Dog parents have always believed that their pooch understands every word that is spoken to them. It is not rare to find people talking to their dogs while on a stroll through the neighborhood, or talking to them at home telling them about your day. Oddly enough, it has taken scientists a long time to discover what we (dog parents) have known all along: dogs can understand our language.
Our four-legged friends are able to understand both words and intonation. As humans do, dogs use the left side of their brain to process words, and the right side to understand both tone and pitch.
A recent study conducted in Hungary showed that dogs are able to combine both words and intonation (same as humans do), in order to understand commands and get a fuller meaning from what we are saying to them. This does not mean that they can recognize every word we say, but rather differentiate meaningful and meaningless words. Repetition is key in teaching your pooch certain commands, which is why intonation is important. Dogs have a “reward center” in their brain which processes positive stimuli such as being petted, rubbed, or being fed good food; which is stimulated when they hear praise words combined with the proper positive tone.
So, if dogs are indeed able to understand what we say, we could also raise this question: Can dogs be bilingual?
Of course. Through repetition, a dog can learn anything. So, if you are planning to move to another country where they don’t speak your language, do not panic, both you and your pooch will be able to communicate in your new surroundings.
Another part of dog-communication is body language. If you have ever taken a dog for a walk, then you probably have already noticed their reactions towards other dogs and humans. Their interactions at the dog park can give you an idea of their emotions and how they communicate amongst themselves. They have their own universal language. By being familiar with their reactions, you can pretty much teach them new commands and familiarize them with praising words in another language.
According to scientists, the results of this study are shocking and surprising; but, of course, we dog parents have known this all along. So next time you’re talking to your dog while out and about and people look at you in a funny way, tell them you now have scientific proof that little Spots knows what you’re saying. Who knows, there might come a day when being a Dog Language Interpreter is a real thing, and we’ll be there for you.