Can Dogs Understand Human Conversations?

Alert Boxer dog

Have you ever confided in something to your best doggie friend, only to see them have an understanding expression on their face? If you’ve had your dog for a few years then it’s true. They’ve learned some human language. People who don’t own dogs may simply think this isn’t possible, that perhaps the dog is only picking up on your mood or they’re using their dog senses.

But there has been a research that says dogs do understand more than people have traditionally thought about them. While dog senses and sign language can help with their understanding of our speech, most people who have been long-term dog owners do believe that dogs understand humans who talk to them.

Studies have been done where a dog trainer has used different tones of voice for the same words. Apparently, dogs understand the words regardless of inflection or tone of voice. When dogs hear praise words, then the left hemisphere of their brains light up. This is also the same region where humans process language. Dogs can register tone of words too, but it’s the right hemisphere of the brain that lights up.

But understanding human words does go beyond the actual words spoken. Dogs do note when words are spoken in a positive tone. So, while familiar words are recognized, a dog recognizes them as positive attention when spoken in a positive tone too.

Dog senses also play a part. They can smell fear, and if you say fearful words when you’re both walking down a dark alley at night, then they know that something is wrong and will be extra watchful for you. They can also sense when you’re happy and if you say “park” then they know that plenty of fun is ahead.

Dogs can also distinguish between words they’ve heard before and those they haven’t. Of course, dogs can’t understand everything we say.

Dogs can be trained with verbal commands, such as “sit”, “lie down”, or “shake a paw”. This means they can differentiate one word from another. They will respond to the meaningful words and not the meaningless words. For instance, if you talk a lot about paying the bills, while the dog recognizes that you say these words a lot, it simply has no context to them. Of course, dogs do recognize words such as food, treats, play, outside, or in other words that have true meaning for them.

Dogs are also like humans and they learn as they age. There are always words that a human doesn’t know, and that’s the same with dogs.

This research isn’t just applicable when dogs understand humans either, but also with cats, horses, and other domesticated animals. And these animals may be even clever than we think, as they understand what we’re saying but they choose to pretend they don’t.

Since dogs understand humans, you may want to be a bit more careful about what you say around them in the future. You can’t renege on giving them a treat as they know exactly what you’ve promised them.

Featured image from Pxabay