Blog Post

What is Your Dog Really Thinking?


Your canine companion slumbers by your side, but are they dreaming of you? Do they feel guilty about stealing your steak off the kitchen counter and eating it for dinner? What are they trying to say with that annoying bark? Do they really miss you when you’re away?

It’s frustrating not knowing exactly what goes through your pet’s mind, but there are ways you can read a little more into your doggies’ body language and understand the weird and wonderful brains of your pooch!

Doggie dreams – Many people believe that dogs have dreams. Most dog owners have noticed that at various times during sleep, some dogs may quiver, twitch their legs and even growl or snap. At a structural level, the brains of dogs are similar to those of humans. In addition, during sleep the brain-wave patterns of dogs are similar to people’s, and they exhibit the same stages of electrical activity that are observed in humans – all of which is consistent with the idea that dogs are dreaming. They may dream of playing a game or their day–to–day activities, and even of you.

Wags and woofs – Did you know a wagging tail isn’t always a sign of happiness? Although most tail wags are associated with excitement and joy, others can signal fear or threatening behaviour. Usually your dog will exhibit other signs alongside this such as a hunched back or snarled teeth. A sign your dog is truly happy is when they are sitting with you quietly and seem most relaxed! A recent study suggested canines are most content when relaxing with or close to their owners.

Your dog has many different barks which may be communicating different things to you. If your dog wants your attention and wants to play; you will often hear a long string of solitary barks with a deliberate pause after each one; this is a sign of a lonely dog asking for companionship. A couple of high pitched barks is your dog simply saying hello to you! You will instantly recognise an aggressive bark as they will show their teeth and may take up a threatening stance or launch forward too.

Your dog’s emotions – Dogs have the same brain structures that produce emotions in humans, and studies have shown dogs have and show emotions of love and affection, fear, joy, anger, disgust, excitement, contentment and distress. Dogs go through their developmental stages much more quickly than humans do, attaining their full emotional range by the time they are 4 to 6 months old. A dog does not have, and will not develop, more complex emotions, such as guilt, pride, contempt, and shame. So when your pooch steals your dinner off the table and looks guilty afterwards; the emotion you may be seeing is merely fear that something bad may happen to them for their actions … they thoroughly enjoyed your expensive steak dinner and have no regrets about wolfing it all down!

Poses and posture – there are ways you can tell what your dog is thinking just by the way they are sitting or lying. If your pooch’s ears are pricked and they wont sit still; they are alert and on guard. If your pooch is curled up in a corner out the way, they may be enjoying a little alone time and wont want to be bothered too much. Your dog can even smile when they are fully content and relaxed; their mouth will be wide and curved upwards, and your will usually be able to see all those pearly whites.

Dogs are trusty companions and the more time you spend with your dog the easier their body language will become to read. Dogs pick up on human emotions, so it is likely whatever you’re feeling that day; your dog is too.

We still have a lot to learn about the doggie brain and it may be a while before we can delve deeper into it. However for now; it’s good to know that our dogs really do love us. We can quote and know for sure; a dog really is a man’s best friend.


Student Veterinary Nurse