4 min read


Why Dogs Understand Commands



4 min read


Why Dogs Understand Commands




When you tell your dog to sit, he sits, right? Well probably not immediately if he's a puppy who is still in training, but with time and patience you know he will eventually respond because dogs are capable of understanding commands.

Can you tell your dog to stay and he doesn't move from that designated spot until you give the signal? It's amazing, isn't it? There really is nothing better than an obedient dog who understands and follows commands. Some are so good at it that they can be taught all sorts of important jobs, like search and rescue or drug detection, which if they weren't able to follow commands they just wouldn't be able to do. Which is pretty fantastic when you think about it.

So how or why is it dogs understand commands?

The Root of the Behavior

Dogs have an inherent trait to follow the leader. They need to have someone to look up to and to know who is in charge. If your dog was still in an undomesticated situation and running with a pack in the wild, that position of authority would fall to the alpha male. He would be the one dishing out the orders for the rest to follow. It is quite natural for your dog to want to follow your commands as once an alpha situation has been established between the two of you, it is a case of what the boss says goes.

Whichever way you look at it, dogs are emotionally sensitive creatures. They are good at assessing other dogs' intentions by their movements and the different sounds they emit. It is a necessary part of their survival kit to know when another animal is being friendly, aggressive or even predatory toward them. To your dog, as strange as it may seem, you are just another animal. Your pup understands, by natural instinct, how to interpret the inflections in your voice and how to read your body movements. Believe it or not, he knows very well the difference between a stern telling off because he stole your shoe and those word of love whispered in his hairy ear.

Dogs love to please and they particularly enjoy the attention they receive when they do things right. Don't we all? When a dog receives praise for something they have done, they will be more than happy to do it again. They are very quick to connect any action they commit to their desired result which is either praise or the receipt of a treat. If you repeatedly instruct your dog to do something and give him lots of attention when he gets it right, he will be quick to catch on that must be what you want him to do even if he doesn't necessarily understand the exact words you are speaking.

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Encouraging the Behavior

So you are the alpha and it is natural for your dog to look up to you for instructions? Is it as easy as that? Not really. The difference between a pet owner and a pack alpha is pet owners do not speak the canine language. We also do not snap, bite, or growl to get our message across, so we have to resort to training techniques to achieve the same respect and obedience. We relate to that by calling out commands to them but your dog probably does not think of them that way. He is just happy to please you and get a reward for it whether it be love and affection or a doggy chocolate. He will be happy with either.

Okay, so your pup doesn't exactly understand the words you are speaking. But who can learn to speak a language without practice? With time, patience, and constant repetition which is rewarded when he gets things right, you will soon find your pup is able to not only comprehend what you are asking of him but to actually fulfill the command and do what you say. Even when it is something as simple as getting him to sit or stay, do not expect an overnight miracle.

Other Solutions and Considerations

For a dog to learn to understand commands takes time and quite a bit of work and input on your part. If you are not sure how to get your dog to understand commands, maybe you would like to consider signing up for some sessions with a professional dog trainer. They will be able to show you the best ways to train your dog.

Sometimes dogs are just like people. No matter what you do they are not going to listen. You can throw around as many commands as you like and they will all fall on deaf ears. Yes, it's true, dogs can also often behave just like children. If you seem to have a pup who's going through his teenage years, you might want to consider consulting with a qualified dog handler who will be able to advise you on what command to use to quell his rebellious nature. 


While most of us humans are not so good at following commands and often rebel against being told what to do, dogs are quite the opposite. With a treat or a kind word, you will find they can, with a bit of work on your part, understand everything you want them to do. With a bit of patience, you will soon have your pup doing the cleaning and shopping too.

Written by a Chihuahua lover Liz Correal

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 03/07/2018, edited: 01/30/2020

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