What are dogs thinking? Researchers making strides

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By Roseanne Tellez, WBBM

Dogs live with us, play with us, and sleep at the end of our beds.

Humans love their dogs, and often like to think they know what's going on inside a canine's head, but is that possible?

A team of researchers hope to soon answer that question.

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, a volunteer at Paws.

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," Santos said. "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?"

To figure all this out, researchers put hundreds of volunteer dogs to a series of tests.

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," said Santos.

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.

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

"One thing we have found consistently is how in tune dogs are with our emotions," said Yale student Maddie Marino.