5 min read


What Can Dogs Comprehend?



5 min read


What Can Dogs Comprehend?


Do you ever wonder if dogs can tell how much we love them? When humans are sad, their dogs will comfort them by cuddling, leaning in, and giving kisses. 

How do dogs know when to give this affection? Dogs seem to comprehend much of our non-verbal and some of our verbal communication. Dogs can even tell when people are scared or nervous. They can surely understand many words, and they can even understand facial expressions. Dogs can feel a whole spectrum of emotions. 

They can learn tricks, and they know when they've done something wrong. So, what exactly can dogs comprehend?


Signs of Dogs Comprehending Things

Dogs can comprehend many things. They can understand human speech, with the ability to comprehend over 150 words! Dogs can feel core emotions such as joy, anger, fear, and love. However, dogs cannot feel secondary emotions such as guilt or pride. But, dogs can get depressed, and they are exceptional at reading body language. 

For example, your body language will likely depict when you are feeling sad. You may have a slouched posture, a frown, tears, or a lowered head. You'll know your dog comprehends this emotion if he comes over to you calmly and begins leaning into you. Your dog will likely remain quiet and may put his paw on you. 

Dogs can tell when someone is fearful or anxious by using their powerful sense of smell. When people are feeling anxious, their sweat glands produce sweat that the dogs can pick up on, no matter how subtle. A dog will be less receptive to pets or attention from someone who is fearful. They may hack away or put their head down, lowering to the ground. 

If a dog's owner is anxious, the dog may respond by getting protective in order to reassure his owner that they're safe. Other dogs may respond by also getting anxious. You'll be able to tell if he is being protective if he gets in front of you with an upright posture. He may even bark, depending on the potential threat. If your dog is also afraid, he will stand behind you and whimper or bark. 

Body Language

Here are some signs you might notice when your dog is comprehending things:

  • Alert
  • Barking
  • Whining
  • Jumping Up
  • Sniffing

Other Signs

These are some other signs you may notice when your dog is comprehending things:

  • Calm Energy
  • Leaning Into You
  • Upright Posture
  • Widened Eyes

The History of Dog Comprehension


Dogs were the first animal to be domesticated. The process began over 15,000 years ago when wolves and humans formed an alliance. Humans and wolves kept each other safe and shared the food they helped each other hunt. Over time, wolves evolved into dogs. Now, dogs are man's best friend and there are countless breeds. 

Dogs were not always so attentive to human emotions or body language. They learned to be more observant. The more attentive and receptive dogs were bred, and dogs continued to grow in intelligence. Now, dogs feel a whole range of emotions. They even know that you love them! And they love us, too. 
Dogs can understand things in very complex and unfamiliar situations. You have probably heard stories of dogs saving lives all over the world. There was once a dog named Angel who saved a small boy from a cougar. In another incident, a dog saved a woman who was choking by going to get help. Dogs can be very intuitive, and when they see their owners in distress, they act accordingly. 

As dogs have continued to grow in sweetness, they have also developed intellectually. They are perceptive and aware animals. Dogs can tell other dogs apart from other animals regardless of breed, age, sex, size, color, or any other distinguishing factors. 

The Science of Dog Comprehension


Dogs have some similarities to humans in the way their brains process information. The brain of a dog processes language similarly to humans. The right side of a dog's brain handles emotions, and the left hemisphere processes meaning. Dogs can understand over 150 words! They can recognize their owner's voice and can distinguish it from voices of strangers. Dogs can even comprehend what mood you are in based on your tone of voice. 

If you speak in a negative tone using negative words (such as "no," or "bad dog"), your dog will get nervous and respond based on your negative mood. When dogs hear praise, the reward center in their right hemisphere lights up. This area is especially active when they hear praise in an especially friendly tone of voice. This makes dogs very happy. When they receive praise and affection from humans, dogs release a chemical called oxytocin. This brain chemical allows both dogs and humans to feel love and to bond with one another. 

Dogs even have an opinion on music! When heavy metal music was played for dogs in a research study, they became tense and anxious. When they heard the sounds of human voices and neutral music, their attitude and demeanor was neutral. When the dogs were listening to classical music, they became calmer. 

Training Dogs to Comprehend Things


Dogs learn to comprehend emotions, social cues, words, sounds, and other stimuli at a young age when they are just brand new puppies. Dogs can learn their names very quickly - in as little as two days. This is just the beginning of their large ability to understand and respond to a variety of situations and emotions. 

Most dog comprehension occurs just by spending time with humans. When you are happy with them, the pleasure center in their brain is activated. The release of oxytocin occurs. This causes dogs to feel love and affection, which they want more of. The more they do things that you approve of, the more they will want to do things that you approve of. This is a major way that dogs are motivated to continue learning new things. 

If you want to teach your dog to comprehend specific things, you can begin by taking advantage of that positive brain chemical, oxytocin. When your dog responds to a situation in a way that pleases you, give him praise, attention, and treats. He will feel warmth and love as a result of this exchange and will continue performing that behavior in the future. 

You can help your dog grow in his ability to understand things by exposing him to new experiences. You can broaden your dog's horizons by giving him new learning opportunities. For example, you can take your dog on new adventures such as camping or traveling. You can play music for your dog so that he can have new experiences. During these moments, you can be sure to give your dog praise when he responds in a way that is in accordance with your expectations. 

Service dogs are especially well trained to comprehend and respond to specific stimuli. There are service dogs that can detect an epileptic seizure before it occurs. That way, they can guide their owner to safety and get help very quickly. 

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Safety Tips for When Dogs Comprehend Things

  1. For fearful dogs, make sure they feel safe around strangers.
  2. Reassure your dog when he is frightened.

By a Corgi lover Simone DeAngelis

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

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