Dogs are such great listeners.
You could safely share your secrets with them…
And they’ll wag their tail as you talk.
But wait a minute…
Do dogs really understand what you say?
Well, you came to the right place for answers.
Keep reading to learn:
- 7 mind-blowing facts about dogs and the human language.
- 3 fun facts about dogs and their ability to understand humans.
- 19 entertaining gestures Fidos use to communicate with fur parents.
- And that’s only the beginning…
Table of contents
- Do dogs understand human language?
- Do dogs understand when you talk to them? 7 facts
- #1: Dogs use referential signals
- #2: They learn words the same way babies do
- #3: Dogs can learn up to 150 words or more
- #4: Fido has a skill called emotional contagion
- #5: At first, dogs only hear noises without meanings
- #6: Most Fidos prefer a high-pitched tone of voice (baby talking)
- #7: Dogs spend more time with those who use baby talk with them
Do dogs understand human language?
Dogs do understand human language, but only to a certain extent. That means they can learn a few words and link them to your actions. Moreover, dogs observe your tone, body language, movements, facial expressions, eyes, and emotions when you talk. That’s how canines learn how some human words work.
Do dogs understand when you talk to them? 7 facts
#1: Dogs use referential signals
Did you know that dogs use gestures to try talking to you?
Scientists call this: referential signaling.
Those are actions that Fidos do to tell you what they want.
And to give you some ideas, a study shares the 19 signals most dogs use:
- Paw hover.
- Rolling over.
- Head forward.
- Head rubbing.
- Hind leg stand.
- Crawling under.
- Lifted back legs.
- Turning their heads.
- Lifting their front paws.
- Pawing at you or an item.
- Standing with their hind legs.
- Throwing toys in your direction.
- Reaching things with their paw.
- Resting 1 paw on you or an object.
- Pressing their nose against you or an item.
Now, when Fido makes these gestures and it’s not working…
That’s the only time your pooch would resort to barking. And this might sound like they’re demanding from you.
But in reality, they’re just trying to tell you something.
Oh, why am I telling you this, you asked?
That’s because this is evidence. A proof that your pup understands human language.
At least, only to a certain extent.
To give you an example, imagine this scenario:
Fido kept staring at the window. Then they’ll look back to you. As if trying to tell you something.
And you pick up on this right away. So you say:
“Yes, buddy? You want to go out?”
As your pup heard those words…
Their face lights up with joy. Now they’re excited to go outside.
This shows how dogs use signals to talk to you. In this case, Fido used eye contact.
And you responded just like how they wanted.
Now, from the surface, this all looks so simple.
But that’s already proof that your furry friend does understand you.
And they try to make you understand them too.
Read next: Do Dogs Try To Talk To Humans? 3 Interesting Answers
#2: They learn words the same way babies do
Another proof that Fido can understand you…
Is the fact that they learn words just like babies do.
“What do you mean by that?”
Remember what I said in the intro? Fidos look at your:
- Tone of voice.
- Body language.
- Facial expressions.
With this, your dog can learn what some words mean.
Now, that’s a lot like hooman babies.
You see, infants learn how to talk by listening to their parents.
And to Fido, you’re their fur parent. That’s why they’ll also learn words from you.
But do you know what’s even cuter?
Dogs and babies try to talk to you in the same way too.
For example, children point at items they can’t reach. Just like how Fidos dig at your sofa when their toy is stuck underneath.
And they communicate that way because of 1 thing.
They understand the human language a little bit. But that’s only at the beginning.
The more babies grow up, the more they master the words.
Just like how most dogs learn. These Fidos only need a bit of training first.
And that’s why you should talk to your pooch regularly.
Not to mention…
A study also adds an interesting detail:
Dogs can’t hear phonetics
That means if you say words like “Treat” and “Trick”…
Your furry friend won’t know the difference. They’ll still get excited over treats.
Now, let me explain what the researchers did.
You see, they used 3 types of words in this study. And those are words that:
- The dogs already knew.
- Sounds familiar to the dog.
- Are random and have no connection to the pooch.
From this, the pups reacted to the 2nd one on the list.
That means even if you say “sid” instead of “sit”…
Fido would still understand what you mean.
With this, scientists concluded:
Dogs don’t learn words the same way as adult humans. Instead, they process them like young babies.
Specifically, infants around 14 months old learn words just like puppies.
And that explains why Fido can pick up short and easy terms.
But this doesn’t mean you should stop there.
Experts encourage you to keep talking to your pup.
And they might not learn like an adult hooman…
But they can process a few words that you tell them.
#3: Dogs can learn up to 150 words or more
Since I mentioned babies…
Here’s another amazing fact related to that topic.
You see, dogs are as smart as a young child. And that’s according to researchers.
Moreover, here’s a report about Dr. Coren’s findings:
Some Fidos could actually learn 150 words or more. But like I said, in fact #2, dogs need training first.
