A number of animals that have no ability to speak the English language still have the incredible insight to actually understand what we are saying. This includes our beloved household friend, the dog. We’ve all witnessed the furry animals react and respond with overwhelming excitement when we open our mouths to say ‘walk’ or ‘treat.’
Although their vocabulary is nowhere near the size of our own, a new study shows on average, canines can consistently respond to 89 unique words and phrases. Some of the most knowledgeable pooches could actually decipher 200 individual commands. This impressive range equates to that of a two year old child!
Around 90 percent of all the dogs recognized 10 common words and phrases. These included; the dog’s name, ‘sit,’ ‘stay,’ ‘come,’ ‘ok,’ ‘no,’ ‘good girl/boy,’ ‘down,’ ‘wait,’ and ‘leave it.’ Scientists used a persistent recognition of specific words and phrases as an indication of a definite level of language comprehension. The authors stated, “based on owner reports, dogs seem to vary greatly not only in the number but also in the kinds of words to which they purportedly respond.”
For the study published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science, scientists gathered a range of ages, breeds, and professions of dogs. It was found that the breed and work status of the dog did indeed have an impact on its vocabulary range. Professionally trained service dogs, like one’s in the military and police force, were able to recognize 1.5 times larger the number of words than those without this career. Although, their own age and owner’s qualities did not play a role.
This research is adorable and intriguing, but why is it important? “With additional research, our tool could become an efficient, effective, and economical research instrument for mapping out some of their competencies and perhaps help predict early the potential of individual dogs for various professions,” stated the authors. Also understanding more about the mind and how language works within it is valuable information that could possibly be applied to other animals’ brains, including our own.
Source study: Applied Animal Behaviour Science – Responses to spoken words by domestic dogs: A new instrument for use with dog owners