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  • Jan
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Speaking Your Dog’s Language

Posted by at 5:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

piha nz / CC by 2.0

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?

Originally published in Let’s Have a Dog Party by Ingrid E. Newkirk. Image credit: piha nz / CC┬áby 2.0

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  • Gena says:

    My dog Aster is very smart. She is a wire haired fox terrier and she knows many words…..and tries to speak all the time. If I pick up a leash or pack a bag, she KNOWS she is going somewhere and gets very excited. She really made me laugh just this week. The weather has been colder and I got her tshirt, she jumped up on the bed and sat back on her hind legs for me to put it on her. Aster loves her groomer, and going to the country where she can run until she is exhausted. Thankful for my dog, God’s example of unconditional love.

  • Kris says:

    One of my cats knows when friends are coming over when I say “come on up”: I live in a building where I have to buzz people in through the phone, and I noticed that whenever I said that phrase, that kitty would walk over to the door to greet the visitor. Once I tested that theory, and just uttered the words “come on up” to no one in particular (I wasn’t even on the phone), and she went over to the door to wait. Needless to say, that was a “cruel” experiment when she waited to no avail – I eventually had to open the door & pretend I was just as surprised as her that nobody was there!

  • Michele says:

    I would like to reply to this but I have cats but they do listen. My one cat will follow me everywhere and when I go to sit down he’s there and when I tell him it’s bedtime he’s the first up the stairs waiting at the upper steps for me. Animals are smarted than most give credit for. All my cats listen and it freaks me out sometimes. But I see it this way they are no different than you and me.

  • Tiffani says:

    My dogs know their vet’s name! All we have to do is talk about “Dr. Crawford” and they get worked up! And my older one, who happens to be a very smart Border Collie mix, knows what a “scrubbie-dubbie in the tubbie” is!

  • Phyllis says:

    I swear if I even think about giving one of my dogs a bath she’ll duck tail and run into her crate. The flip side of that is “ride” – my dogs love to “go for a ride” and trip over each other to get to the leashes. Other words:
    Good Night
    Good Morning
    Slow down
    Come here
    Go around
    Go back around

    I know they understand “no”, “stop it”, and “quiet” but for some reason these words cause selective and temporary deafness.

    I hope they understand “I love you” – hard to tell since dogs naturally give love. Oh, Chrissie understands what I mean when I sing “Raspberry beret” and will always lower her head for a raspberry kiss!

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