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At Mind Matters News: Dogs understand many more words than we think


They also pick up very readily on human emotions, researchers have found:

Sophie Jacques, Associate Professor, Psychology and Neuroscience, Dalhousie University, came up with some interesting figures on dogs recognizing words. Starting in 2015, she and a colleague

developed a list of 172 words organized in different categories (for example, toys, food, commands, outdoor places) and gave it to an online sample of 165 owners of family and professional dogs. We asked them to select words that their dogs responded to consistently. We found that, on average, service dogs respond to about 120 words, whereas family pets respond to about 80 words, ranging between 15 to 215 words across all dogs. We also found that certain breed groups, such as herding dogs like border collies and toy dogs like chihuahuas, respond to more words and phrases than other breed types like terriers, retrievers and mixed breeds.

Sophie Jacques, “Yes, Your Dog Can Understand What You’re Saying — to a Point” at The Epoch Times (January 22, 2022)

There is a practical value to Jacques’s work with dogs and language:

… it is very expensive to train puppies for service work and many do not make the final cut. However, if early word-based responding abilities predict later behavioural and cognitive abilities, our measure could become an early and simple tool to help predict which dogs are likely to become good service animals.The Conversation

Sophie Jacques, “Yes, Your Dog Can Understand What You’re Saying — to a Point” at The Epoch Times (January 22, 2022)

Of course, the dog is responding to words as signals, not as components of sentences.

Denyse O’Leary, “Dogs understand many more words than we think” at Mind Matters News

Takehome: The dog living in a human environment depends on his human friends for clues as to what’s happening — whether as emotional expressions or simple words.

You may also wish to read:

In what ways are dogs intelligent? There is no human counterpart to some types of dog intelligence.


Study: Cats DO recognize their names. They recognize them as sound cues, rather than recognizing the human language as such.


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