Dog Psychology: In the Mind of Mutts

Embed this Image On Your Site

Infographic Transcript

Dog psychology is every bit as intricate as their human counterparts’. Not only are dogs smarter than we think, but they actually share a lot of psychological traits with humans. Let’s take a look inside the mind of Man’s best friend.

Dog Psychology: Brilliant Breeds

60.2 million families in the U.S. own a dog. (1) That’s a lot of pooches. And it turns out, dogs actually domesticated themselves through evolution for survival.


Man and dog are the oldest friends in the animal kingdom. But it wasn’t just about humans taming wild animals—dogs did most of it themselves. (2)

Wild wolves, even as far back as 14,000 years ago, learned that working with humans for food and shelter was easier than going it alone.

Over time, dogs became co-hunters with humans, eventually being taken in as very useful—and cuddly—pets.

Through artificial selection, humans have created a wide array of dog breeds. Some breeds are considered more intelligent than others. The top 10 smartest dog breeds include: (3)

  1. Border Collie
  2. Poodle
  3. German Shepherd
  4. Golden Retriever
  5. Doberman Pinscher
  6. Shetland Sheepdog
  7. Labrador Retriever
  8. Papillon Dog
  9. Rottweiler
  10. Australian Cattle Dog

But all dogs possess some truly impressive brainpower!

Doggone Clever

Through the years, animal behavioral scientists have discovered a lot about the canine mind. (4,5,6)

Dogs do dream.

It’s probably pretty obvious by the way dogs “sleep run” on their sides, or the way their eyes twitch. For an average-sized dog, dreaming begins after 20 minutes of sleep. This is during their REM, or Rapid Eye Movement, sleep phase.

They leverage the power of the bark.

Dogs are smart enough to know that barking attracts attention. It isn’t always for the same reason, but barking is a self-rewarding activity that usually results in them getting what they want.

They’re about as smart as a toddler.

Most dogs are around as intelligent and intuitive as a two-year-old human.

No, they don’t feel guilt.

That torn up newspaper or de-stuffed pillow you found in the living room? They’re not sorry they did it, just sorry they got caught.

They pick up and even act on our emotions.

Emotions are contagious, and dogs can sense and mirror their owner’s feelings. If you don’t like someone, chances are your dog doesn’t like them either.

They recognize many words and gestures.

Dogs recognize about 150 words, though some dogs know even more.

They have an innate understanding of fairness.

Unlike some humans, dogs recognize that behaving fairly helps everyone have fun. Even bigger, dominant dogs take part in submissive behavior during play to level the playing field.

Dog Psychology: Just Like Us

So what do humans and dogs have in common? A lot, actually. (7,8)

Dogs mimic the behavior of older dogs.

Just like humans, dogs follow behavior patterns of mentors or authority figures.

Dogs can read facial expressions.

This is why you might catch them staring at you instead of where you’re looking. They want to know how you’re feeling and can tell by your face.

Dogs experience jealousy.

Yes, your dog is totally irritated that you are petting another dog.

Dogs react to sounds of joy and pain from others.

Dogs and humans both developed the ability to speak 100 million years ago, when both species shared their last common ancestor. They now react similarly to learned sounds of emotion.