3 min read


Can Dogs Hear Human Voices?



3 min read


Can Dogs Hear Human Voices?


Have you ever found yourself talking to your dog as if he or she were a baby? All of a sudden, you catch yourself and realize you're speaking in a high-pitched, nonsensical voice. What's that even about? 

Well according to research, dogs can actually understand you better when you talk like this, believe it or not! While it may drive your significant other crazy, you can now confidently tell them it's all for good reason. Not only can dogs understand human voices, but they actually have a better chance of learning words and commands when you talk in a slow, high-pitched voice. 

In fact, scientists have shown that dogs are actually able to understand our voices and human language on a much deeper level than we had thought. Dogs can also understand our emotions and, together with the tone of our voice, they are able to interpret what we are saying. Pretty cool, don't you think?


Signs a Dog Understands Your Voice

Now that we understand that yes, dogs can understand human voices, let's look at the various signs that tell us this. In a few specific studies we will talk about below, dogs reacted quite strongly to human voices that were distinct, high-pitched, and carried a sing-songy tone. In one particular case, most adult dogs started barking and running towards the loud speaker that the voice was coming through. With their tail wagging and their ears alert, these dogs were trying to figure out where the voice was coming from. 

While dogs may process the words and tone of voice differently, the bottom line is they hear you and are working overtime to understand what your words mean. So, how can you be sure your dog understands you and isn't just faking it? For one, they will often tilt their head and perk their ears up while you are talking. Many dogs will sit down and look at you intently as their brain works to process what they are hearing. This is just another reason dogs are truly man's best friend! 

Body Language

Here are some signs your dog understands your voice:

  • Alert
  • Barking
  • Head Tilting
  • Raise Ears

Other Signs

These are other signs you may notice when your dog understands your voice:

  • Sitting Quietly
  • Focusing Intently
  • Obeys What You'Ve Said
  • Responds Back (With Dog Noises)

History of Dogs Understanding Human Voices


There have been numerous studies conducted over the years in an attempt to prove dogs do not understand human voices, but only certain pitches. French bioacoustician Nicolas Mathevon conducted one such study that involved recording the voices of 30 women saying things such as "who's a good boy?" and "come here sweetie pie!" and then gauging the dog's reaction. 

As they thought would be the case, they discovered that women who spoke in distinctive, high-pitched tones got a better reaction out of the dogs. Another interesting part of the study was that while both puppies and adult dogs reacted when the voices were played through loud speakers, adult dogs had a more trackable reaction. 

So, while we don't have one specific study or time in place when we realized dogs could understand human voices, there is tons of evidence out there today that shows the different ways dogs process human voices and understand languages in general. 

Science Behind Dogs Understanding Human Voices


Other studies have shown that dogs are not only able to understand what we are saying, but they can further interpret what the words really mean based on how we say it. Over time, dogs are able to recognize words they've heard in the past using the left part of the brain, which is also how humans process languages. 

One particular study looked at how dogs rely on reward centers located in the left and right hemispheres of the brain to interpret praise. These parts of the brain are activated when they recognize praise and a positive, uplifted tone. This means that a little praise can go a long way when it comes to helping dogs understand how you would like them to behave and react.

Training Your Dog to Understand Your Voice


When it comes to training your dog to understand your voice, it will take a lot of patience and commitment on your end. Sure, your dog will likely know your voice pretty early on, but training them to understand what you are saying is a whole other thing. Use rewards such as treats and try taking your dog to a park or open space near your house where there won't be a lot of distractions. Use a positive, upbeat, strong tone that will encourage them, not make them fearful.

Try to do short, daily sessions. This is usually the most effective way to train your dog something new. Keep these sessions fun so that your dog looks forward to learning. Focus on basic word commands first, and build from there until your pooch is a master of the English language - or maybe just until they know the names of their different toys.

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By a Chihuahua lover Allie Wall

Published: 02/21/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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