What We Think vs. What Our Dogs Think!

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We live very closely with our dogs and we want them to have the best life possible. Our desire sometimes causes us to start thinking about our dogs more like furry people, rather than a member of the canine genus. The following are a few of the most common mis-thoughts we have when it comes to what our dogs are thinking or feeling.


What We Think

We love big beds, pillows, and oversized couches. Our dogs must love big large beds and giant kennels.

What Our Dog Thinks

Dogs are den animals. They prefer dark spaces that are small and cozy This goes double for timid and spooky dogs). What may seem dark and cramped to you, is comforting to them. As long as your dog can stand up, turn around, and lie down, they have space. I have a friend whose dog forgoes all the plush beds they bought her, to sleep in a nook under their bathroom sink because it’s dark, quiet and the floor is cool.


What We Think

A dog has his mouth open, lips curled back, tongue may be hanging out. As humans, we naturally think, “He’s smiling!” “Look how happy that dog is.” “He likes us!” or something similar.

What Our Dog Thinks

When dogs pull their lips back, it can be a submission grin, a stress pant, or a snarl – all caution signs that mean quite the opposite of “Look how happy that dog is” and definitely does not mean “he likes us!”

It can also mean the dog is hot, panting, or is having trouble breathing. The latter is especially true in short-nosed breeds like Bulldogs. If the dog’s tongue is bright red and swollen, he may be overheated and in need of medical attention immediately.

What We Think

There is one word that is used to describe a Basset Hound the most: sad. Why is that? It’s mainly because we see those droopy eyes and our human emotion kicks in. They look sad!

What Our Dog Thinks

Droopy eyes are a medical condition common in some dog breeds. They could be thinking any number of things, but in most cases it’s probably not, “I am sad.” And even if the dog is depressed, those eyes are not a sign of that emotion. They could be caused by ectropion (the lower eyelid rolls out) or Horner’s Syndrome (a nerve disorder that cause drooping for the upper eyelid).

What We Think

There is a slight chill in the air so we bundle up with a jacket, maybe even a scarf and hat. Some of us need a sweatshirt if it’s less than 20 degrees out. If we are cold, we think, “Our dog must be cold too!” And so we bundle them up in a jacket or sweater.

What Our Dog Thinks

“Finally, the weather has cooled down so we can play!” You have to remember your dog has a fur coat that nature gave him to insulate against weather. Of course young puppies, senior dogs and those with medical issues may not handle the cold as well as a healthy dog, but for the most part they really don’t need clothes and many dogs do not like to wear them. If they do, fine. But watch for signs of overheating in those clothes (a common occurrence).

What We Think

The tail wag is the oldest mis-read signal in the dog-human relationship. For some reason, we humans decided that if our dog’s tail was wagging, he must be happy! And we think, “Oh that dog wants to be petted!”

What Our Dog Thinks

It’s true, that dog may be happy. But he could also be on high alert, and even a bit stressed or agitated. Many people have been bitten by a dog that was wagging his tail.


What We Think

“That dog must be tired!” After all, we equate yawning with being tired. Or bored.

What Our Dog Thinks

While we don’t really know why humans yawn, it’s long been associated with being tired. However, for dogs, yawning most often means, “I am stressed” or “I am worried.”

What We Think

We mainly think of licking as a friendly act. We think, “This dog really loves me!”

What Our Dog Thinks

Why does your dog lick you in “greeting?” As much as we would love to think it’s because he loves us, it’s not a sign of affection. The simple truth is, you taste good. Sweat is salty. Maybe you just ate lunch and your lips smell and taste like barbecue. Your hands have grease from your chips on them. While we wouldn’t go lick our friend’s hands, your dog has no problem doing it if means he gets a taste of salt and fat.

Licking around the face is also an appeasement act used by puppies. So it can be a sign of an insecure dog.

As you can see, dogs are quite different from us in their body language and how they express what they are feeling. It’s good to stop and think about what you are doing for your dog. Did you make your decision based on what you think he wants as a human or did you think about what he wants in terms of doggy language? The latter will make your dog much happier and can even help avoid bad situations, such one where a bite may occur.

Melissa A

Cold weather clothes - My two Kelpies come up to me and stand sill when I get out their rugs. When the temp. is below 8C I always "offer" the rugs and they are always accepted.


Hello again Robert from Leonard.

My 21 year old Border Collie would agree with you.
But my TWO Greyhounds will not.

To quote you:
We love big beds, pillows, and oversized couches. Our dogs must love big large beds and giant kennels.
All true except for the kennels bit.

You must be joking they say !
Kennels !
Anything that implies being actually outside is beneath them.
(Except in a field where my boy can reach 65 kl/hr.)

So please change your word "kennel" instead to the 1st mortgage on my apartment.
Any room with a bed in it.
In fact, every room with a bed in it.
Screw sleeping under the bathroom sink !

