Re: Does your dog or cat have conscious thought?
A little story. I was taking the family dog for a walk in the large college grounds nearby. This mainly consists of two things - playing fetch and sniffing tours (where I give my arm a break).
Sometimes she gets caught up and I have to call her to come. On this occasion she was rolling on the ground. Then she'd get up and hurl herself back on to the ground for another roll. She was so absorbed I couldn't get her to come to me.
So I walked to her. I realised to my disgust that she had found a dead bird and she was rolling on it over and over. I said "Zara, get up! Rolling on a bird! What sort of damn fool thing is that to do!".
That got me thinking - what got into her? The pat answer would be "to mask her scent for hunting" but she never hunts. It's not a big deal to her. Then it struck me - this was about dog gossip!
Here's how I think it goes ....
She found a dead bird, no doubt a pretty cool thing in the dog world, given that dogs are both hunters and scavengers. So she gets a good dose of the scent on her. Then, when she next comes across another dog that scent is like her saying "I saw dead bird!". Then the dog would sniff and go "Wow! You saw dead bird! You cool dog!". I expect a few more sniffs would establish the rough location of the bird.
I'm pretty confident of this. Her next interaction with a dog (and wasn't she keen to show off her special smell) definitely focused on the smell on her back.
Yep, they have conscious thought, probably roughly on the level of humans before their second birthday. Since dad's dementia has increased I find that dealing with him and the dog to be strikingly similar. It's all about basic needs with a few quirky little wants.
I agree with ionthetable that many humans don't seem too flash at conscious thought but are competent at parroting what they read in the tabloids and hear on talkback radio.