We all do it. It is simply too hard to resist talking to our dogs. We know they are listening, by the way they cock their head and by their reaction when we say “treat” or “walk”. Most dogs learn the basic Sit, Down and Stay commands, but just how much of our conversations do our dogs understand?
I read an interesting article in Animal Planet, check it out here, that states the average dog understands 165 words. That amazes me. I cannot think of 165 words that my dogs may actually know, unless like the Inuit having hundreds of words for snow, our dogs have more than 100 words for food.
Of course every dog is different. I am confident that Willa, our Cattle Dog Border Collie cross, understands full sentences. If Willa leaves a toy in the yard, we can say to her “Willa go and get your toy”. She will then trot out into the yard and retrieve it. Moe, our Lab cross, appears to just know the basic commands Sit, Stay, Down, Bed, Treat, Dinner, Walk and the words he hears the most No and Off. I am convinced that when we talk to him the sounds he hears are like those of the teacher in the old Charlie Brown cartoons – Wah Wah Wan Treat, Wan Wan Food. (Remember This?) Talking to our dog Taz usually elicited the “talk to the back of my head” response. He would turn his head away, clearly stating I’m not listening to you; while Tasha would cock her head, appear to listen intensely then would happily ignore whatever you said, unless of course treats were involved.
Dogs like children everywhere understand the language. The question is are they really listening?