My Rosie now with advanced liver and stomach cancer I have to be especially careful of.
She runs a high temperature continuously.
I dare not cover her up in bed lest she wakes up panting during the night.
What seems to be comfortable for her is to cushion herself into the doona next to me.
I am careful not to cuddle her too close during the night.

When we go to the park I put her coat on and she likes to lay on the cool grass.

My younger boy Scooter on the other hand is like a radiator yet still gets under the doona with me.
Then it is daddy who overheats.

Rosemary Chick

Robert thank you for your articles, Bazil certainly likes small spaces and will immediately go to one, if he knows I'm going out. My Son calls these nooks, Bazil's 'safe place' and I have to agree. However Robert I do know he is a dog-but-, I still refer to him as 'my fur child'.

Jan Chamberlin

My Cobberdog runs and sits in front of me, head up looking in my eyes with tail wagging. This appears to happen when she is happy and excited. When I am putting shoes on she is energetic and rubs between my arms and sits on the shoes I am trying to tie. She thinks we are going walking. I almost cry when I shut the door on this dog who has suddenly realised she is not going.
She is 4, I have had her 5 months now. I would have said she is the most quiet, docile, wise understanding soul.
Yesterday a lady came in the yard to return a wheelbarrow and the dog flew out the door barking aggressively toward her. She got out the gate ok and I called the dog back. This is new behaviour. She later tentatively went up Ti the lady but was scared. I thought this was her feeling guilty for what she had done. She had her tail down and spooked if the lady moved. She sniffed her and then burst out barking and growling around the lady. This is totally out of character. So there was something that threatened her and I take it as a one off. But thank you for the article. I will be watching and hopefully be more aware of her body language. Normally she is quite affectionate with others and pulls the lead to get to them. I am training her to not do that.
I think there has to be a lot of trust between owner and dog. Rather than me assuming what she is thinking, I think I will wait with an open mind and within reason let her guide me and learn her cues.

Krystyna Wise

Appreciate your information pieces and wonder if you have any suggestions with regards to my beautiful, gorgeous but stubborn 6 yo Goldie. He will NOT jump into my car hence his walks, albeit scenic/bushy, are very local and predictable (for me anyway). When he was a puppy I had help from a trainer and it seemed that Benji had no problem with this. BUT then after a couple or so visits to a groomer there grew a rapid definite downward spiral in the times he would do this for me and getting older (and heavier) I did get some help from friends and family (for whom he grudgingly obliged) getting lots of praise. However I am not able to move him from a firm sitting/lying down position whilst he points his nose towards the way we normally walk. Over the years I have tried roast chicken and other treats, he turns his nose up at these. Have tried to wait for him to change his mind also myself sitting in the boot and returning home without a walk x2 and x3 times - no good. On the odd occasion I get help to get him into my car. He is definitely not a fan of being driven. He has absolutely no problems jumping in when it is time to go home he even looks for my car at the end of a park play.

RobertKrystyna Wise

Hi Krystyna, on the surface it sounds like he really doesn't want to leave home or his area and is happy to get into the car only to go home.
Have you tried parking your car at the end of the walk and seeing if he would good in to go home? I know, if he doesn't get in you have to walk
home and then walk back to the car. LOL. Sorry without seeing exactly how he reacts to the car i cant help from this end of a computer. You could try a dog trainer but I'm afraid he may do it for the trainer then not do it for you.

Russell Meacham

Robert - all good points. They are not human, however as I look at my two Goldies near me, it is very clear that they express lots of different emotions and feelings toward both other dogs and humans. We do need to look at what they do as a dog, not as a personification. We can all relate instances where it is clear what our dogs are thinking - happiness at seeing an old dog friend or old person friend, sadness at the loss of a companion dog, yawning when they are just tired, facial expressions including smile like expressions when they are clearly happy and excited.... They are indeed complex creatures with their own individual personalities, likes and wants. The main thing is we bring happiness and fun to each other - even though we are such different species.

Monte Leverington

Great insight to our dogs. Many myths and misconceptions busted. Great article. Thank you.

Eva Kiss

Very interesting and good points…we have a beautiful big black German Shepard. Yes, she allowed on our bed or couch, but her favourite spots is next to our bed ( small area) or under a table…again small dark space…I’m disappointed about a fact why she licking my face! 😝 but I know she love me anyway… thanks guys! 🥰

Eva Kiss

Very interesting and good points…we have a beautiful big black German Shepard. Yes, she allowed on our bed or couch, but her favourite spots is next to our bed ( small area) or under a table…again small dark space…I’m disappointed about a fact why she licking my face! 😝 but I know she love me anyway… thanks guys! 🥰

Ewen Edwards

I love your bits n pieces! picked a couple up in this one, thanks.