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Do Dogs Think In Barks? 5 Things You Need To Know (2023)

Do Dogs Think In Barks

25% of people in the world think in words.

And this is possible because we have a language.

So if this is the case…

Do dogs also think in barks?

And can they have inner monologues too?

Continue reading to find out:

  • If canines think like humans.
  • Whether dogs think in barks or not.
  • The truth behind the theory where dogs have actual thoughts.
  • 5 scientifically-proven facts you need to know about how dogs think.
  • And a lot more…

Do dogs think in barks?

Dogs don’t think in barks. They may either have thoughts in images, concepts, or smells. And the latter is more likely since they use their noses to identify something (e.g., people, places). Only then can the thoughts be followed by bark or a specific action. And this will depend on the scenario.

5 Things you need to know about how dogs think

#1: Dogs are food-motivated

If I ask what a dog thinks about all day…

Most would say that it’s probably food.

And if you’re one of those people…

Well, you’re not completely wrong.

It’s a well-known fact that our furry friends love food. And they especially go loco over treats.

Now, this is pretty obvious. So, it doesn’t require any evidence.

But, I found an interesting study for you:

A team of neuroscientists studied fMRIs of military dogs.

“What’s an fMRI?”

It’s short for ‘functional magnetic resonance imaging.’ And it’s used to detect changes in blood oxygen in the brain.

To do this, the canines must be awake during the process. So, they were trained to sit still using a reward system (e.g., treats).

And then…

The experimenters taught 2 hand signals to the dogs.

  • Left hand pointing down – means they’ll get a hotdog as a treat.
  • Both hands pointing at each other – means they won’t receive anything.

“What happened next?”

When the dogs saw the 1st signal (which means “treat”), their caudate region had an activity. It’s the area of the brain linked to rewards.

Then, when the experimenter did the 2nd signal (which means “no treat”)…

There wasn’t any activity detected in that area.

So, it only means that dogs indeed think about food. And they consider it before doing something like commands.


#2: Dogs also enjoy praises and bonding time

Dogs Enjoy Praises And Bonding Time

“You and food are the best combinations in the world, hooman.”

Yup, Fidos think about food most of the time…

But, the research above also says it’s not always the case.


According to it, 20% of dogs responded more to praises than food.

Also, the canines in the study were shown pictures of humans and other Fidos.

And the findings?

The reward region of the dogs’ brains acted differently when they saw a familiar human or Fido.

And this means that dogs had a positive reaction to them.


Do you ever wonder why dogs enjoy training?

Well, they don’t do it only for treats.

But also for the bond.

Yup, dogs love spending time with their beloved humans.

Not convinced yet?

Trivia: A study shows that the oxytocin level of a dog (a.k.a. ‘love hormone’) increases after interacting with their parent. And vice versa. 

How? This happens as they gaze at each other or have physical contact.

So, cheer up.

I know you love your dog so much.

But your pooch also loves you. And it isn’t solely for your yummy treats. 

#3: Dogs relate things

You might have had many incidents where your pooch fully understood what you said.


Your dog seemed to understand what you were doing.

Well, you’re not being delusional.

It’s true. 

Dogs do understand human words and even our actions.


Dogs’ mental abilities are close to those of a 2 or 2.5-year-old kid. And this is what Dr. Coren said – a psychologist and dog researcher.

According to him, an average Fido can learn 165 words. And those who are called ‘super dogs‘ can remember 250 words.

Okay. The latter might sound surprising.

But check out this study about Rico. He’s a Border Collie who can tell 200 different objects apart.

And Rico can leave you wondering…

“How do dogs remember things?”

Canines don’t think in barks. 

They do it by relating things.

“What do you mean?”

For example, your pooch knows you’ll take them for a walk because you’re holding their leash.


They observed that you do it every time before going outside. So, they started linking the leash to taking walks.

Also, your dog remembers they’ll get a treat when they do a certain command.

Some canines can be so observant as well. 

They know where their humans are going because of the clothes or shoes they wear.

Say you’re wearing hiking boots. And then your pooch sniffed them and detected earth.

“Oh no! My hooman is going up the mountain again…without me!”

So, your dog might suddenly act up – as if they know they’ll be left alone at home.

If you want to know more, read this article: 7 Weird Reasons Why Dogs Sniff Your Clothes + 3 Tips

#4: Dogs think of past experiences

This is somehow connected to fun fact #3. 

But instead of relating words and objects…

Dogs make use of their memories to solve problems.

To be clear, canines aren’t digging up their memories like us.

They can’t remember the exact things that happened to them long ago.

But PetMD says that dogs can have a ‘long-term’ memory. However…

It only refers to when they still recognize their parents after being apart for so long.

Dogs can also remember if they had a bad experience with someone or an object. 

Yes, they’ll recall how they felt. But they won’t remember what happened in detail.

“Okay. So, how do dogs solve problems?”

Canines do it by watching others. Say, you or other dogs.

Research even shows that they can imitate their parents.

The study found that dogs can remember actions done by their humans. And it comes with a retention interval of 1.5 minutes.

But take note.

Dogs are more driven to do something if they can get something out of it.

So, your pooch may only imitate the actions that will put them at an advantage. 

For example, they’ll mimic how you open a latch or drawer of their treats.

And they might do the opposite of what you do if they saw a better option.

Say, walking to a faster route to their favorite couch or spot in the park.

Check out the clip below of a trained dog named Albert. And see how he solved a problem using a similar approach:

#5: Dogs think about smells

This is also a popular theory.

But it’s highly plausible as dogs see the world through their noses.

Have you ever seen a Fido who’s not into sniffing?

Well, probably not.

This is because smell is a dog’s most superior sense.

Yup, their noses can smell better than their eyes can see.

Canines could recognize everything by scent. And they can even detect emotions and illnesses by sniffing you.

But, dogs can’t discern themselves in front of a mirror.


A study suggests that they still have self-awareness. 

This is because dogs can tell their body scent apart from other canines.

So the next time you tell your dog “burger” or “pizza”…

They might think of how they smell, aside from what it looks like.

#BONUS: Dogs also act on instincts


Canines may not also think at all times. And it’s only normal – even for us humans.

Let me give you an example.

Your pooch suddenly scratched the table or sofa.

Then you remember that you didn’t take them to the park that day.

So now, you may think your dog does it intentionally – out of anger.

But the truth is…

Your dog hasn’t done any exercise that day. So they made a mess out of boredom.

It’s an instinct, and they don’t do it because they’re ‘mad’ at you. It’s just something natural that they can’t control.

Do dogs have actual thoughts?

Dogs have actual thoughts. They may think of images, smells, old memories, or even food. Then they use this to solve a problem or get something they want.


Did you know that dogs dream and may have thoughts while asleep?

Yup. Vets say they also have rapid eye movement or REM sleep like us. And it’s the stage where one dreams.

“So, what do dogs dream about?”

Canines dream about dog stuff. So they may think of chasing a squirrel in their sleep or eating a pile of meat.

Do dogs think like humans?

Dogs don’t think like humans. A frontal lobe of a canine only takes up 10% of their brain, while it’s the largest region in humans. And this explains why we have better impulse control and memory.