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An odd topic, yes, but sparked an interesting discussion between the bf and me last night.

Obviously, dogs go through some sort of thought process. They learn and associate places and people with different actions.

How do dogs think though? I'd think not in verbal language as people do (unless I'm missing something very big). Personally I think it's a mix of emotions and memories.

But also, how complex are these thoughts? Simple and childlike-I'm happy, I'm content, This hurts, I don't like that, etc. Or more complex-there's mommy and daddy, do they have treats? There is that dog that is always mean to me, what do I do?

I remember reading somewhere that dogs live (for the most part) in the present, but has this been proven or it it false?

Ok I'm losing steam...but yeah, I'm interested in what everyone has to say. This topic utterly fascinates me.
 

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My understanding is their thinking is pretty "black and white." Ie. My owner calls me = I get put in the car and taken home. There isn't any of the thoughts like, it was getting dark or I should have managed my time better. Just if I come when called, unfun things happen.
 

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While I don't profess to know what dogs think, and I do agree that they tend to live in the moment. I will go out on a limb to say, I think they know what is normal and what is not. For example, if you take certain dogs to the same place, they notice when something is new, or out of place, (say, furniture or a new object, tree or smell). If given a routine, they know what to expect. Deviate from that routine, and they notice that it is different and so, notice you are late coming home, or they are going a different route in the car. I think their thoughts are very much an image or expectation of what has been imprinted in their brain.

If I move a piece of furniture when Pebbles is not around, she goes crazy, pacing, panting and barking at the room. If I move the furniture when she is in the room, she paces and pants, but adjusts more quickly, (until she comes back in the room and has to re-adjust to the new "layout"). When I got my new car, they noticed it was parked in the same place, but didn't run to it like they normally would when we leave the house. It looks and smells different. They have no memories of riding anywhere in this car. Leann also notices different routes we take in the car and adjusts her demeanor accordingly based on past experience.

Pebbles knows I keep certain grooming tools in my night stand. When I open the drawer, she runs out of the room. She also knows that when I put my glasses on, (from the same night stand), I am settling in to watch TV and there is no grooming on the horizon. I had to train her to not react to the drawer opening, by changing the routine. She is now able to stay in the room comfortably when i open that drawer. But, it does trigger thoughts that she has to process which ultimately renders a decision on her part to either stay or go.

When training, they have choices to make. Initially, they don't understand fully, what you're looking for. Over time, they know that this behavior or action means this will happen. They begin to make choices to determine the outcome. This makes me believe, they know the concept of choices and, dare I say it, some form of reasoning.
 

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I don't even know how my wife thinks.

But I do think dogs are pretty opportunistic and pragmatic. If it works, and something good happens, I'll do it again. (As in, "I emptied the garbage can and found some really good stuff, so you can bet I'll get into the garbage EVERY SINGLE CHANCE I GET!")

"And I'll be your loyal and faithful companion - until I get a better offer."

We get into trouble believing they think like we do. ("You left me home alone, so I"m going to crap in your slippers.") Really, only people think like that.
 

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Temple Grandin is a Ph.D. in Animal Behavior. She is also a very high functioning autistic woman. She says that she thinks in pictures, not words, and that she is very sensitive to sensory stimulus. She compares her experiences to those of animals with tremendous success as an authority. She has published a few books that you can read for more detail.

Dogs try to establish patterns, including an extreme sensitivity to our patterns, gestures, and body language.

So, my opinion:
1. Dogs reason in the present: When this happens, I with get a snack. When I do this, I get scratched.
2. They don't think about the future: If I eat the garbage, I will throw up and when my owner comes home, he'll be angry.
3. They don't reason about the past: When I ate garbage, my owner beat me... therefore I will never eat garbage (I've oversimplified).
4. Most organisms respond to classical and operant conditioning - behavioral psychology. No thought is assumed.
5. However, they do expect consistency and patterns unrelated to time: I've slept on the couch, therefore I can sleep on the couch now.
6. I think that their thoughts are "complex" by your definition... but I don't consider those to be complex thoughts... More like thinking at the level of a 3 yo - a 6 yo human child.
7. BTW, Some dogs can count up to 5 (Retrievers know when multiple ducks have been shot and where they fell), they have some understanding of time -knowing when it is time to eat, and they seem to know right from left.
 

