Does your dog actually understand you?

November 01, 2018

Does your dog actually understand you?

Have you ever wondered if your fur-ball best friend actually understands what you are saying? When you say W-A-L-K do they actually know what a walk is and picture it, or do they just get excited because they know something exciting is happening?

Well a new study has been published researching how rescue dogs victoria process words and the findings are very interesting.

They found out by humanly testing dogs and their neural pathways tend to light up more when they are told a word they don't know. Which is opposite of humans, our brains light up more when we are told words we know. They think that it is because dogs sense their owners want them to understand what they are saying, so they try to do so. Meaning they want to please us and figure out what they are meant to do. Also previous research has found that dogs are more likely to not actually recognize the word but look for inflection and tone in their owners voice, face and body language. Meaning they are very good at reading us.

Another study found that when people want to teach their dog a new command then it is more for us than it is for our rescue dogs bc. We like the convenience of it, but they are more likely to pick up on visual cues. Also to note when dogs get older they tend to lose a bit of their hearing like us humans and visual commands can be very helpful in getting your dog to listen to any commands.
So most likely your dog doesn't actually know the word W-A-L-K but is listening for the inflection in your voice and your body cues.

Personally, I think this research makes a lot of sense. When I walk Rundle I always make him stop and sit at the cross walk. I never tell him to "sit" when doing this. After enough practice he has picked up on my body language when I want him to sit and he will do so. Some cues for him would be where I place my hands and how I stand, and the fact that I am looking down at him. He can also tell beforehand because of how my pace slows and changes when approaching an intersection. Actually if I completely stop while walking him he will automatically sit.

So, all in all dogs want to learn what we are saying, because we want them to know. But they are more likely to look at our facial expression, body language and listen to our tone of voice. So you can tell your dog all your secrets, they definitely won't tell anyone, partially because they probably wont event understand what you are saying!