7 min read


Can Dogs Understand Human Conversations?



7 min read


Can Dogs Understand Human Conversations?


Dogs are a lot smarter than the average person believes. Pup owners have always known this to be true but now Science is lifting the lid on how dogs communicate with us - and just how much they hear and feel! This is an exciting time, as dogs finally get a break from being labeled a lesser species when they are, potentially, more like us. 

Researchers have put immense effort into determining the connection between us and monkeys, while all along the furry friends that live in our homes are totally tuned in. Our precious pooches as we know them today have been keeping a secret for centuries. They are able to understand speech and potentially a whole lot more than that! 

It’s a fascinating subject and one for all animal lovers to explore. Fasten your seat belts as we navigate through history and science with pawsome stories about our clever doggo friends.


Signs Your Dog May Be Understanding Conversations

Dogs are great listeners. We tell them our heartfelt thoughts and share things we might never tell anyone else. That’s because we trust them and that in itself makes for a rare and special bond. Our wonderful woofers are great sounding boards as they cutely tilt their head, while they try to comprehend our words. 

When you ask them what they think about that new guy you saw in the park, they might wag their tail and howl in agreement. If their ears go back it’s a dead certainty he’s not the one for you, as your dog can sense a person’s moral code often before we do. If this sounds a little far-fetched, test the theory next time you’re both out on a walk. They say if a dog doesn’t like someone, its reason to be wary yourself.

To understand if a dog can process a conversation, check out their body language next time you have a friend over. They may not be interested and wander outside, or they may sit close while taking in every word. Things that are familiar to them are likely to get a response as they suddenly jump and down or bring back their lead - if you happen to mention the word walk. Some pet guardians spell out the word in conversation so your dog doesn’t get too hopeful, proving dogs can easily pick up words and their meaning.

When you have a conversation with your doggy, the body language they exude will depend on what you say. If you’ve been telling Lola, your darling Labrador how mad you are about the way a friend treated you, she’s likely to emulate your facial expressions (yes dogs can do that). 

She might whine or copy your growl, as dogs are born mimics. If the conversation is cheerful, then Lola will lift her ears and listen intently. She likes it when you are happy so she may even bring you her favorite toy. If you are sad, Lola may cower and get upset also. She may emulate your unhappy face as her ears drop in sympathy.

Like people, dogs soak up every word and its connotation, and in time we are going to be amazed at the secrets they have been keeping about what they REALLY know!

Body Language

Signs a dog may be trying to understanding a human conversation include:<br/>

  • Head Tilting
  • Whining
  • Listening
  • Cowering
  • Howling
  • Wag Tail
  • Raise Ears

Other Signs

Here are a few more signs your dog might be trying to understand your conversations:<br/>

  • Bringing You A Toy
  • Growling
  • Dropping And Lifting Their Ears
  • Cuddling
  • Getting Excited

The History of Dogs Understanding Us


It didn’t take long for wolves to pick out words from the conversations of ancient man and form a union that has evolved through the ages.

People grow up learning their native language and when they go to a new country are suddenly powerless to understand the lingo. After buying the classic beginners guide to French, Spanish or German we learn a few words which eventually progresses to a whole conversation.

Dogs have this ability up to a point, as they understand other dogsters, but as a puppy are told words like "sit" or whole sentences like “please do not go to the bathroom on my new hardwood floor.” It’s comparable to finding yourself clueless as to what the waiter is saying in Paris when your new pup, hearing a request for a cuddle, looks at you with his big bright eyes, wondering what exactly you just said.

In a conversation with Jess, your elegant Irish Setter, you might think she is hearing each sentence - but chances are she will pick out the words that are familiar and react to those. If you are having a conversation with a friend about a nice walk you had around the lakes, don’t be surprised if Jess is suddenly attentive and staring at the door.

Jess sees your facial expressions and hears clearly the tone of your voice so she knows if you are talking about a positive or negative situation. It’s not yet clear if Jess can take in an entire conversation but watch this space, as anything is possible when it comes to our genius woofers.

