How much does your dog understand?

We all talk to our dogs. It’s natural. They’re our best friends, and like most friendships, we talk. They’ve been there through all of our ups, downs, loopdy-loops, and more in life. You’d be lying if you said you’ve never been sitting on the couch, stuffing yourself with ice cream, and crying about your break up with your most loyal, fluffy companion. We’ve all been there. But sometimes their pouty eyes accompanied by that panting tongue doesn’t seem to equate to emotional compassion as much as their desire for that pint of Vanilla bean ice cream you’ve been harboring. This begs to ask how much they really understand of what we’re saying.

When you tell Spot to sit, he sits. When you tell Spot to come, he comes. When you tell Spot to not chew the upholstery, he doesn’t always listen. So where do we draw the line on what our dogs understand and don’t understand? Recent studies have come out that tell us what will stick and what will go in one floppy ear and out the other.

 

Words Associated with Concrete Objects or Actions:

There’s no kidding that when you ask your dog to go for a walk he exudes a hyper joy and happily trots to the door. So does this mean he understood “Let’s go for a walk”? Not necessarily. You could say any string of words, throw “walk” into the mix, and your dog would still be by the door, wagging his tail, leash in mouth, ready to go. Your dog most likely understands the word “walk” because it’s associated with an action, one of his favorites at that. Like this word, sit, stay, come, and other commands that are joined with actions are most memorable to our beloved friends. Understandably, they are most likely to remember the words that affect them. For example, eating, playing, and walking key-words are ones they are bound to remember.

 

Tone:

Tone is another huge part of your dog’s communication with you. After your dog does something well you speak to him in that sweet, lovey-dovey voice we all have (but never admit to using because people without dogs think we’re insane). Well, your dog associates that loving, happy voice with doing a good job. So, sweetly saying to your little furball, “I don’t like it when you poop on the carpet. Please don’t poop on the carpet” will only translate as positive reinforcement. The same goes the other way around. If he does something well and you respond in an angry, low voice, “You’re my favorite! I love you!”, Spot’s going to think that finally fetching the paper was the wrong path to wander down.

 

Body Language:

We hug, kiss, pet, and practically drown our pets in love every day. The good thing is that they notice. Dogs respond to body language a great deal. Rather than saying “I’m hurt”, lying on the ground, looking sad, or crying, is a much better way for him to figure out something is not right. If you smile and kiss your dog, he will assume you’re happy. Access your inner actor/actress because the more your emotions show, the more your dog will know how you’re feeling.
So maybe your dog is in the sobbing couch session for a lick of that ice cream, but he does know you’re sad and truly loves you. Although he doesn’t understand the complexity of your relationship ending with Johnny, your dog will always be your most loyal companion and will (probably) stay with you sans the ice cream.

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