Researchers work to discover what dogs are thinking

One thing we have found consistently is how in tune dogs are with our emotions.

(CNN) – You look at their faces and have to wonder, what are they thinking?   “I think they understand how we’re feeling and I think they understand what we are saying a lot of the time,” said Andrew Tobin.

Paws volunteer Meghan Merkle agrees, “She’s extremely smart.”

Laurie Santos is the director of the Yale canine cognition center, where all they do is study dogs to learn everything they can about the dog’s mind.

“Dogs are just fascinating, we love them, they live in our homes, anyone who hangs out with a dog is kind of wondering, what are they thinking, do they love me,” said Professor Laurie Santos.

To figure all this out researchers put hundreds of volunteer dogs to a series of tests.  This one involves a book, the dog watches as his or her companion sits and reads.  Then she puts the book on the floor behind her.  A moment later, someone comes into the room and takes the book.

What we really want to see is whether or not dogs know when we’ve missed some information do they realize that, first of all, and when they do realize it are they motivated to help,” Professor Santos continued.

The results? Again and again not only do the dogs seem to realize something is wrong, but they also seem to be trying to alert their companions.

“At home he’s really observant, he’s always paying attention,” said April Ruiz.

“He’s a very concerned dog and there’s a lot of humanizing things about him,” said Sarah Locke.

“He was just kind of going, what do you think about this,” said Angie Johnston.

In another test, the dog and companion are relaxing in a room, when the researcher suddenly introduces a new object.  The goal of the test is to see whether or not a dog will become interested in the same item.

“The most surprising thing so far is how many of our intuitions about dogs are right. So we have all these intuitions that dogs have feelings and dogs want to communicate with us,” said student Rebecca Spaulding.

Student Maddie Marino said, “One thing we have found consistently is how in tune dogs are with our emotions.”

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