What Is My Dog Thinking?
I’ve heard many people ask, about some dog in some odd situation, “What do you think that dog is thinking right now?”
What does your dog think you’re doing, when you get in the shower? What does he think is happening when the phone rings? What could he possibly be thinking when he’s purposely rolling around in a rotten pile of fish and mud?
I guess I know what people are wondering when they ask the question, and I know it’s fun to make up anthropomorphic thoughts and imagine our dogs saying them in funny Scooby-Doo type voices:
I join in the game sometimes. This is my rendition of what I thought would be pretty funny if crickets are actually saying, chirping away in the trees:
Fun as it is, though, I’ve never really understood the question. Or at least how to answer it in any serious way. Because dogs don’t think in words.
Dogs don’t rationalize the way humans do. They don’t lay out questions, answers, beliefs, arguments, and objections the way we do. They don’t name numbers, or quantify time. They don’t make plans for the future or regret what happened in the past. They don’t think of how things could have been but aren’t, and they don’t have our concepts of “normal” and “weird”. They don’t consciously hate, nor do they avow personal promises of loyalty.
Dogs simply feel.
They want; they crave. They love; they fear. They relax; they tense up. They explode with joy or frustration. Most of the time when someone asks “What is that dog thinking?”, the only correct answer is that he’s simply perceiving, taking in, experiencing … and his feelings ebb and flow with that experience.
Of course how a dog is feeling about whatever’s going in is very important. Are his ears back, or forward? Brow furrowed or relaxed? Eyes thin, or are the whites showing? Tail tucked or up? Head low or high? And so on. Read a dog’s emotions and you know all you need to know.
Dogs don’t often make funny quips that would sell as taglines on postcards. They wouldn’t make good stand-up comics. But they’re fine with that.
Or so I think.