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Temple Grandin is a Ph.D. in Animal Behavior. She is also a very high functioning autistic woman. She says that she thinks in pictures, not words, and that she is very sensitive to sensory stimulus. She compares her experiences to those of animals with tremendous success as an authority. She has published a few books that you can read for more detail.

Dogs try to establish patterns, including an extreme sensitivity to our patterns, gestures, and body language.

So, my opinion:
1. Dogs reason in the present: When this happens, I with get a snack. When I do this, I get scratched.
2. They don't think about the future: If I eat the garbage, I will throw up and when my owner comes home, he'll be angry.
3. They don't reason about the past: When I ate garbage, my owner beat me... therefore I will never eat garbage (I've oversimplified).
4. Most organisms respond to classical and operant conditioning - behavioral psychology. No thought is assumed.
5. However, they do expect consistency and patterns unrelated to time: I've slept on the couch, therefore I can sleep on the couch now.
6. I think that their thoughts are "complex" by your definition... but I don't consider those to be complex thoughts... More like thinking at the level of a 3 yo - a 6 yo human child.
7. BTW, Some dogs can count up to 5 (Retrievers know when multiple ducks have been shot and where they fell), they have some understanding of time -knowing when it is time to eat, and they seem to know right from left.
Will definitely have to google her.

1. Agreed
2. Not enough experience to have an opinion so I'll default to the wiser :)
3. Where does this fit in with them associating things? Also how does it fit in with training-I did x action and a treat, I'll do it again. Or is that just conditioning and not "thinking"?
4. Guess that answers 3. But if a dog chooses not to do a behavior (sit, down, wait, etc.) because the dog doesn't find the reward enticing enough, isn't that a thought? "I might not get the chicken so I won't do this," or "I don't want to play fetch right now so sitting for you isn't happening." Or is this assuming the training is proofed?
6. Ok maybe complex isn't the best word lol. Do you think dogs can have abstract thoughts?
7. That's really interesting! How do they "test" that?

Will also check out "Inside a Dog".

Thanks for all the great replies :) I love this forum
 

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Not to contradict anybody, but I do think that dogs have some basic concept of future...I'm sure Caeda knows that "later" I will come back home, and "later" she will have her food, go for a walk etc. Yes, that implies some sort of abstract understanding of "later". I think there is also a pretty good understanding of cause and effect, which deals with immediate future. Dogs also very obviously learn from the past to a degree, at least enough to learn a routine (or maybe the lack of one).
I think it also depends on the dog! Some will do fine if their routine gets disturbed, others not so much, some people are like that too. Heh...I've met people who I would swear have less understanding of cause and effect than most dogs!
 

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Let's throw intelligent disobedience into the ring. Dogs, (mostly working dogs), or biddable dogs who will break a command if the conditions are not right to perform the task and then wait for those conditions to be right and carry out the command. Dogs who learn spacial awareness and will walk around a low hanging object in order to prevent their owner from hitting their head on that object. I'm talking of working dogs who's owners rely on them to carry out certain tasks.

Other than a form of conditional response, how would you classify this thought pattern? Or would you simply say, it is nothing other than some form of conditioning where no reasoning or complex thoughts are required?
 

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I don't even know how my wife thinks.

But I do think dogs are pretty opportunistic and pragmatic. If it works, and something good happens, I'll do it again. (As in, "I emptied the garbage can and found some really good stuff, so you can bet I'll get into the garbage EVERY SINGLE CHANCE I GET!")

