Do Dogs Live in the Moment? 


There are so many reasons why people love dogs. One of the things people often observe about their four legged pal, is how they seem to enjoy living in the here and now. This Holidays4Dogs article will ponder the philosophical question of whether dogs really do live in the moment.

It is almost a romantic notion that a dog might, ‘live in the moment’. Dogs seem to joyfully go through life without reason to worry, feel sad, or suffer emotional pain. There are many schools of thought who believe this to be so, including many well known dog trainers world wide. However, the subject is certainly much contested and probably raises more questions than answers.

Instinct, or emotion?

There are many people who believe that dogs operate simply by innate instinct. This school of thought goes back to Rene Descartes, the French philosopher and scientist.

He claimed that animals, such as dogs, were simply unthinking machines without souls, or consciousness and, therefore, with no feeling for pain. Sadly, his theory led him to carry out abominable experiments on live dogs, including his own wife’s pet dog – in order to prove his point.

Brain structure.

However, thankfully, science has moved on in considerable leaps and bounds away from the ideas of Descartes and similar misguided philosophies. Science has discovered that dogs have the same brain structures humans have, which produce emotions very similar to our own.

This is not to say dogs have the exact emotional responses as humans, because clearly they do not. However, scientists generally concur that a dog’s responses and understanding of the world around them, is broadly similar to that of a two year old child.

When people suggest that dogs live in the moment, they are describing the fact that dogs do not have the capacity to think in an abstract way.

Furthermore, they are not able to consider past experiences which may colour how they approach a circumstance in the present.

It is true – dogs do learn and they can solve problems. However, scientists have also found they have limitations insofar as they do not think, or reason, in the same way we do.

Social intelligence.

However, there is growing evidence to suggest that dogs have a social intelligence in which a dog monitors his, or her, owner’s behaviour as a possible means of receiving help with a task.

This is not so far fetched when we consider how dogs are capable of complex tasks such as leading the blind.

None of this, however, proves that a dog is capable of multifaceted thoughts, or emotions.

The idea that dogs are stuck in the moment is largely supported by scientific evidence and research into many different areas of animal cognition.

Dogs have a limited sense of time which does not include the ability to link the past and the future to the present. This may be because their brains have not evolved such cognitive ability in the same way humans have.


It would certainly seem, dogs do not hang onto emotional baggage, or harbour grudges. Even dogs that have been terribly abused by their owners, still remain loyal to them.

The canine species seems to gain such happiness from enjoying all the simplest moments in life. They don’t regret the past, or worry about the future. In many ways, dogs are often much better than we are, when it comes to making the most out of life and being acutely aware of the importance of the present moment.