5 min read


Can Dogs Understand Humans?



5 min read


Can Dogs Understand Humans?


As any animal lover will already know, talking to your pet is something that comes naturally. Many people with cats and dogs can be found sitting with their pet and chatting with them as though they were humans. 

Some talk to their cats and dogs like little children, telling them how beautiful and clever they are or how they are little princesses. Others sit and chat away to their pets as though they were sitting chewing the fat with a best friend. So, are we just making ourselves look silly or insane by talking to our dogs or can our pooches actually understand what we are saying to them?


Signs to Look Out for When Speaking to Your Dog

When it comes to communication, it is all about tone for dogs rather than words. Of course, you may have trained your dog to respond to certain words such as ‘no’, ‘sit’, or ‘walkies’. 

However, again, this is because your dog associated these words with certain activities and tones. The way in which you firmly say ‘no’ to your dog is very different to the way you say ‘walkies’ and this is something that your dog responds to – tone and association.

While your dog will not understand you if you sit there and tell him about the latest romance in your life, he will respond to the tone that you are using. There are certain signs that you can look out for to determine whether your dog has picked up on your tone while you are talking to him. 

This includes signs such as tilting his head, wagging his tail, staring at you attentively, and even cuddling up to you if he senses you are upset. At the same time, if you are speaking to him in a temper, he may shy away, start growling, put his ears and tail down, and react negatively because of your tone when you are angry. 

You can also look out for certain types of body language that can indicate your dog understands you. Of course, this is not to say he understands what you are actually saying but that he understands and is reacting to your tone and emotions. 

Some of the signs to look out for include wagging or putting his tail down, ears alert or flat, attentive staring, slinking away or coming up to you, pawing at you, nestling up to you, and barking or whining. The body language will be based on the tone that your dog picks up when you are talking, which is why some reactions may be positive while others may be negative. 

Your tone and emotions will have a big impact on the signs that your dog displays when you are talking to him. Dogs are extremely sensitive to tone and emotions, and this then filters through to their own reactions. The signs you notice will, therefore, be based on the tone you are using. 

If your tone is harsh your dog may put his tail between his legs, put his ears flat, look up at you while hunching down, growl, or simply walk away. If the tone is positive, you may notice him wagging his tail, jumping up, licking your face, yapping, getting excited, and running around you. 

Body Language

Below are some of the main signs your dog will exhibit if he is listening closely to what you are saying:

  • Growling
  • Alert
  • Barking
  • Whining
  • Wag Tail
  • Ears Drop
  • Raise Ears

Other Signs

<p>The following signs further show your dog is listening to you talk to them:</p>

  • Getting Excited
  • Yapping
  • Walking Away
  • Licking Your Face
  • Jumping Up
  • Tail Between Legs

History of Communicating with Our Dogs


Over the years, training has become an important part of dog ownership and part of this training has always involved using human language to show your dog what to do and what not to do. Of course, we have to use our own language to communicate with our dogs when training because barking at them would be pretty pointless. 

However, most people know that while their dog has no conception of the meaning of an actual word, he is able to recognize tone and sound, which he is then able to associate with that particular word. This is why many dogs react when you say ‘no’. They don’t have a concept of what yes or no mean in human terms but they know what sort of action is associated with the word and tone.

Our historical knowledge and experiences when it comes to communicating with our pooches have helped us to work with them and train them more effectively. On the other hand, it has got many people into the habit of having full blown conversations with their pets – and there is nothing wrong with this. 

In fact, if you are chatting away to your dog about something nice the chances are that you are talking in a soothing or happy tone. This is something that the dog will recognize, which means that he will also feel at ease and happy. 

Science Behind Human Communication with Dogs


In a nutshell, the science behind human communication with pet dogs is all about tone, which in turn is something that is affected by your emotions. If you are feeling angry, this will come across in your tone when you speak to the dog, which he will then recognize. 

On the other hand, when you are in a good mood and talking to your dog, your tone will be completely different. Similarly, if you are upset about something, this is also something that will come across in your tone when speaking to your dog. Your pooch is very sensitive to these different tones and to your emotions, which is why he will react accordingly.

Making Communication Easier


While you cannot train your dog to grasp the English language and actually understand your conversation, you can train yourself to make sure you use the right tone when you speak to your pooch. Doing this means that you can then ensure you are not putting across the wrong message simply by the tone that you are using. 

You can try out different tones with your dog when speaking to him and then watch his reactions to each one. This will make it easier for you to develop and adopt the right tones to help your dog to better understand you. As an example, some people adopt the wrong tone when they are trying to be firm with their dog, such as when they are saying ‘no’. 

You have to remember that there is a difference between speaking in a firm tone and speaking in an aggressive one. This is something that your dog will pick up on. If you say ‘no’ in a firm tone he will come to realize that you are telling him not to do something. However, if you use an aggressive tone it will either frighten him or he may even react aggressively in return.

Training your dog to respond to your different tones is not always an overnight process, so you have to be patient. Likewise, you have to be patient about learning how to adopt the right tone when speaking to your dog, as this can also take some time. However, with determination and plenty of practice, you should be able to improve communication between you and your dog. 

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By a Boston Terrier lover Reno Charlton

Published: 02/03/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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