Many experts believe that the domestication of dogs allowed them to evolve as our pet partners and, over time, sharpen their communicative skills around humans. At the Wolf Science Center in Austria, this theory is challenged, as wolves showed similar tolerance and cooperative social skills toward people. 

This suggests that dogs originally acquired this capacity from their wolf, grandfather. This new thinking came from “Frontiers of Science” and takes on the belief that our mighty mutts gained these friendly attributes once they were our family pets. Physiologists and Scientists may not be sure if Maggie your Bull Mastiff can understand an entire conversation but she can read you like a book and understand plenty of words.

Scientists Prove Dogs Understand Us


The inquisitive souls of planet Earth open doors that help us understand our world and the creatures that inhabit it. How dogs originated and what really makes them tick is at the forefront of studies investigating our canine buddies and their ability to understand speech and human emotions. Research shows they can and in ways we never thought possible, as dogs have a brain similar to us with the capacity to process words!

How do we know this? Neuroscientists in Hungary discovered through MIR scans that dogs can process speech, its meaning and tone in a similar way to humans. Once this news was out, the skeptics had nowhere to hide. Keeping dogs dumb has enabled a certain breed of humanity to use them at will. 

“Live Science” reports that animal psychologists believe dogs have the mental capability of a two-and-a-half-year-old and this could be the reason they find it hard to understand conversations. In saying that this IQ test is based on learning up to 250 words, counting to five and mastering basic math (where their age span of learning increased to 3 -4 years of age).

Chaser the wonder-Collie has a 1000 plus repertoire of words up her paw-sleeve, which suggests the potential for all pups to advance in brain-power, if they were given the right training and guidance. A canine expert at the University of British Columbia has said. “The social world of a dog is similar to a teenager's”.

Dogs love to mimic their pet moms and dads, often making them laugh when they carry the kid’s clothes off their bedroom floor to the laundry or pick up their toys just like mom. This ability to learn from us by copying our actions could be the key to future pups understanding more than just words, but whole conversations.

Training a Dog to Understand Conversations


Teaching a puppy how to understand words and gestures has just got a whole easier with the news that pup-mutts love the sound of baby talk!

 These were the finding from a study in France where thirty women were asked to look at pictures of dogs while reading from a script. They all talked in the same style of baby voice, as we often do when we meet a friend’s doggy on the street. Dogs - like babies - seem to bring out the nurture in us gals and we can’t resist talking to them in this way.

These recordings were then played to puppies who loved the singsong voice and then to older dogs that were not so fussed. The pupsters included went ballistic looking for the source of the noise and some went into play position as they were so hyped by the women’s cutesy-pie tones. It is now suggested for this to be a way to teach junior woofers their first words, as this high-pitched style of voice sure gets their attention.

Remember Chaser the “Top Of Her Class” Collie? It turns out she understands words and sentences!

Chaser was asked to respond to basic sentences like “to ball take frisbee” or to “frisbee take ball” and researchers concluded Chaser is a super-clever Collie, opening the door to incredible possibilities. If you think that a conversation is a string of sentences what is the likelihood of a dog that has been highly trained like Chaser, eventually mastering the art of conversation?

When it comes to training a dog to reach this level of communication, you’ll need a lot of time and, as quoted by Chasers pet parent, “Repetition, Respect and Play. When Chaser was only weeks old training began with lessons to teach her words. If Chaser went to fetch something she would be told “FETCH” so the action was associated with the word. Starting young may have been the key to her A-plus learning aptitude - because at five months, Chaser learned each toy had a different name.

 How many dogs know this much by such a tender, puppy age? Many still believe a dog can’t be trained to understand more than words and gestures but Chaser is the indisputable truth that a dog can learn so much more. This pawesome doggy news was reported by “The Independent” newspaper and “UK -Daily Mail.”

The inspiration of this amazing training has prompted others to teach the language of humans to their canines. The future will tell how much our dogs can learn and if a conversation will ever be understood!

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Written by a Japanese Chin lover Linda Cole

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 02/05/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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