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By Jasmine Hartman Snow

Through the eyes of Spot: what makes humans and dogs not so different

For nearly 15,000 years, the wolf has been domesticated, finding its place in the homes and lives of a vast number of people. Over the course of history, the wolf has become what humans now see as the dog. In homes, the dog has earned the name "man's best friend" for its compassionate nature and ability to insert itself into everyday life as almost another child in the family. Oftentimes people find themselves wondering what the dog sees humans and other animals as, what the dog dreams of while sleeping, or maybe even what color patterns it sees. Though dogs may seem like just a pet at times, they are actually quite intelligent and may not be so vastly different than their human counterparts. Here are just a few ways their intelligence can be seen:

Dogs' view of humans

In a recent study at Emory University and Eotvos Lorand University, dogs were examined through neuroimaging and odor response, revealing that they can actually sense a difference between humans and other dogs. The results of this study showed that dogs see humans exactly as humankind would imagine. Dogs were able to sense humans and were drawn to them more than to other dogs, due to the caudate nucleus, or reward center of the brain, responding to the odor of humans. The smell, and even the tone of the human voice, drew dogs in due to an association with affection, safety and kindness. Though dogs seem to be similar to many other animals, they are the only non-primate animal to hold eye contact with a human in an attempt to form a bond. This bond formed between dogs and humans allows the dog to seek protection from owners just as a child does from its mother. Dogs listen to humans and take cues from the tone of voice. When scolded, a dog understands from the tone of voice that it is in trouble, and when it does right, that can be understood as well. Dogs are very intelligent in this manner, because they, just like humans, can sense the one in charge of their care and can develop a strong emotional bond with this person, almost more than with its own parents.

A dog's dream

When dogs lie down to sleep, they enter REM cycle sleep just as humans do. When a dog is seen sleeping, it could more likely than not be dreaming. In a study conducted on rats at MIT, it was found that their brain activity during sleep was the same as the brain activity found while running a maze earlier in the day. The conclusion of this study was that rats were dreaming about what they had done previously in the day: running in a maze. It is believed that dogs dream the same way. Dogs, just like rats and humans, can dream about what happened during their day. Dogs, even more similarly to humans, can dream about things that are true to their nature. Dogs tend to dream according to their breed and size. A small dog has more rapid changes of dreams than a large dog, and a puppy or old dog has more dreams than a middle-aged dog. As far as breed goes, an Australian Cattle Dog may dream of herding cattle in its sleep, while a Pointer may in fact dream of finding and catching prey. In this way of dreaming, dogs are more like humans in their sleep than previously thought.

Colors seen by dogs

While dogs might be highly intelligent, the colors that they see are very limited. Humans see a wide variety of colors due to the presence of three cones in their eyes, but dogs only have two and thus see in blue and yellow. This lack of a third cone does not allow dogs to see in red and green. It was long believed that dogs only saw in black and white or maybe even in the brightness of objects, but this was proved a myth by Russian scientists. In an experiment, dark yellow paper was placed in front of food bowls that had meat in them. Dogs were placed in front of bowls with dark yellow paper and light yellow paper, and they learned that the dark yellow paper was associated with meat, which led researchers to conclude that dogs do not see in brightness, but rather in actual color. This particular fact actually upgrades the vision of dogs from what humans previously believed. The vision of dogs is similar to that of a colorblind human, but is not completely lacking in color. Dogs can see and distinguish color, lending yet another hand to the intelligent and complex nature of dogs.


Though dogs may seem like just a pet at times, they are actually quite intelligent and may not be so vastly different than their human counterparts. In many ways, dogs have evolved since being domesticated as wolves. Though wolves are intelligent in their own respect, dogs have come a long way through their domestication by humans and are now even more understood than before due to advances in science.

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