Our furry friends have some amazing abilities. For example, did you know their sense of smell is at least 40x greater than ours? Explains why Fido goes wild every time you stick a roast in the oven doesn’t it! Dogs also have great vision, despite being colour blind they have a much wider field of view as well as excellent night vision and motion detection.
That all being said, one thing we pet owners often wonder as we sit beside our loyal pooches is whether they can understand what we are saying to them, or if they can even tell that we are talking to them at all! For all we know our dogs could just think we are looking at them making random noises. Thankfully some brilliant dog loving scientists have done the important research.
What they have found is that dogs might not understand what exactly you are saying, but they listen and pay attention in the same way a human would. Just like us dogs are ‘lefties’ when it comes to their verbal processing, using the left side of their brain. For dogs listening to us humans it is a lot like us listening to someone speaking in another language. Rather than just use the left side of our brain we supplement it with the right side which processes non-verbal cues.
The main way dogs attempt to process and understand what we’re saying is not by listening to the words we use but to our tone and emotion. This is why a dog can tell when it is being rewarded or scolded even if it can’t actually understand what ‘good boy’ means.
Don’t think your dog can be easily fooled however, in one study scientists tried to trick dogs by using the same tone and emption but substituting words. This didn’t work in this case and the dogs showed different readings on their brain scans which were taken while this was happening, than to what they showed when the correct words were used.
This shows that whilst our dogs don’t understand us well enough to have a philosophical debate, they can understand what we are trying to tell them if it is a simple enough message. By reading tone and emotion they can begin to understand some simple words and know the difference between being told off or rewarded.
It is actually good to speak to your dog regularly. It is shown that this helps in building a strong connection, as well as helping your dog develop an understanding of what you are saying. By improving your communication your dog will be more responsive to your orders.