Dog Cognition: How Do Dogs Perceive The World?

thermal image dog

Dogs and humans share one of the strongest bonds between two different species on Earth. The connection has grown so deep, it’s literally become coded into our genes. And a wave of new research is shedding more light on these all-important dog-human relationships and what our furry friends are thinking. (Why so important? Just consider that 44 percent of American households have at least one dog.) What we’re finding out about how we influence each other, and our similarities, is nothing short of mind-blowing.

Dogs process and respond to things in ways that are similar, scientifically, to how a child behaves. Dog owners might know this intuitively, but new research is showing that the things we think we know might only be the tip of the proverbial iceberg. In partnership with Purina, we caught up with canine researchers to get their take on exactly what we’re finding out, and what they hope to learn in the future.

We know dogs, like kids, love our attention. Now we’re starting to realize just how big of an impact we can have on them.

Image credit: Nestlé Purina. From a November 2014 thermal-imaging study on how dogs respond to people.

One of the biggest trends in canine research is to use fMRI machines to study the dog brain and how it responds to stimuli, but it can take a year to teach them how to lie down in one of those machines, according to Ragen McGowan, Ph.D., an ethologist at Nestlé Purina who studies canine cognition. Last year, she led a study that used heat imaging to illustrate how, when a human is present, a dog will experience a physiological response. There’s increased blood flow to its eyes, ears and paw pads, indicating states of —> Read More