Dogs May Be Aware of Their Own Thoughts, Study Finds

Dogs know when they don’t have enough information about a situation and will actively seek additional information, finds new research.

According to researchers at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, dogs show signs of possessing metacognitive abilities, or the awareness of one’s own thought process.

They conducted three different tests to see if dogs would be aware of having a lack of information and seek additional information. In the experiments, dogs were tasked with finding a reward hidden behind one of two V-shaped fences. A researcher would sit between the two V-shaped fences and place a reward behind one of the fences, while the dog was being held by someone else. Some dogs were shown the reward first, some were not. Scientists wanted to see if dogs would seek additional information by checking through the gap in the fence prior to deciding which one to walk around. This would mean the dog was aware of the fact that it did not know where the reward was and was looking through the gaps for more information.

Researchers found dogs checked more often when they did know where the reward was located, but that didn't mean they went behind the correct fence. Scientists say that could be because the dogs were just so excited about finding the reward they went for the closest fence even though they knew the reward wasn’t there.

According to the study, their results show there is some evidence of metacognitive abilities in dogs, although they are not definitive and more research is needed.