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Who Else Wants to Know What Their Pet is Thinking?

July 10, 2017

Who Else Wants to Know What Their Pet is Thinking?

We’ve all wondered what our pets are thinking at one point or another, but what if we could actually find out? New scientific research is attempting just that, and has already begun to reveal insights into even the most mysterious of common pet behaviors.

So what types of revolutionary research are these scientists conducting? Let’s take a look…


Gesture-based research

What if dogs were able to read visual cues given by humans and other dogs to gain insight on things they otherwise wouldn’t already know? That’s exactly what Brian Hare, an associate professor at Duke University wondered when he watched his own dog Oreo’s behavior.

So Hare set up an experiment where he got Oreo to chase after a tennis ball after signaling the direction in which he was going to throw. Over time, he noticed that Oreo would run to where he indicated he would throw before he even threw the ball.

Hare theorizes that domesticated dogs, much like humans, can read into physical body language and could therefore read intent.

You can read more about Brian Hare’s research and company Dognition, in this intriguing New York Times article.


Brain scans

What if we could actually see a dog’s cognitive reaction to basic commands and situations, much like we can with humans? Dr. Gregory Berns, professor of Neuroeconomics at Emory University, and his team are studying how dogs think using the same medical practices and equipment that are used on humans: MRI machines.

In fact, a 2016 study using these tools found that given the choice, dogs prefer praise from their owners to food.

How’s that for a special treat?


Adopting the human perspective

One of the more controversial types of research being performed currently looks into whether dogs, like many apes, are capable of understanding human mental and emotional states. Previous research was inconclusive, so it remains to be seen whether this is something that modern domesticated dogs are capable of.


Total recall

Doggy total recall

People generally can recall seemingly inane events that happened in the past, long after the fact. But can dogs do the same thing?

Dogs are being tested for this type of “episodic memory,” by training them to perform simple actions that humans perform, through the “do as I do” method.

This method works just like it sounds: a person performs a task and then asks the dog to perform the task on command. The dogs were then tasked to do this with varying intervals to discover whether they could actually recall these events after the fact.

You can gain access to the full study, here.


It’s amazing to see what scientists are doing to further progress our understanding of the animals we call our pets, isn’t it?

If you had the opportunity to ask one of these researchers a question about your furry friend, what would you ask? We’d like to know! Feel free to share your questions in the comments below.

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