When asked if dogs have the ability to reason I am left pondering. Is their amazing ability to survive and thrive in life due to their reasoning ability or is it a more learned ability to survive or simply instinct? When a dog performs an act; a behavior in life such as going to the cookie cupboard; is this an act of reasoning or the fact that they have learned through life experiences through action and reaction?
Reason - the mental powers concerned with forming conclusions, judgments, or inferences.
It truly is a difficult question; dogs are amazing creatures who learn through association. They are much smarter than many give them credit. And I have personally witnessed many canine behaviors that have blown me away. But the question still lies; can they reason?
I'm more apt to answer no; even given many amazing displays of behaviors that have left me wondering how a certain dog could know or display a particular behavior. I still believe that most of the thought process of a canine is related to an action/reaction or some small form that comes to the conclusion.
Some behaviors are very instinctual, they appear from the inner dog and not from a learned experience. These may infact give the illusion of the ability to reason but in actuality stem from years of evolution and not reasoning at all. As hard as I conjure up scenarios that I have witnessed; each one can be related to an experience; action/reaction.
When you contemplate if in fact dogs can reason or not; you do have to factor in the way that we humans reason. We are given facts which we then mull around in our little gray matter to come up with our own variation of conclusion. But our ability to reason is challenged and guided by life experience; correct? Hmmmmm.
So in regards to reasoning I think dogs do not reason in the human sense of reasoning. But; I have no doubt that they think, which to me are two different entities entirely.