Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Dogs and language

Dogs naturally communicate with body language, but they're quite able to learn and understand language spoken by humans. Just remember that whatever language you speak is your dog's second language.

Any dog can learn the meaning of specific words and commands, for example sit, lie down, walk, and shake. Some dogs get confused when the familiar words are buried in sentences, and some get confused when we use different words for the same thing. Set your dog up for success by choosing one word or phrase for an action and make sure everyone in the family uses it.

The average dog can understand somewhere between 150 and 200 words. That's a decent vocabulary, and if you keep yourself consistent you can get a long way with that amount.

Some dog breeds are more attuned to human language than others. Many working dogs understand spoken commands, gestures, and sounds.

What type of language will dogs understand the best?

Words pertaining to objects or behaviors are the easiest for dogs to understand. That is, your dog can relate very well to words like sit, ball, car, and treat.

How many words can the smartest dogs understand?

Swedish Border Collie Turbo filmed in several countries and understood Swedish, English, and German - in complete spoken sentences. The dog scientifically tested on largest vocabulary is called Chaser. She is also a Border Collie and knows over 1,000 words and understands grammar.

Regardless of breed, every dog is an individual and will learn at their own pace. Many think older dogs can't learn new words or tricks, but they can learn just as well as puppies. It can take longer for an older dog, but with patience, consistency, and rewards, any dog can learn.

Do your dogs understand many spoken words? Have you actively taught them, or did they just get it?

~ Maria Sadowski ~


  1. We are learning that words help, but if Mom uses some body language it works better many times.

    1. One of my foster dogs was adopted by a lady who taught him silent language. He caught on to that really quickly. I love seeing how much dogs can learn so fast! =D