What’s Really Going On In Your Dog’s Head?

We take our dogs to daycare when we’re at work. When we go to the vet, the doctor asks, “What’s going on today with your baby?” That’s because for most of the 54 million households in America that have a dog, our pet is truly a member of the family. Yet, a new survey reveals that dog owners have a lot to learn about our pets when it comes to healthy aging, the human/dog bond, canine brain health, and what it takes to help keep our best friend’s cognitive skills strong.

Dr. Brian Hare, canine cognition expert/researcher at Duke University and Founder of Dognition, has teamed up with Purina Pro Plan to educate dog owners about brain health and give us tools to help support our dogs’ physical, cognitive and emotional well being. Let’s play smart with our furry kids!

Brain health for our dogs, what is it about?

It’s called canine cognition. While I think many people are fascinated by how their dog thinks, not everybody knows what that really means – dognition. Simply, it really is just how they solve problems, how they make decisions, and how they feel about you. The things that are really exciting about our dogs is that we now have this new survey conducted by Purina Pro Plan who commissioned a national survey – one of the fun things people wanted to know was how their dogs think.   

What has been one of your most significant findings and how does that help dog owners? 

People are very concerned about the brain health of their dog, but what we saw was that very few people, 18%, recognize that it’s at the age of seven that a dog becomes senior and that’s when you see changes in the brain’s glucose metabolism, which can affect everything from attention, memory and all aspects of decision-making. So one of the things that’s important about the survey is that we discovered our dogs really become senior around the age of seven.  

In the typical home, what factors impact a dog’s brain health the most that their owners may not be aware of?  

I think that the exciting thing is that while we recognize dogs are senior, because of the change of the glucose metabolism in the brain, there are things you can do, such as exercise. Not just exercise for the body, but also for the mind; playing games that mentally stimulate your dog and also good nutrition. What your dog is eating is just as vitally important, and so that’s why we have this breakthrough with Purina Pro Plan, by creating Bright Mind. It has the specific nutrition to support your dog’s brain health. This is super exciting because of partnering with dognition, it gives you the chance to play science based games that will provide the mental enrichment that you potentially are looking for in order to help your dog stay healthy mentally. 

Where do we go to get more information? 

If you want to learn more, go to dognition.com/brightmind and be sure to check out what is super exciting – on that link you can find access to free dognition games. You’ll also have the opportunity when you go to any pet specialty stores, starting this month, if you pick up a bag of Bright Mind you’re going to get a free code for a dognition assessment; that’s a $19 value and that’s going to allow you to play the full set of dognition games to not only mentally stimulate your dog, but also learn how they think relative to other dogs. You’ll get the benefits of mental stimulation as well as feeding your dog food that’s going to nourish their brain and keep them healthy.

Are there any relevant signs or symptoms owners should be aware of, indicating their dog’s brain isn’t as sharp as it should be? 

Since dognition is a fast-moving field, what we know is that dogs, as they age, can have changes in their memory, their attention and their awareness. That’s where you know you can trust Purina Pro Plan which has Bright Mind Adult 7 Plus for senior dogs, but there’s also a Bright Mind Adult which is just for any adult dog. This way you can get ahead of the curve by having the nutrition maintaining your dog’s brain health. So I think those are the things that people can do and that’s what’s exciting – now there are actions you can take to maintain your dog’s personality. 

Is it available in stores? 

It is available in specialty pet stores, absolutely.

I hope that people will go try it and pick up a bag of Bright Mind. I think about it like this: when I had my dog, if you had told me that there was a way I could have kept his personality longer and have him have a healthy brain for longer, you better believe I would have done something – and now today you can! 


Dr. Brian Hare is an associate professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke University and a member of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, a division of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences. He also founded the Duke Canine Cognition Center. Brian is a New York Times bestselling author and his research has consistently received national and international media coverage over the last decade in such outlets as National Geographic, The New York TimesWired and many more.
What about new dog owners? Read how you can keep your Pup Fit & Healthy.

Photo credits: A.LaBrune, Dr. Brian Hare

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Andi LaBrune

Andi is all about having a joyous life, living in the present moments. Rocking it out on the homestead with her husband, 9 blessed children and some chickens and ducks, it's home for her in northern VA. She's the voice for Mompreneurs who want to get Sh!7 done! www.IAmCoachAndi.com.

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