In 2005, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig revealed their findings after having studied a little dog named Rico. The researchers came to the conclusion that dogs can understand more than 200 spoken human words without any specific instruction whatsoever!
That’s more words than I know in French despite eight years of special tuition. …
So, what are the words dogs understand?
Well, anyone who has decided to do something about the condition of a dog who has just rolled in horse manure or who has fallen down after trying to climb a tree after a squirrel knows that B-A-T-H and V-E-T have to be spelled out or our angels will disappear into the woodwork. In fact, in those cases, most adult dogs can do the spelling, too, and you have to write the words on a slip of paper and pass it along to anyone else who needs to get out the hose or know where you’re off to.
Linda Miranda confirmed this when she adopted Toad, a greyhound found abandoned at a racetrack. In time, she says, Toad learned an impressive human vocabulary, and it became necessary to spell certain words or turn up the radio to hold a conversation about anything involving him. …
“Want to go for a walk?” and “Dinnertime!” are shoo-ins too. Other words dogs quickly cotton on to relate to toys and food and other subjects that interest them mightily, given that most of their lives involve sitting and waiting for permission to have treats or go outside to smell the world. They also remember not only the smell but the names of people and other animals of their acquaintance.
Dog expert Jayn Meinhardt says, “We expect dogs to understand our language, yet we fancy ourselves the more intelligent ones and cannot understand theirs. We all need to be more attuned to these wondrous, intelligent beings and their needs as they have to try so hard to fit into our world and we have too often not given them the world that they deserve.”
Then there are the words all dogs-from those who are carried underarm in padded bags to those whose whole lives consist of being so neglected that they are stuck outside on a heavy chain more suitable for hauling a tractor-trailer than anchoring a dog-ache to hear. The words that make a dog’s ears stick up intently, eyes sparkle, and lips curl back in a big, fat grin (not to be mistaken for a growl).
Those special words include your dog’s own name spoken with deep affection, and all imaginable words of love and praise, including your favorite special love names for your dog-like “angel cakes,” my personal favorite-the terms of endearment that you would no doubt be embarrassed to hear over the office intercom.
How about you? What words do your dogs understand?
Make your time with your friends and family—including your animal companions—even more meaningful.