How Do Dogs Think Without Language?

Like humans, dogs do not need a language to think. Dogs live more in the present and understand things using their smell, visual, and hearing senses. And if they need anything, you try to express it by barking, scratching, or trying to get your attention.

Sometimes I wonder if humans are the only creatures with imaginations and thoughts. I often see my dog staring at something for a long time as though he has been thinking about what to do. Then I ask myself, how do dogs think without language? 

Animals’ senses work very differently than humans, making their “thinking” process a mystery, and it may not involve a language. While it is hard to tell if they think like us, let’s find out a few things regarding how a dog’s sense works.

how do dogs think without language
How Do Dogs Think Without Language

Related Reading: The Scientific Reasons Dogs Are Cute

How Do Dogs Think Without Language?

Humans have verbal language that they can express in words. However, animals have a very different kind of language, and they mostly rely on gestures and the smell of things. Experts believe dogs visualize their thoughts through particular images rather than words.

You can train them using commands and gestures, making them recognize and understand certain things. Hearing and seeing the commands and gestures make them think of what they mean for your dog.

Signs That Your Dog Is Thinking

Dogs have a way of expressing their thoughts. It might not involve a language like ours, but some signs will tell you what your dog is thinking.

  • Barking/Howling

Dogs bark pretty frequently, and often it is a way of thinking or expressing their thoughts. Some dogs use howling when they are in thinking mode. Unless you know your dog’s behavioral traits very well, it will be challenging to know what their bark or howling means.

  • Pacing

Dogs pace when they think, especially if they are stressed. Dogs get worried if you leave them alone at home for some time or long hours. Some dogs get anxious thinking about their owners and keep pacing around the house.

  • Scratching

Scratching is not only a game for dogs. If you notice your dog scratching on the bed or sofa when sleeping on it, it can indicate that your dog is dreaming. Sometimes, they scratch things out of the blue when going through specific thoughts.

  • Tail Wiggling

We all love it when dogs wiggle their tails, right? Well, it is easy to tell that when dogs do that, they are thinking of happy things, which can be food. They also do that when they see their beloved humans and try to catch their attention.

  • Avert Eyes

Dogs do that when they are up to something, and it is not something good. Guilty dogs tend to avert their eyes so that they don’t have to look at their owners or the person confronting them for something. This means they are thinking of what they have done and know their humans are not pleased about it.

  • Not Focused

Losing focus when thinking is natural for humans and animals. You may find your dog staring at something for some time, but their eyes are not exactly focused on the particular object. Don’t you wish to know what they are thinking about? I wish I knew too.

  • Stubborn Attitude

When dogs are thinking of something but you want them to do something else, they do not like it. As a result, they tend to act stubbornly. So the next time your dog is suddenly acting stubborn, try to understand their thought process before forcing them into doing something.

  • Ignores You

You will notice that sometimes our dogs do not respond immediately or ignore when you call them. It is because their mind is occupied, and you better give them the space to think. Because no one likes it when their thoughts get interrupted.

How Dogs Understand & Differentiate Things?

Dogs can easily recognize and differentiate things using their three senses:

  1. Hearing
  2. Smell
  3. Visual 

Here are some details on how dogs use these senses to their advantage.

Hearing Sense

Dogs can easily distinguish the type of sound based on its tone and speech. If you are being nice to them, the tone of your voice will seem to assure them. On the other hand, if you are angry with them, they can understand that too. They can even hear the slightest sound that we do not hear.

Smell Sense

The reason dogs sniff things, and people is because it allows them to understand whether the thing or the person is friendly or a threat. Dogs can distinguish and recognize many things through their smell. It also helps them follow trails and hunt, making them useful as service dogs.

Visual Sense

Dogs get trained via hand gestures as much as voice commands. Even if they follow your words, they, sometimes, need a little help with hand gestures. That’s when they use their visual sense to distinguish between the signs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Do dogs think in English?

No, dogs do not think in any language. But if they are trained to use certain words and are shown what those words mean, the dog will begin to think of those words when they need to. 

Q. What do dogs think about?

Dogs can think about anything they want. But they live more in the present than in the past or the future. So, their thoughts mainly consist of food, games, sleep, and their owners.

Q. Do dogs understand our words?

Dogs do not understand everything we say. But if they get used to certain words, they can understand them. Once the dog gets familiar with the words, they will understand what you want them to do when you say the words.

how do dogs think without language
How Dogs Think Without Language

Final Thoughts

We think we know all about our cats and dogs, whereas the reality is that we don’t. Many behaviors of animals are still a mystery, and experts & scientists are still working on finding answers to them.

But one thing is certain dogs also think, even if it is not the same way as ours. So, the next time you find your dog looking less focused, barking without reason, wiggling the tail, or scratching, they are having thoughts but without any language.

stuart and his dog

Family Dog Expert Author

Hi there! I’m Stuart, a devoted dog lover and family dog expert with over a decade of experience working with our furry companions. My passion for dogs drives me to share my knowledge and expertise, helping families build strong, loving bonds with their four-legged friends. When I’m not writing for SirDoggie, you’ll find me hiking, playing with my beautiful dog, or studying music.