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Wordy Issues! - Do dogs understand when we talk to them?

08 Jun 2016 | by Ruchika Anand | Posted in: Wag News

Dog talking on telephone, on white background


Dogs are animals with very deep emotions. Just think of the sad eyes that your pet makes every time you go out. They feel fear, hurt, anger and anxiety as deeply, if not more, than many people. Dogs are sensitive creatures who respond to external stimuli very strongly. Just the slightest gesture on your part means a lot to your dog.

So does your dog understand what you say? He understands many concrete words like ‘go,’ ‘sit,’ ‘stand,’ ‘eat’ etc. Certain abstract terms like ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are also understood by dogs. But apart from this, they mostly understand by contexts like facial expressions, posture, and tone. If you say ‘bad dog’ in a sweet tone, your dog will think that being bad is good.

On an average, dogs can understand up to 165 words. Some super dogs like Rico the collie can understand up to 200 words. But it’s not through words that dogs communicate with humans. Apart from certain words like the ones mentioned above, all they need to communicate are expressions, gestures, postures and tone of speaking. That is usually enough to get the point across.

Like most other animals, dogs too have a different way of communicating with each other than their communications humans, and most of that communication is not speech based, like us. For dogs, pheromone clues, body language, behaviour, and situation matter more than speech. For example, a dog may happily play at fighting at the park, but get angry at the same thing if it happens during a mealtime.

But the most important manner in which dogs communicate with each other has to do with their posteriors. Dogs secrete a musk scent from their anal glands that supposedly has tons of important information about him that only other dogs can decipher. So that’s probably why dogs like sniffing each other’s behinds. It’s kind of like that way humans say “hello, what’s your name?” to each other. So the way humans and dogs communicate are very different. But that does not mean dogs don’t understand what their humans are telling them. They are smart creatures with an acute sensibility who can read expressions better than we can read our mother tongue.

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