Dogs do not speak or understand most of what we say, but sometimes they show signs of understanding that surprise us.
Dogs are very careful observers, and they also rely on smells as an additional source of information about the world around them – this is also the explanation for the occasional surprising insights into people’s moods and intentions.
Dogs often observe us, but do they gain any special knowledge about us from it? According to Alexandra Horowitz, author of ‘A World from a Dog’s Perspective’, the answer is ‘yes’.
Dogs know us – they know what we do, and sometimes why we do something, even when we don’t know it ourselves. Dogs gain insight into their owner from constant observation, and from a series of smells.
Our normal behavior is manifested in movements, so only the look or the way we do something can reveal to the dog what we intend to do next. This is one of the reasons why it often seems that the dog knows that he will soon go for a walk or that we will give him something to eat.
Even when we try to trick him, the dog will often know our true intentions – body language and the smell we emit reveals us. Although dogs seem like mind readers in this regard, we must point out that humans would surely be equally aware of other people’s intentions if they had the patience to observe someone for hours.
The dog also has an anatomical advantage in reading mood and minor changes in human movements. These are many rod-shaped photoreceptors that allow him to observe movement in a split second.