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5 Real Reasons Why Dogs Can’t Talk Like Humans (2023)

Why Can't Dogs Talk Like Humans

Oh, how nice it is if your Fido could tell you what’s bothering them.

Or the things they love about you.

But dogs have been domesticated for 30,000 years. 

And until now…

There are no cases of Fidos holding a proper conversation with people yet.

Why’s that?

Continue reading to discover:

  • 5 real reasons why dogs can’t talk like humans.
  • If dogs’ mental abilities can allow them to learn our language.
  • Whether it’s physically possible for dogs to talk like humans or not.
  • And many more…

Why can’t dogs talk like humans – 5 reasons

#1: Dogs have limited cognitive abilities

As much as you want to chit-chat with your pooch.

Or make life easier by being able to tell you where it hurts when they’re sick…

Dogs can’t fully translate their barks into human words.


One of the reasons for this is our furry pals’ mental abilities.

Don’t get me wrong here.

Canines are trainable and clever in their own ways.

But according to experts, dogs’ thinking ability is similar to a 2 or 2.5-year-old toddler.

This is why they can’t grasp the complexity of our language. 

And even if they could talk, it’ll not be as comprehensive as humans.

“How much can a dog understand?”

At 2 years old, most human babies know and can say simple phrases. Some examples are “dada bye-bye!” or “me juice!”

But it’s only by the 3rd year that toddlers will expand their vocabulary. As well as understand abstract ideas (e.g., happy, sad).

So like 2-year-olds, Fidos know a few simple human words too. Say “sit” and “come.”

And they can also learn what a “treat” or “ball” is.


Dogs don’t understand words linked to abstract ideas like emotions and gender.

Also, their talking abilities will only be that of a 1-year-old infant.

Fidos could only make sounds (e.g., bark, whine) and mimic what they hear. 

Like how this adorable Siberian Husky says “I love you” to her parents:

“How does the Husky do that?”

The answer is:

Dogs are sensitive to the pitch and tone of our voices

So they can copy how you say a word or phrase. And they can even howl at music too.

The Husky in the video is familiar with the words “I love you.”

And this is because they always hear it from their parents.

But in reality…

The Fido doesn’t know what it means. And it’s also the same for kisses.

So if you say “I love you” to your dog in a raised voice, your pooch will likely take it as a negative thing.

But if you speak it gently and caress your Fido, they’ll learn “I love you” is a good thing.

Although they won’t know how to use it if ever they can ‘speak.’

Editor’s pick: Do Dogs Think In Barks? 5 Things You Need To Know 

#2: Dogs only know some words through association

Next, you can speak a language without knowing all its words.

But linguists say that you should know at least 800 to 1000 words to hold a conversation.

And this is another thing where our furry friends fall behind. 

You see, they can’t talk and be comprehensive like humans.

“How many words can a dog understand?”

According to experts, an average Fido can learn around 165 words.

In contrast, ‘super dogs’ or those who belong to the top 20% of wisest pooches know up to 250 words.

The latter is beyond impressive. And here’s the story of ‘Rico’ to prove it.

In a study, a Border Collie named ‘Rico’ was able to name 200 various objects. 

And experts also found that he has a ‘fast-mapping’ ability.

“What is it?”

It’s a skill wherein an individual learns a new word by linking it with the correct object. 

And they can still recall what they’ve learned after a month.

Researchers say that Rico’s ability is similar to the performance of a 3-year-old kid.

But there are differences between them.

“What are those?”

Kids learn by listening and understanding the words.

On the other hand…

Dogs learn words by connecting things

And not because they understand the language.

For example, they know “treats” means they’ll receive snacks. While “leash” means they’ll walk outside.

“How do they do it?”

Fidos pay attention to how we say the words. And also what we do after.

So it’s like dogs can ‘predict’ what’ll happen next.

But they don’t know the word’s exact meaning. And also the other purposes of an object.

For instance, you don’t only use a dog leash for walking. 

It also prevents Fidos from bolting and keeps them safe from accidents.

However, for your pooch, it’s just something that signals it’s time for a walk.

Check out also: Why does my dog bark when I talk?

#3: Dogs can’t tell similar sounding words apart

Dogs Can't Tell Similar Sounding Words Apart

Apart from limited human words…

Studies also found that dogs have trouble with terms that sound similar.

Okay. Let’s say your Fido already knows “sit.”

Even if you tell them “set,” they wouldn’t know it’s a different word. 

So they’ll do the sitting position – thinking it means the same.

“What’s the reason for this?”

Dogs can discern different sounds of speech. Like “s,” “ee,” and “t.”

But based on the study’s findings, dogs may have ‘attentional biases.’

“What do you mean?”

It means dogs don’t focus on all the details of a word.


As I said earlier, the tone is more critical to Fidos. And also, the action that follows the word more than its spelling is key.

#4: Dogs have trouble with multisyllabic words



“Lie down.”

Most Fidos know these words.

But what do they all have in common?

They’re all simple words. And they only have up to 2 syllables.

According to experts, dogs can quickly learn words like these.

So they’ll have difficulty learning words with more than 2 syllables.

It’s why we keep our Fidos’ names as short and snappy as possible.

Vets say that the longer the word is, the more confusing it’ll be to dogs.

Also, we may mispronounce it sometimes and give our pooch inconsistent cues.

So, as a result, they might have difficulty remembering the long word. And we don’t want that.

That’s why it’s ideal for dogs to have a 1 or 2-syllable name. Say ‘Max,’ ‘Bruno,’ or ‘Bella.’

Fun fact: Besides commands like “sit” and “stay,” a study found that dogs indeed know longer words. 90% of the Fidos responded to “leave it” and “good boy/girl.” But they don’t react to less used words, like “wipe your feet” or “whisper.”

You might also like: 66 Worst Dog Names Of All-Time (#13 Is Beyond Ridiculous)

#5: Dogs’ mouths aren’t for human speech

Did you know that dogs’ vocal cords are similar to ours?

Yup. A team of experts studied 3 ‘larynges’ of animals. 

One from a dog, a monkey, and a pig.

But first, the larynx is a hollow organ that holds the voice box.

And the experts’ goal was to know which among the 3 is the best animal model for studying human vocal cords.

“So, what are the results?”

The study found that dogs’ vocal cords vibrate similarly to ours.

And this wasn’t observed in pigs’ larynges.

So it’s safe to say that the vocal folds of dogs are most similar to ours. 

But still, the two aren’t identical.

Not only that, but even if Fidos learn to discern and understand all human words…

The shape of a dog’s mouth and tongue can’t also make the right sounds

Our Fidos will have trouble with words where you have to roll your tongue. Say “ladder” and “rainbow.”


Unlike us, dogs don’t use their tongue much when barking.

It’s like simply saying, “hey!” without the need to enunciate the word.

However, their tongue’s shape or length may affect the sounds a Fido makes.

Will dogs ever be able to talk like humans?

Dogs will never be able to talk like humans. They can’t physically do it because their voice boxes, mouths, tongues, and jaws aren’t made for it. And they also have cognitive abilities similar to a 2-year-old kid.

But speaking might be impossible for them…

Still, Fidos can understand some human words.

And they do it by observation. Plus, they connect words to things, people, or places.

Also, dogs can communicate with us in other ways.

Say using their body and with their actions. And also by ‘speaking’ in their own ‘doggy’ language.