"And I'll be your loyal and faithful companion - until I get a better offer."

We get into trouble believing they think like we do. ("You left me home alone, so I"m going to crap in your slippers.") Really, only people think like that.
See i don't believe that ALL dogs think "until I get a better offer" some breeds /dogs yes thst is true, but others are more loyal. But I think their "thought voice" is pretty black & white.

Here is another question along the same lines; do dogs "feel" grief? Do they "miss" a companion dog who has passed away? Having lost Izze it makes me think (tho I think she's gotten over it now) did Jo feel any grief initially, being where her pen is located, she had to see whatever happened to Izze. Does that effet her?
 

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"And I'll be your loyal and faithful companion - until I get a better offer."
Unless you're an ACD apparently. When we adopted Marlin from his old owner of 6 years, it took him 2 months to finally settle down and except things even with all the awesome treats, and toys, and hikes we were going on. Infact the seizures he was having a month after adopting him that we originally thought were due to epilepsy were due to stress and depression.
 

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Here is another question along the same lines; do dogs "feel" grief? Do they "miss" a companion dog who has passed away? Having lost Izze it makes me think (tho I think she's gotten over it now) did Jo feel any grief initially, being where her pen is located, she had to see whatever happened to Izze. Does that effet her?
Absolutely! My mom use to have two labs. These dogs were from separate litters, but were the same age and had grown up with each other from the time they were 7 months old. To say they loved each other was an understatement. 7 years later, Kohl, the male, was diagnosed with diabetes and his life quickly went down hill and eventually we were forced to end his suffering. Ashley, the female, knew what had happened and ended up in a deep depression. She eventually came out of it, but I think seeing her like that was even harder then being faced with the choice to end Kohl's suffering.
 

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I posted this in another forum:

I've also thought about dogs' perceptions of time. Their primary sense is smell, and I wonder how that informs their perception of the moment we think of as the present. They can smell what's in their environment now, what was recently (and not-so-recently) there, and sometimes what will be coming there. What we humans think of as "now" is a snapshot mostly of what we can see, with scent, touch and all the rest is sort of metadata about what we see. I imagine that a dog's "now" is more amorphous, sort of an accumulation of what is, what was and what might be, if we're downwind of something interesting.
 

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I think intelligence is present in all animals, but like with humans, it is in varying degrees. Some are brilliant and some are obtuse. I know that dogs can reason things out, I've seen it! They must know about time, past, present, and future - Mom will be home soon, so I'm not going to pee on the rug. Supper time is now - I'll wait by the food dishes. I need to go out, hmm, whining has worked in the past, so I'll whine until she figures out what I want...silly human is so slow...lol
 

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Unless you're an ACD apparently. When we adopted Marlin from his old owner of 6 years, it took him 2 months to finally settle down and except things even with all the awesome treats, and toys, and hikes we were going on. Infact the seizures he was having a month after adopting him that we originally thought were due to epilepsy were due to stress and depression.
Just what I was getting at, whoever says dogs will leave as soon as a better offer comes never had an ACD :).
 

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See i don't believe that ALL dogs think "until I get a better offer" some breeds /dogs yes thst is true, but others are more loyal. But I think their "thought voice" is pretty black & white.

Here is another question along the same lines; do dogs "feel" grief? Do they "miss" a companion dog who has passed away? Having lost Izze it makes me think (tho I think she's gotten over it now) did Jo feel any grief
initially, being where her pen is located, she had to see whatever happened to Izze. Does that effet her?
I believe dogs grieve. An example...my sisters dog had two pups last fall, about 4 weeks later, one died. The mother dog grieved terribly....she cried, wandered the house relentlessly hunting under and behind things like she was looking....her sleep was disrupted for weeks, and even until past Christmas, if the remaining pup fell asleep, she would lie down beside it, wrapping her forelegs around her and locking them, staying that way until puppy woke up.....like she was worried she might disappear too.
 
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