Now, AKC shares about Dr. Fugazza’s research. And it’s mainly about Fido’s language skills.
In that experiment, they tried to see how many words a pooch could learn. But this time, it’s not about your typical command terms.
Instead, the experts used names for toys. And the results are quite interesting:
Some dogs quickly learned the name of the toys
They only repeated the terms at least 4 times.
But do you know what’s even more mind-blowing?
It’s the fact that Border Collies were the best Fidos in this study.
Due to this, Dr. Fugazza thinks the breed has a special DNA. But that’s only a theory for now.
Let me share the top 9 smartest dog breeds in the world, namely:
- Border Collies.
- Golden Retrievers.
- German Shepherds.
- Labrador Retrievers.
- Shetland Sheepdogs.
- Doberman Pinschers.
Note: This is based on Dr. Coren’s book, “The Intelligence of Dogs.”
Now, from the list above…
Border Collies are also ranked 1st. And you don’t have to look hard to know why.
Just let me introduce Chaser, a Border Collie. She’s a smart pup who knows over 150 words.
Check out her amazing skills here:
#4: Fido has a skill called emotional contagion
As I mentioned in the intro…
Dogs observe your emotions. It’s a factor that helps them learn your words.
But how exactly does Fido read your feelings?
Luckily, science has an answer:
You see, dogs experience emotional contagion. It’s a phenomenon that helps Fido read your feelings.
But wait, there’s more.
Pups also use their nose to understand the way you feel.
By that, I mean they can smell your emotions.
“How does my dog do that?”
You see, your body gives off a unique scent. And they change based on your mood.
That’s due to your pheromones. Which are chemicals that the body releases.
Now, your furry friend can smell all that. Thanks to their powerful noses.
So, how does your pooch use these details?
To simplify, here’s an example:
When you’re happy, you’ll smile or laugh.
Now, let’s say that you smell sweet when you feel that way.
Your dog pays attention to all those details. And they might be thinking:
“My hooman was smiling a lot. They also smelled so sweet. So that means they’re happy.”
See how they piece the details together? That shows how clever dogs can be.
Now, this also brings us to the conclusion:
Fidos care more about how you feel, not the words you say
Try saying “ time for treats” in a sweet tone of voice. And match it with a happy, smiling face.
With that, your furry pal will get excited.
But if you say the same words with an angry voice and face…
Your pooch might get afraid and hide away instead.
This shows that dogs understand your emotions better than your words.
Related topic: 7 Real Reasons Why Dogs Are So Nice (#3 Will Surprise You)
#5: At first, dogs only hear noises without meanings
Do you ever wonder what dogs hear when you talk to them?
Like, what if they think in barks? Sounds interesting, I know.
But the truth is…
Dogs only hear nothing but noise when you talk to them. However, this is only in the beginning.
As you spend more time with your pooch…
They’ll slowly pick up new words here and there.
Just try putting yourself in their paws:
Imagine living in another country. And everyone speaks a foreign language.
Wouldn’t you hear nothing but sounds too? It’s like people are just making noises.
But as you learn what some words mean…
It starts to make sense to you.
Now, that’s exactly what your pooch goes through.
Think of barking as their first language. That’s why Fidos need time to learn your words too.
#6: Most Fidos prefer a high-pitched tone of voice (baby talking)
“Who’s a good wittle floofy doggo? That’s you!”
Does that sound familiar? And did you read that in a high-pitched tone of voice?
Don’t worry. I’m with you on that one.
That said, most fur parents have a habit of baby-talking their puppies. And that’s not a bad thing.
You see, experts say that Fidos respond better to baby talks.
Moreover, pros also call this: dog-directed speech.
But why do pups like baby talk? Well, there are plenty of theories for it.
To name a few, here are 5 examples:
- Your pooch got used to baby talks.
- Your dog thinks you’re their parents.
- Other animals do it, too, not just dogs.
- Fido can smell your happy hormones.
- The words sound more exciting than usual.
Now, most of these reasons could be true.
But how’s this related to the main topic, you asked?
That’s because it shows that your pooch has a preference.
Talk to your pooch in a normal tone of voice. And tell them something like:
“Let’s play a game.”
With that, your dog might not react too much.
But if you switch your tone with a high-pitched one…
Fido might start jumping at you out of excitement.
Now, doesn’t that sound like they do understand you? Especially when you’re baby-talking them?
So next time, don’t feel shy to do this around your pooch. They love it when you do.
You might also enjoy: 7 Cute Reasons Why Dogs Like Baby Talk
#7: Dogs spend more time with those who use baby talk with them
Following #6, a study also says that:
Dogs spend more time with someone who uses baby talk with them.
Now, this confirms they do have a preference.
I mean, why would Fido hang out with someone they don’t get at all?
Moreover, National Geographic also adds:
Your furry friend might respond better to baby talk. Especially if you talked to them that way since they were puppies.
Think of it as something natural for your pooch.
Especially if Fido thinks you’re their parent, like what some studies suggest.