses. Their learning mechanisms are shaped by all these factors. While dogs can’t put their thoughts in words like us, they do navigate the world using a mix of instincts, associative learning, and social cognition.

What Do Dogs Think About?

Now, that we have established that dogs do in fact use their intelligent brains to think, let's discuss the thoughts that occupy a dog's mind throughout their day:

Food Comes First

One of the primary drives in a dog's mind is food. Dogs have evolved as scavengers, making them highly attuned to opportunities for sustenance. Whether it's mealtime anticipation or scavenging for scraps, thoughts of food often top the canine mental agenda.

Seeking Safety

In the wild, survival instincts drive animals to seek safety and shelter. Similarly, domestic dogs harbor thoughts of security, seeking refuge in familiar spaces or cuddling close to their human companions during times of perceived threat.

Thinking About Loving You

One question that often comes to any dog owner’s mind is: Does my dog know that I love him? Research indicates that dogs have deep emotional bonds with humans and they express love and affection by seeking their companionship. Dogs often think about the love and attention they get from their owners, and these emotions foster a strong sense of attachment.


In the realm of dog thoughts, play holds a prominent place. Dogs revel in moments of joy and excitement, eagerly anticipating playtime with their favorite toys or engaging in social interactions with other dogs and humans.

Routine Behavior

Routine and predictability are extremely significant for dogs. They often think about daily rituals including walks, meal times, and bedtime, because these things offer a sense of structure and security in their lives. If and when these routines are disrupted, the result can be feelings of anxiety or confusion in our canine companions.

Social Hierarchy

In multi-dog households or during interactions with other dogs, thoughts of social hierarchy come into play. Dogs assess their place within the pack, exhibiting behaviors that establish dominance or submission based on their perceptions of rank.

Avoiding Dangers

Dogs, just like humans, possess a sense or instinct which guides them away from any potential threat or dangerous situation. From loud noises to unfamiliar surroundings, self-preservation plays a great part in helping the dog decide whether to flee or exhibit defensive behavior.

What’s That Smell?

Nothing comes even close to a dog's sense of smell. It is truly remarkable and has great significance in shaping their view of the world around them. According to PetMD

“Dogs have olfactory superpowers that can detect a human’s emotional state.” 

Their olfactory receptors often drive them to explore and discover their surroundings, as dogs process different smells to gather information about their environment.


Dogs have thoughts just like the rest of us and these are shaped by their sensory and emotional experiences. They can sense and feel fear, sadness, joy and anxiety. However, most of their thoughts are focused on things they experience in the daily routine such as meal timings, walks, waiting for their human companions and the source of various scents they come across.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do dogs think about when alone?

When left alone, dogs may think about their surroundings, anticipate their owner's return, or simply chew on toys or explore their environment.

How do dogs see the world?

Their senses, particularly the sense of smell, help them create their own world view. Visual stimuli and auditory signals also help them get a better understanding of their environment.

Do dogs have a sense of time?

The only sense of time they exhibit is recognising cues that are linked to their daily activities such as when it’s time for a meal or a walk. 

How do dogs see humans?

Dogs have a positive view of humans as caregivers and loving companions. They form strong bonds with humans. 

How big is a dog’s brain?

A dog’s brain is roughly the size of a citrus fruit like tangerine.