Sunday, October 21, 2018

Just How Much Do Dogs Really Understand?

There has been quite a bit of research done on how much dogs understand what we are saying to them. We, as humans, should pay more attention to their body language as we speak to them. This picture is Piper, my brother's Vizsla. Notice her head tilted to the left as if she is saying, "I'm trying to understand what you are saying to me." Other signs that a dog may be showing you that he is trying to understand human conversation is raising his ears, wagging his tail, intent staring at you or whining.

My husband and I know that our dog understands us. We did not need a scientific study to reveal this piece of information. Davis demonstrates this all by himself. We even spell words, like parents do around young children. If he hears the words spoken such as walk, go, or doggie-daycare then we can expect one very hyper active dog and nothing really will settle him except us talking to him to let him know that it is not for now. 

Dogs are a lot smarter than most people believe. They not only hear and understand, they can feel and read our body language. They are great listeners and we can pour our hearts out to them. This trust develops into a very special bond. If it is something positive that you are talking to them about, they will wag their tails and maybe even give a bit of doggie talk back to you. If it is more on the negative side, just watch his ears go back. Every morning when Davis hears a soft good mornin' and sees a smile, he goes to his box of toys and chooses one to bring to me.

Dogs have more intuition about people than most people have. The next time that you are out on a walk, or have a guest or workman come to your house, just watch your dog's body language. Does his tail wag in a welcoming way or does it dip down between his legs. It has been said that if a dog does not like someone, that should be a sign for you to be wary.

Dogs are great mimics and have an empathy for their owners. If you are happy and showing it, their tails will be wagging. On the other hand if you are sad or upset, they drop their ears and tails in sympathy for you. Our dog will come to check on us if we sneeze or cough and seems to have a look of concern on his face, even putting his head on our lap or trying to cuddle up with us on the sofa to try to make everything okay.

Scientists have used MIR scans on hundreds of dogs to try to find out how dogs process speech, its meaning and tone. They have discovered that it is similar to the way that humans do this. Most dogs have a vocabulary of 250 words, however, if you talk to your dog often and use repetition, respect, play and patience, your dog could raise that number significantly. 

When you are talking to your dog continue to remain positive and tell him how smart he is. Continue to make training time fun and give him new adventures and experiences. Having some of his favorite treats is always a good thing, as he will do anything to please you. We even have played around with hand signals and our furbaby follows them. He is a fast learner. We know that some of what he seems to understand so well is also based on our tones, body language and routines. When he sees me get my shoes on and grab my handbag, he is running from me to Steve and then to where his leash is hanging. 

His ears perk up at the first sound of a shoe hitting the floor. It is his cue to wake up and get ready to go. He can put on the most soulful, big brown eyes when we say to him that he can't go and point to his home. Davis goes in willingly and plops down, head resting on his front paws and just stares at us. Whenever we are not with him, I like to leave music playing or a ball game. Whether it helps or not? Let's just say that it helps me when we must leave him at home.

Last topic is about dogs watching TV. Before having Davis, I can't remember ever having a dog who watched TV like he does. His breeder, Kim Mills Davis, told me that when she wanted to get a picture of her puppies for sale, that she would turn the wall mounted TV on and all of the puppies would look up at the movement on the screen. Great idea! Our Davis loves watching most all sports that involve a ball, movies with dogs in them and even animated movies with one of our granddaughters.
Only the future can tell how much more our furbabies can learn and will they ever understand full conversations?  There are times that I believe our dog and many others do this now just by picking up on certain phrases and phrasing. Dogs, after all, are positively pawsome!

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