New study inside dogs minds: What do they really think of their toys when playing with them?

Palmer, a seasonal resident of Port St. Lucie, plays fetch Friday, May 6, 2022, at Walton Rocks Beach in St. Lucie County.Tcn Dog Parks Beaches
Palmer, a seasonal resident of Port St. Lucie, plays fetch Friday, May 6, 2022, at Walton Rocks Beach in St. Lucie County.Tcn Dog Parks Beaches /

If you have a dog, then you’ve probably asked yourself this at least a million times over before: “What in the world are they thinking right now? I’d be dying to know what’s going on inside that cute little head of theirs.” What dogs think is actually a super popular subject, and so many different studies have been done regarding different subjects as well. What do dogs think about their toys? How do they know and choose which ones are their favorite? Let’s talk about that!

In a recent study done by the Animal Cognition journal in partnership with some scientific researchers from the Family Dog Project, it was found that dogs use multiple different ways (modes) to sense their toys. This means that dogs think differently about different sensory waves related to each particular object (toy), for example, the way it looks, smells, feels, etc.

What is your dogs most favorite toys!? Why do you think dogs choose certain faves and what exactly goes into all of the science behind it?!

One researcher on the project, Shany Dror, had this to say about the sensory aspects of it all:

"“If we can understand which senses dogs use while searching for a toy, this may reveal how they think about it…when dogs use olfaction or sight while searching for a toy, this indicated that they know how that toy smells or looks like.”"

In previous studies done by other research companies, it was said that only a few certain gifted pups can actually remember the names of their toys. Now, personally, my dog would always go get something if I said “Go bring me a toy!” However, he would also always bring me his ‘monkey’ if I asked him to bring it to me. Jack was such a good and smart boy, and maybe if owners continuously ask for certain objects, their dogs will start to learn the names of certain ones!

When trying their best to train the dogs to respond to certain names of certain objects, they were being super closely observed based off of how exactly it is that they chose to search for the targeted toy.

When tested on finding certain toys in the light versus finding certain toys in the dark, while they were able to find the toys in both environments, it was, obviously speaking, just a bit harder to find them in the dark. Does this potentially indicate that dogs use too much of visual cues to find their toys and not enough smelling senses to do so?

When it comes to hearing senses of the studies, the pups were trying to be studied to see what they think of whenever they hear the words ‘teddy bear’ or in the case of my own dog, when he heard the phrase ‘go bring me your monkey’.

Ultimately, here’s what another researcher, Professor Adam Miklósi had to say about smelling versus other senses:

"“Dogs have a good sense of smell, but we found that dogs preferred to rely on vision and used their noses only a few times, and almost only when the lights were off…dogs sniffed more often and for longer in the dark. They spent 90% more time sniffing when the lights were off, but this was still only 20% of the searching time.”"

All in the all, the study just basically revealed that when searching for certain toys, it was concluded that overall pups, even if it is just super briefly, pay attention to different features to register it in their cute little heads of theirs, and other information using multiple senses.

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Which sense and feature do you think your own dog uses the most!? What is their favorite toy, and why do you think dogs love it?! Let’s chat down below! And as always, Woof, Woof!